Motor racing will take a huge step towards an environmentally-friendly future when the first-ever Formula E race takes place in Beijing on Saturday involving some of the sport’s most famous names.
Echoes of the greatest Formula One rivalries of the past will be reincarnated when the next Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet generations lock horns to the unique soundtrack of the jet-like whine of electric racing cars.
As well as backing from the auto industry, the new motor racing championship, using 150mph cars powered solely by electricity, has received high-level endorsement from Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio and British tycoon Richard Branson.
With alternative, environmentally-friendly fuels on the rise, the symbolism of the new formula’s debut in the shadow of the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing – a city regularly blanketed by choking pollution – is unmistakable.
But it is the involvement of some of the most revered names in Formula One that is most likely to ignite passions among motorsport fans.
The son of French racing great Prost, along with the nephew of his fiercest rival, Brazilian Senna, will be lining up on the grid, along with Nelson Piquet Junior, whose father raced alongside them in the 1980s and ’90s.
“These guys will be really fighting for victory; they will racing at their maximum,” said Alejandro Agag, the chief executive of the company behind the series.
Both Piquet and Bruno Senna are experienced Formula One pilots, while Nicolas Prost was appointed test driver for the Lotus Formula One team last year. They are among 20 drivers who will be racing in 10 teams in Formula E.