Is it just us or has Formula 1 lost some of its fire? The gulf between the cars at the front of the grid and the back is wider than the Grand Canyon, and it seems that the only way we get to enjoy pulse-raising action is when the weather gods are in a foul mood or one of the frontrunners suffers a gearbox malfunction that drops them to the back of the pack where they have to fight through the small fry.
But petrol heads are loyal. They’ve stuck by F1 despite Bernie Ecclestone’s implementation of a hoard of bizarre changes, while the engines have been stripped back and the noise quelled to a rumble rather than a roar. Fundamentally, fans want to see wheel-to-wheel action. Which is why, Nicki Shields says, Formula E – racing using only electric-powered cars – has been snowballing since its inaugural season in 2014. And it’s high time we all jumped on the bandwagon, hints the motoring presenter.
Photograph: Adam Warner
What led Nicki to Formula E?
Growing up in Twickenham, UK, Nicki first entered the world of TV broadcasting in 2012, becoming a presenter on BBC’s Escape to the Country a year later. In 2014, she was selected as the presenter and pitlane reporter for the new Formula E season on ITV, an opportunity she grabbed with both hands.
“I’m going to throw it out there and say that Formula E is better than F1, or at least equally as exciting”, says Nicki. “The beauty of our championship is that we incorporate more street circuits, which lead to brilliant racing. Our calendar features some of the most glamorous cities in the world. Think Silverstone, but in the heart of London.”
Nicki’s passion for motoring stretches back to her childhood when she used to watch racing at Brands Hatch with her father. “When I first heard about the championship, I knew I had to be involved. It mixed both my interests, cars and science.” (She studied a science-based degree at Bristol University.)
What’s the future for Formula E?
Things do look bright for Formula E. The brains behind the green sport have come up with a great way to engage new followers: Fan Boost. Essentially, fans can influence the race by casting votes on social media for their favourite driver, with the three most popular choices getting an extra surge of power at any point in the race. Popularity equals pace: simple.
“The other great aspect to the racing”, adds Nicki, “is that the cars are all quite similar in performance, which means a lot of the work boils down to the drivers. It produces great on-track action.” This in itself is music to many a petrolhead’s ears – let’s face it, we all want to see the F1 grid line up on a go-karting track to determine who the fastest driver is when on a level playing field.
With regulations stating that car emissions must be as low as a library hush by 2021, no doubt the world’s car manufacturers will be keeping a close eye on Formula E going forward, as the boundaries of science and engineering are pushed and tested. “F1 may be the pinnacle of what a car can currently do when fine-tuned,” says Nicki, “but Formula E is the pinnacle of the future, of sustainable racing.”
Final burning question: how old is Nicki Shields actually?
Despite legions of people asking, Nicki Shields’ age remains a bit of a mystery. One thing’s for sure, though: in the world of broadcasting, her sun is only rising.
Still not sold on all-electric racing? Here’s 5 reasons why Formula E is absolutely worth following.