Formula E in Punta del Este: the shining side of the Force
Jorge Valdano, the Argentinian world champion footballer and coach, suggested placing football goals at the borders to Uruguay so that to all visitors could see that the country “is nothing more than a huge football pitch with some additional accidental presences: trees, cows, roads, buildings.”
On 17 March, however, with the demarcation of several streets in Punta del Este, the town on the Atlantic shore also known as the Monte Carlo of South America, a motor racing circuit was created. Here, the sixth race in the electric car championship, the ABB FIA Formula E Championship Grand Prix, now in its fourth season, was held on a track of 2.8 km with 20 turns. After two years away, this marked a return to the paisito, the “little country,” a handkerchief of just over 170,000 square km that appears to have been forcibly shoehorned between Brazil and Argentina. For the record, the race was won by Jean-Eric Vergne, a member of the Chinese team Techeetah. He currently leads the standings with a 27-point advantage.
White skyscrapers in pure Monte Carlo style aside, Punta del Este is all about the sky, ocean, sand dunes and the endless plains which stretch out far beyond the last building. There are days when the energy of nature is overwhelming – fierce winds, violent waves and lightning storms. On that late summer Saturday, in keeping with the setting, the single-seater electric cars participating in the Formula E race flew along the city circuit that hugged the shoreline at over 200 kmh (these cars can theoretically reach 280 kmh, but the choice was made to impose a 230 kmh limit), speeding like a blast of northwesterly wind or burst of lightning: pure silent speed, pure emission-free kinetic energy.
This is, you could say, the shining side of the Force, a demonstration that power no longer needs to pollute, and certainly the overriding goal of the Formula E championship: a goal shared by our Group which is its Official Power Partner. “We partner with Formula E – said Chris Regan, Project Chief for Enel – because our visions match perfectly: the need to intervene swiftly to preserve the future, make the planet a better place and create more sustainable ways of living. Just like Formula E, we have always considered electric mobility to be one of the best levers for change to reach these goals. Furthermore, in the field of electric mobility, Formula E offers the best laboratory for experimentation.”
Many people are realising this. Manuel “Manolo” Ortiz, Director of Operations for Formula E, noted that “never has a championship in the history of sports car racing reached such a high number of spectators, sponsors and car makers in such a short time, as we have. So many car makers compete because they are all convinced that the future of the car is electric, their presence in Formula E is not so much to win as to refine new technologies for application on commercial products.” This, of course, is exactly what we at Enel are doing.
In only four years, the Grand Prix Formula E, initially considered an “initiative of four crazy visionaries that would never catch on,” as Ortiz remembers, has evolved into the Silicon Valley of electric mobility, where many of the major car producers are already competitors and next season will include BMW, Nissan, Mercedes and Porsche. Furthermore, cities are now falling over themselves for the opportunity to host the championship, which is not only a high adrenaline spectator sport but also the most effective way to convince people that electric mobility is a very tangible reality, not a chimera.
“We are proud to be here in Uruguay” said Ortiz as he presented the Championship to the 24 students whose prize for winning the PlayEnergy competition, organised by Enel, was to watch the race from the stands. “We are in a small country, not a rich one, and hosting us is undoubtedly something of a sacrifice to host us. Yet the authorities wanted us here at all costs because they understand the significance of this championship in sharing ideas.”
Essentially, this “huge football pitch” is a little like a golf course: it creates less damage if you drive over it in an electric vehicle.