New Delhi: Karun Chandhok, the lone Indian driver in the inaugural Formula E season which begins on the streets of Beijing this Saturday, feels the biggest challenge for the world's first fully-electric racing series is to attract a new audience as it is unlikely to woo the traditional fan-base of motor racing.
Chandhok says Formula E will serve its purpose if it is able to promote the use of battery-powered cars globally.
"Formula E doesn't aim to compete with any other racing series, it wants to create a new audience and make them aware of the benefits of green racing. Taking racing to streets around the world is a very good way of promotion," Chandhok told PTI from Brackley, England today.
Chandhok is driving for the only Indian team on the grid, Mahindra Racing. Brazilian Bruno Senna is his teammate.
Questions have been raised on Formula E rivalling the well-established Formula 1 ever since the ground-breaking initiative was launched in 2012.
The Chennai-born Chandhok calls any comparison to F1 "unfair".
"F1 is undoubtedly the pinnacle of motorsports. In fact (it) is one of the biggest sports in the world. One can say the sea of fans that attended the Italian Grand Prix at Monza yesterday will not get attracted to Formula E.
"Fans like those at Monza are part of the traditional base and this new series is unlikely to find takers there. That is why it (Formula E) is taking racing to the streets to create a new audience and I am confident a layman will be able to relate to it."
While the current F1 cars produce around 600bhp, a Formula E car can generate a maximum 270bhp, making it a complete machinery mismatch.
The opening race will be held around China's Olympic Stadium, also known as Bird's Nest, before the caravan travels to the streets of London, Berlin, Long Beach, Miami and Monte Carlo among others.
Talking about himself and his team's chances in the series opener, Chandhok sees the possibility of a podium.
"The times in the fifth and final pre-season test were encouraging. The earlier tests were mostly about experimenting and collecting data. But in the final test we made a call to pool in whatever information we had to improve the car set-up and it worked somehow," said Chandhok, who was seventh fastest in the final test at Donington Park and a tenth slower than his fourth-placed teammate Senna.
"In F1, it is 80 percent car and 20 percent driver skills. I would say the ratio is 60:40 in Formula E as it is a single make series. There will not be a lot of difference in timings and fans will regularly get to see wheel to wheel action," reckoned the 30-year-old.
Is podium possible for Mahindra in Beijing? "It is possible but you need luck and reliability with the new car on the first weekend of the championship."
Chandhok will also need some "Fan Boost", which allows the fans vote for their favourite driver, giving his car a temporary power boost from 180bhp to 270bhp.