You might not know this, but my love for motorsport begins and ends with Formula 1. I’ve been to many events and each has their charm, but to me, the 20 drivers that take the line on any given Sunday represent the best of the best. And if I want to shoot Formula 1 one day, then I’m going to start in a group where BMW has an actual presence. So here’s my Formula E experience in Brooklyn.
The BMW History With Formula E
BMW teamed up with Andretti Motorsport to produce a team that sadly will come to an end after this season. BMW’s presence is felt throughout with BMW i pace cars, MINI safety cars and production vehicles hot lapping in between sessions. Although all the E race cars must run on the same chassis, BMW is still able to tune the suspension and use their own motor designs homologated with the FIA. BMW will still produce a power plant for Andretti’s team next season (2022).
Formula E is totally electric, and the only sounds made come from the high-pitched whining of the gear box. Yes, it’s odd to see something that fast produce none of the typical race day sounds. As of 2020, Formula E holds ‘World Championship status” with the FIA, something only a few other series, including Formula 1, can claim.
The Formula E racing cars look the part with all that carbon fiber and wings. The tires actually have treads as opposed to slicks used in F1. But make no mistake, they are fast, especially accelerating out of corners as I witnessed firsthand.
And it’s a fun race considering that a few knocks happened right in front of me, and someone lost a carbon fiber fender. But thankfully, the race was mostly without incident.
How To Grab The Best Photos At A Formula E Race
The track doesn’t seem big until you have to walk in a dozen or so times to get the best angles, and I had no less than three badges to provide the correct credentials. But the biggest change from a regular shooting day is working around other photographers and the TV crew. There are photo pits with cutouts to shoot from, but they fill up fast, so being nice to everyone is a must. Practice, qualifying and the race itself all happen on the same day, and it provides plenty of opportunity to change up your scene.
For this race, I used my long lens, the 70-200mm. And even then, I saw lenses that were twice that size there. Work with what you have, but there are not many wide angles to grab. My 24-70 was used for the hot laps with production cars. No tripod needed here.
BMW Makes It Fun To Attend Those Races
My pass included a hot lap around the circuit in a BMW 530e, and the driver kindly let me shoot from the passenger seat. I felt right at home here, like I was at the Performance Center. Also included was a pit lane tour, where I could see the cars being worked on in between sessions, with some of the crew answering questions.
Finally, I walked the grid before the start of the race. Here, I tried to be respectful – these guys were about to do open-wheel combat, and with what seemed like hundreds of people around, I imagine focus is difficult find.
Street Racing Is Fun
This year’s race was held in the ferry terminals of Red Hook in Brooklyn, NY, so it’s not exactly a smooth road surface like a normal race track. But this is considered a street circuit, so turns are tighter and speed isn’t as high. Dirt and dust are everywhere, and shredded rubber builds up quickly. One thing that surprised me was how loud the curbing was whenever a car would go over it. It sounded as if it would crack a car in half (it never did, of course).
What’s The Future Of Formula E?
From an enthusiast standpoint, it’s hard to say goodbye to the ICE engine, but the future is coming, and even F1 must adapt. There is serious talent in Formula E, with many driver’s being stand-ins for F1 teams, and the cars themselves are very advanced. It wouldn’t surprise me to see both F1 and FE combine to form one “league” in the future. F1 is supposed to represent the pinnacle of automotive design, and if that no longer includes the typical engine, then it seems logical that they adapt an E powertrain.
Sad To See BMW Leave Electric Racing
BMW left F1 long before I watched it, and so my heart breaks a bit each time I see a Mercedes driver raise a trophy. It’s my hope that they one day return to the pinnacle of motorsport, in whatever form that might take. In the meantime, there’s always LMDh.
[Photos and story by MachinesWithSouls]