Jeff Dodds: Formula E boss ponders: "Will Formula 1 buy us? Will we buy Formula 1? Will we merge?"

Mister Dodds, do you race? I have a racing license, yes.

Jeff Dodds: Formula E boss ponders: "Will Formula 1 buy us? Will we buy Formula 1? Will we merge?"

Mister Dodds, do you race? I have a racing license, yes. But I don't race as a hobby or professionally. I've been to many, many racetracks and I believe that I need this for my job. But I'm probably too big and too heavy to compete with others.

You wouldn't have a chance in a Formula E car either? I'm 1.92 meters tall and weigh around 94 kilos. Of course, this is significantly higher than what you see today among racing drivers in the formula classes. Oh right, I don't have that talent either. Together these are probably not good conditions.

I'll confess right now, Mr Dodds: I don't find watching Formula racing as much fun as I used to, regardless of the racing class. The technology is too sophisticated, the cars are too perfect, and the races are decided too quickly. If I speak through the eyes of a Formula 1 fan, I agree with you. It's the mix of this racing class that makes the problem so visible. Problems with the cars are rare, and Max Verstappen is too fast for the others. As long as he doesn't break down, there's no need to get excited. But that's also simply because the story of the combustion engine has basically been told. The cars are just too good; the thrill is missing.

But that's no different with Formula E. Even the batteries in the cars are identical! I don't see it that way, because our history is much younger. This also means that the cars are much more unpredictable. Batteries run out of juice on the route and energy management poses major challenges for drivers. In the last seven races we have had six different winners.

But the noise, the smell, the exhaust fumes, the thrill are missing. The world has moved on at this point. There will be less and less noise, that's true. But we don't want to replace Formula 1 either, we want to serve a completely different target group that doesn't care about it at all.

Jeff Dodds has been steering the fortunes of Formula E as CEO since 2023. Previously, he was Chief Operating Officer at the media company Virgin Media O2 and CEO of the telecommunications company Tele2. Dodds holds an FIA racing license but does not compete in championships. As someone with years of experience in the entertainment industry, he also wants to position Formula 1's electric sister in the spotlight.

Namely?We grow by double digits every year. We currently have 390 million fans worldwide. But these are not the older, traditional motorsport fans, but people up to 50 years old and younger who are interested in electromobility, technology, environmental issues and sustainability. We don't convert people, we grow with our own people.

Nevertheless, Formula 1 is significantly more popular. That's true, but it's due to many things. Firstly, the history: Formula 1 is over 70 years old, we started about ten years ago. So you can't compare that. In addition, external factors that we don't have are helping Formula 1 after a real crisis. For example, there is the Netflix series "Drive to Survive", which has given the sport a huge push because people are interested in the drivers. And then significantly more money flows into Formula 1, which means that the racing class remains the most attractive for drivers and fans because everything is possible.

A format like "Drive to Survive" could also help Formula E. Absolutely, and we are in talks with streaming providers. Apart from that, we are already ahead in terms of growth. While Formula 1 only grows a little or even shrinks every year, we can look forward to an enormous increase in new fans.

Shouldn't Formula E and Formula 1 become one product one day anyway? The makers of Formula 1 repeatedly emphasize how important sustainability is - but this claim cannot be maintained forever if you continue to burn fuel for fun. It won't be that easy. Formula E is the only FIA racing class in which cars are allowed to drive purely electrically. There's no way Formula 1 could simply switch to electric cars tomorrow, because only we are allowed to do that. Formula 1 can only become more hybrid. But it will not be a direct competitor to us. I think it is possible that one day there will no longer be a need for both racing classes. And then you will see what happens. Will Formula 1 buy us? Do we buy Formula 1? Are we merging? One day you will definitely read something about it.

Do you have an idea how we can get stars like Michael Schumacher or Max Verstappen today into electric cars? The real superstars drive in the highest racing classes, no question. But we've already talked about "Drive to Survive": Who knew the other drivers apart from the world champions before the first season of this series? What we need are platforms to show the personalities we have to the public in the first place. And we already have great potential here - even apart from particularly wealthy families who buy a place for their boys.

What is different in Formula E in this regard? In Formula 1, many people buy their seats. This requires enormous resources or top sponsors. Of course it's a question of talent, but without money or patrons you won't get very far if you're not the very best. We pay almost all of our drivers. This ensures equal opportunities and real talent whose happiness is not hindered by a lack of resources. I think this means we probably have the best driver line-up in motorsport.

Because you still can't call anyone by name. Exactly. We haven't yet managed to turn these drivers into big personalities, real stars and well-known names. Maybe we're even missing a bit of drama, a rivalry between drivers - everything you know from "Drive to Survive" and why many people follow the races in the first place.

Which is actually faster: a Formula E car or a Formula 1 car? It depends. On Drag Race? Our cars, no question about it. But when it comes to long straights or longer routes with lots of curves: Formula 1 cars. The combustion engine gives them a higher top speed and the higher weight makes it easier to whip them around corners. We thrive on acceleration and have recently launched the new generation. An awful lot is happening.

What do you drive privately? A very fast electric car. I had many, many combustion engines with tons of horsepower. I loved that. But the acceleration and the exhilaration I get from pedaling my electric car are much more pronounced. The only thing I miss is the noise. But I belong to a dying breed.

I don't just hear that sentence from you. Yes, because there are still enough of my kind. The smell of gasoline, the V8 sound, the mechanics – we love it and it will stay that way. But you can't imagine how irrelevant this has become to large parts of subsequent generations. For young people there are only electric cars.

Do normal electric cars actually benefit from Formula E? Absolutely, there are already many examples of this today. Jaguar uses the racing season to develop batteries or drives that later end up in their cars, sometimes even as an update for existing vehicles because this involves fine-tuning the software. Such an update already existed and resulted in increased range for all affected electric vehicles overnight. Porsche, Nissan, Stellantis: They all use Formula E to develop their road cars. The same with suppliers. Hankook optimizes its tires with us.

What about Tesla? Surprisingly, they don't have a team. That doesn't surprise me either. If Tesla were to enter Formula E, the company would have several problems. Firstly, every Formula E team uses the same battery - and it's not from Tesla. Nobody there would be happy if they were using a competitor's battery. Secondly, Tesla is synonymous with electric cars. What advertising effect would it have if they showed that they build electric vehicles? And last but not least, Tesla has never had a racing team and would have to build up the know-how first. So I would bet that their cars would initially be at the back of the field. Tesla would not be competitive in Formula E. And how appealing is that? For the other teams, I see participation as advertising for the electric cars of the respective manufacturer.

Nevertheless, electric cars are currently having a difficult time in some parts of the world, especially in Germany. What needs to happen for sales to pick up again? Manufacturers certainly need to work on even greater range and shorter charging times. That is probably the biggest hurdle. At the same time, the state needs to rapidly expand the infrastructure. Then I don't see why electric cars shouldn't replace combustion engines.

Maybe because they are too expensive? That regulates itself. Of course everyone wants to pay as little as possible and I think prices will continue to fall. I'm sure the used market will also relax. This is all under construction and simply cannot be compared with the long history of combustion engines. You should have a little patience.

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