Stranger in a strange land

Adam Warner/LAT/Formula E via Getty Images

Almost exactly six years ago, I took my first steps into an F1 paddock. It was exciting and terrifying - I knew no one, wasn't entirely sure what I'd let myself in for, and I was figuring it all out in a country I'd never been to before and where I didn't speak the language.

Today I took my first steps inside a Formula E paddock. It's been exciting, and thankfully not in the least bit terrifying - despite knowing hardly anyone and yet again finding myself in a brand new country with a language I can barely get by in.

Comparing F1 and FE is like comparing bikes and motorbikes - the rough shape is familiar, and both objects come from the same general family, but that's as far as it goes.

As the upstart younger brother of F1, you might expect Formula E to be all shiny and modern. And it is, as far as the tech goes. Racing to the future, and all that. But the real pleasure of Formula E from the perspective of a first-timer is how refreshingly old-school the whole place is.

Need a comment from a driver? Grab them for a chat. Need to find a team member? Don't bother looking for them in a secret room in a fancy motorhome, as the garages are open-faced tents. All the space you need to run (a car) but nowhere to hide.

A typical F1 weekend starts with the publication of team media schedules broken down into ten and 15 minute slots during which a driver is available to print or TV media. Where applicable, different language groups get different timed slots. When I went looking for these schedules in Formula E, I discovered they don't exist. Drivers and team personnel are accessible, and it's as simple as that.

The FE concept of bringing racing to the city streets with minimal disruption means that the series doesn't have the same slick facilities permanent tracks - including F1's Singapore and Monaco street races - can boast. But that's only to be expected. The media centre is a tent, but it's a tent with power sockets, timing screens, decent (and free!) WiFi, and enough room to hold both a press conference and the post-session media pen. What more do you need?

Where Formula E has excelled off-track is in doing away with the costly (and largely unnecessary) fripperies that much of the general public falsely associates with motorsport as a whole, and not F1 in particular. What matters is that the cars have room to race, the teams have room to work, and the media has the facilities needed to promote the cars, teams, and racing as topics of general interest.

That's what matters, and that's what they've delivered. As a result, Formula E has ensured that it is financially accessible to fans and teams alike. Back to basics is hardly a bad thing when the basics are done well.