Agag predicts Formula E will challenge F1 in five years

Formula E chairman Alejandro Agag (ESP). 23.08.2014.
© XPB 

Formula E founder Alejandro Agag says that his championship will be nipping at the heels of F1 over the next five years, and insisted that the all-electric series will eventually end up on top.

“I think in five years they are going to start feeling a lot the heat,” Agag said in an interview with 2016 Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg for the Beyond Victory podcast.

"In 10 years it’s going to be very difficult that they don’t switch to electric," he added, explaining that traditional combustion engines would be increasingly out of step with the rest of the automobile industry.

“I think when the industry is electric, Formula E will happen to be the main motorsport in the world," the Spaniard predicted..

The trend to battery-powered vehicles certainly represents a problem for Formula 1, which is contractually forbidden to tread on Formula E's toes by going electric for a 25-year period.

"They can’t, but they will really feel the pressure to switch to electric," said Agag. “I think when the industry is electric, Formula E will happen to be the main motorsport in the world."

Electric cars still have a way to go before they can challenge petrol-powered F1 cars in terms of speed and performance, but Agag didn't think it would be long before the gap disappeared.

“In 10 years electric cars will go as fast as combustion cars. So when you have these cars going as fast, what is the reason to stick to an old technology? You should move to a new technology."

While Formula E is now a growing success story in motorsport with a bright future, Agag revealed that the series nearly collapsed in its first year.

"We needed to go big," he recalled of Formula E's origins. "If you start with a very small thing and you try, we thought this thing would die. We said 'Let's do it on a grand scale', with big cities, a big display, proper broadcasting.

"We needed to deploy a lot of capital," he continued. ""We found some capital in the beginning, but it was not enough. So we were really close to going under.

Techeetah's Jean-Eric Vergne secures the ABB FIA Formula E title in New York. July 14 2018.

© FIA Formula E

"We made the first car. On the back of the first car we raised more capital, and then that capital was enough to do three races," he said. "But then we ran out of money. We were not supposed to be that much on the edge - but shit happens!

“At one point I owed $25 million to our suppliers," he said. "I had $100,000 in the bank, that was the situation.

“We were actually really at the limit. I had to pay from my pocket the air freight of the cars to go to the Miami race.”

The crisis was averted when he was able to bring in a number of companies as new stakeholders. One of these was John Malone’s Liberty Global business, along with Discovery Communications. Rosberg himself is also a minor investor in the series.

Liberty Media bought the commercial rights to Formula 1 at the start of 2017. However there seems no chance of any consolidation in ownership between the two championships, with Agag not interested in selling out.

He had approached the other major stakeholders with a 600 hundred million euro proposal to take sole ownership, but has since dropped the bid.

"It's not going to happen," Agag told Autosport magazine this week. "Liberty and Discovery don't want to sell.

"We are of course on great terms," he added. "They believe in the future of the championship and they want us to continue working together ... Same arrangement as it was before."

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