Extreme E gets an A for effort

Published: 07 April 2021

► Extreme E reviewed by CAR’s online editor
► Lots of promise 
► But a few issues to iron out

Extreme E is here, and if the first round in Alula, Saudi Arabia is anything to go by, it has potential. Visually a mix between Star Wars, the Dakar rally and a live feed of the Mars Curiosity Rover, it’s a spectacle with an all-star cast – but there are few things that need ironing out.

Extreme E: the CAR guide

Here’s six things we learnt from round one of Extreme E.

1. It’s extremely unforgiving

Extreme E looks pretty straightforward at first glance; there’s no track limits to speak of, and aside from a few boulders dotted around the course, there’s not much in the way of hazards, either. 

However, it turns out the sand itself is a hazard. Throughout the weekend there were several high-energy crashes, and most of them came from simply getting the back out a little too much. The onboards all told the same story: the driver gets a bit wide, they try to correct some oversteer and then it’s all goes 40ºC on a mixed colours cycle. Thankfully after what felt like at least 10 revolutions, every driver managed to get out okay

2. It’s live? 

A key point about watching a live event should be that it’s easy to understand – but Extreme E managed to tie itself in knots throughout the weekend. Again and again, the Extreme E Twitter account would show important moments, despite not broadcasting them at the time. And some moments were posted on social but seen nowhere else. 

It turned out the live show began with pre-recorded footage, but soon caught up with real-time racing. Either way, it was pretty confusing.

3. It’s from the makers of Formula E 

And that means it suffers from some of the same outbreaks of embarrassing pandering as the all-electric street racing series. Like Formula E, Extreme E itself looks to be an interesting idea and one that may actually do some good. Somewhere in both, there’s great skill on show, amazing venues and interesting machinery – but it’s buried under some questionable decisions. 

Extreme E is mired by a format that doesn’t make complete sense, and one that also rewards social media engagement and ‘big jumps’ with power boosts. A simple time trial with electric cars, legendary drivers and a good message would’ve sufficed.

Extreme E needs the confidence to drop the social media fluff.

4. The races aren’t great

Extreme E’s Superpole-style qualifying was a highlight of the coverage. It looked great, there was timing information so viewers could understand what was at stake, and there was always a sense of jeopardy – as almost any mistake seemed to transform into multiple forward rolls. 

The races, however, were an anticlimax. After the first turn, reduced visibility meant the order was pretty much fixed, and there wasn’t really any chance of switching positions. The one time someone did attempt to stay committed through the dust, there was a heavy collision.

Hopefully it’ll be different on other surfaces. 

5. It’s between Rosberg and Hamilton right now

It’s too early to call the final outcome of the Extreme E series, but Rosberg and Hamilton’s driver line-ups appear to be the strongest so far. Rosberg’s line up of Molly Taylor and Johan Kristoffersson ultimately took victory, though X44’s line up of Sebastian Loeb and Cristina Gutiérrez was there or thereabouts all weekend. 

It’s hard to say which team was actually fastest in the end, due to the flawed nature of the races. With any luck, Jenson Button will also be in the mix come the end of the year.

6. It’s still not clear why Extreme E is good for the environment 

Extreme E has been designed with a focus on sustainability, and that means it debuts some pretty interesting ideas. To reduce the series’ carbon footprint, all cars are transported on a low-emission diesel-powered ship, and there’s also a cap on the amount of personnel that can attend each event. 

However, aside from efficient transport arrangements, a random floating laboratory and a few videos that seemed to be stolen from a GCSE geography course, Extreme E coverage isn’t that clear on how it’s actually helping. 

There’s clips of clearing beaches, and talk of planting mangroves in Senegal after a recce – but it’d be interesting to know exactly what’s going on. The hot word seems to be ‘awareness’ at this stage, but it’d be nice to know exactly how the sport benefits the venues it races at. 

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast

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