Fast, Green, Formula E: My Stroll With Sam Bird


The world is getting greener and our racing cars are getting faster, but how do we marry the two? Formula E is the answer.

On Sept. 13, 2014, racing fans around the world were given a sneak peek into the future as history was made in Beijing where the first ever Formula E (electric car) race took place. With about 75,000 live spectators, 10 teams with 2 drivers each raced each other in a bid to write their names in the history books of motor sports. Well, tires screeched, batteries ran down, and a collision happened, but after everything, my guest on today's stroll got a spot on the podium.

Finishing 3rd, only behind Franck Montagny (2nd) and Lucas di Grassi (1st), Sam Bird--driver for the Virgin Racing Team--put up a great performance to the delight of cheering fans. In the course of our stroll we talked about Formula E, Formula 1, the future of motor sports, and much more. Here we go:

Ebenezar: Many thanks for joining me on this stroll, Mr Sam.

Sam: My pleasure, thanks for inviting me on this stroll.

Ebenezar: The inaugural Formula E race happened a few weeks ago and it got the whole world smiling at the awesome possibilities this new form of racing could offer. You came 3rd in that inaugural race and congratulations by the way, that's some big history right there.

Sam: Yes, I agree. Formula E is a real game changer in so many respects so it's exciting to be a part of it.

Ebenezar: What was the experience with the Formula E cars like? Compared to the F1 cars you used to drive?

Sam: The experience is obviously very different. The power source and the tires in particular make for a driving experience that is unlike anything I've driven before, including F1.

Ebenezar: That's cool. For people, like me, who might not really understand this new form of racing, can you just give us a brief summary of what Formula E is like? Any difference from a normal Formula 1 competition?

Sam: Both disciplines have the same objective of racing from lights to flag faster than your competitors. However, the big difference is the main perishable resource you most need to manage in the process. In F1 it is tires. In Formula E it is battery power.

Ebenezar: So the seasons, sponsorships and other things work just like Formula 1?

Sam: Yes pretty much. There are a few differences in the format of the races, such as the mid-race car change and the fan boost, which enables fans to have an influence over the outcome by voting to award their favorite driver an additional power boost. Otherwise the championships operate in similar ways.

Ebenezar: Wow, I like the fact that fans are carried along in the process. Now, although it's just starting, experts have tipped Formula E to be the racing sports for the future, considering the green philosophy and system which operates it. What do you think about this?

Sam: I agree. If electric technology is the technology of the future for the automotive industry at large, which I do believe to be the case, then it stands to reason that electric racing will be the future of car racing. As the technology develops, the factors that may be limiting today, such as battery size, weight and autonomy will cease to be a problem. In that respect, there will come a day when electric racing will no longer be a compromise. Even F1 has embraced a form of electric technology through the use of ERS (Energy Recovery System).


Ebenezar: Oh really? That's awesome. Sports in general is getting greener it seems.

Sam: Yeah it sure is, all over the world...

Ebenezar: Do you see yourself sticking with Formula E for the rest of your life? Or you might just go back to F1 after a while?

Sam: I would love to race in both! Right now I am racing in Formula E because I believe in it and because Virgin Racing believe that my hard work and whatever ability I have can help them achieve their goals. In F1, those contributions are not sufficient. Let's say that in F1 I would also have to make a contribution of the monetary kind and that is not on the cards as far as I am concerned.

Ebenezar: Yeah, I get... Okay, Sept. 22 is World Car-free day, although not yet recognized by the UN, but it's an observance aimed at encouraging people to drive less, highlighting the damage too much driving is having on our planet. Many people feel electric cars are the panacea to this problem but others feel differently, what's your take on this?

Sam: I think it is one solution. There are others, no doubt. But we have to start somewhere.

Ebenezar: Okay, back to Formula 1. Fans were very excited to hear about Michael Schumacher's return from hospital, although he's still in a very critical state. And though his injury wasn't gotten from F1, time and again people have expressed worries over the safety of racing drivers. Do you think the officials at the FIA are doing enough to ensure the security of drivers during races?

Sam: Yes! I think that the safety of racing cars nowadays is outstanding. Look at the crash that Nick Heidfeld was the victim of at the end of the Formula E race in Beijing. He walked away without a scratch.


Ebenezar: Wow, after such a crash...

Sam: Yeah! I believe that is testament to how strong and safe these cars are, and that is true to most professional racing series.

Ebenezar: Okay, but from your point of view, are there still some measures that can be taken to protect the lives of drivers?

Sam: The FIA and the relevant authorities for each Championship, which by the way often includes some form of driver association, are never resting on their laurels when it comes to safety and are always looking to further improve the safety of the drivers. In my opinion, we are in a pretty good place in that respect.

Ebenezar: Away from racing, you're also interested in music and fitness. I'm just curious, who's your favorite musician/music group? And what's your favorite song?

Sam: Yes I am. I'm listening to a band called Knife Part quite a bit at the moment. My favorite track by them is Begin Again.

Ebenezar: That's so cool, actually I've had a great time on this stroll and I wish we could just begin again...

Sam: (hahaha)

Ebenezar: (hahah) Yeah, on a final note, I'm sorry to ask this even though I know you're not a politician, but as an English man, I'm sure you have something to say about the Scottish Referendum. No Yes, Yes No. What's your opinion on this issue?

Sam: Well, I have an opinion on that but no vote of course. Only British residents of Scotland could vote, which is quite right. But my personal opinion was "no thank you." It's good that the British government has committed to giving more powers to Scotland but I think we're better together and I'm glad Scotland voted that way.


Ebenezar: Very well said, thank you so much for strolling with me Sam. I wish you all the best in this new Formula E season.

Sam: Thank you very much Ebenezar, it was a pleasure.


For more about Sam, you can follow him on twitter @sambirdracing or visit