The tenth season of the FIA-sanctioned all-electric Formula E racing series goes green this weekend with the opening round in Mexico City on January 13. This will be the second year of the series using the ultra-efficient Gen3 car, and aside from a number of teams swapping out one or both drivers, there aren’t any huge changes from last year. However, Formula E’s new TV deal should make races easier, and less frustrating, to watch in the US.
Formula E, now streaming on Roku and Paramount+
After being broadcast in the US on CBS Sports, Formula E announced a new TV deal last June to expand availability of live events to Roku and Paramount+. 11 races will be streamed live exclusively on The Roku Channel for free. There will also be race previews, replays and Formula E’s version of Drive To Survive (Unplugged) available to stream on Roku. All race replays will be available immediately on Roku, except for the Mexico City E-Prix which will be held back so CBS can air it after an NFL playoff game.
There’s a new post-race highlights show too, called Recharge, to catch you up on any of the action you might’ve missed. All of the Formula E content on The Roku channel will be available for free. The other E-Prix will air on CBS and stream live on Paramount+, including any overnight events that may be shown on a tape delay basis. Additional replays will be shown on CBS Sports Network.
Even though The Roku Channel is an ad-supported network, Roku Media’s head of sports Joe Franzetta said there won’t be any ads interrupting the races. Instead, the company is working with Formula E to show those during pre- and post-race programs. Since this is the first season of the partnership, he didn’t rule out changes in the future.
“For our first season with Formula E, we will run the races themselves as an ad-free experience,” he explained. “We will continue to explore ad formats, such as picture-in-picture advertising as our partnership progresses.”
Races shown on CBS and Paramount+ may still cut to commercial during live action, according to Formula E’s chief media officer Aarti Dabas. This was a huge headache for viewers in the US last season as major race action took place at multiple E-Prix while the broadcast was away on a commercial. During the Portland race, the network went to ads during the last four laps. In Rome, viewers missed a massive wreck. Dabas says Formula E is aware this can be frustrating and it constantly trying to improve the experience, including expanded use of picture-in-picture or “double box” so that live action is still viewable.
“We can understand it can frustrating for fans when they miss key action,” Dabas said. “We learn with each broadcast and ensure steps are taken to provide a better viewing experience to fans.”
Formula E will make archived races available to stream for free seven days after the E-Prix. Those will be available on the series’ website via the library of past races it launched last November, in addition to the race replays on Roku. Currently, there are no plans to make that available to stream on other platforms, but doing so on the Formula E website only requires you to sign up for a free account.
Attack Charge pit stops still aren’t ready for races
The Race reported earlier this month that Attack Charge stops aren’t expected to be used at the first race in Mexico City. This is yet another delay in bringing pit stops back to the all-electric series. Early on, drivers would have to change cars in order to make it through a race. The technology eventually progressed to the point where the combination of initial charge and re-gen during races gives teams enough power to make it until the end. As it stands, drivers only pit in the event of damage or a problem, which almost certainly dooms them to finishing at the back of the pack.
Formula E was supposed to trial Attack Charge stops at select races last season, but the infrastructure wasn’t ready in time. According to The Race, there are still issues with having enough equipment for every team, a problem that limited use of the setups at preseason testing in Spain last November. The earliest the pitstops could debut is at the E-Prix in Diriyah at the end of the month. There are concerns about how the 30-35-second stops will affect the quality of the racing, since the street circuit nature of Formula E usually means tightly packed cars. Autoweek reports that Attach Charge will be available in April at the Misano double-header (rounds six and seven of the season.
“Right now, we’re not fully confident in the whole of the systems, of trying to get everything working seamlessly,” reining champion Jake Dennis told the publication. “Each practice session, each run we do from now until Misano, will be practicing that and improving the software for each team.”
Update, January 12, 2024, 3:10PM ET: This story has been updated with additional info from Roku and Formula E, including the planned debut for Attack Charge in April.