In the overcrowded market that is sport it’s difficult to stand out. New ideas, usually brainchilds of multi-millionaires, come and go – often passing within the blink of an eye.
And if they are successful one year, there’s little certainty of a cut through the next.
But with growing concerns surrounding the environment and the footprint we leave upon our planet as a species, the world of electric sports has grown.
Alejandro Agag has been at the forefront of that surge in recent years as the co-founder and chief executive of Formula E – an electric version of F1 – Extreme E – an electric, almost Dakar Rally-style series – and E1 Series – an in-the-works speedboat series.
Agag in a space
A meeting rescheduled multiple times due to the ever-changing nature of the Spaniard’s calendar, it’s a mild day in Hammersmith when time can be spared to chat about the future of electric sports.
“We are in a space that is at the front of everything that’s happening in the world,” Agag told City A.M. “There is a big transition in the world that has to happen and we’re in the middle of one of the main drivers of that transition, which is mobility.
“We’re looking into boats, electric boats, electric cars. It’s very exciting, it’s great – motorsport plays a role in developing technology”
Beginning its inaugural season in 2014, Formula E is the most commercial of the trio of disciplines. Manufactures such as Jaguar, Porsche and Nissan – with McLaren replacing Mercedes next year and Maserati coming into the fold – line up on the grid.
Critics bemoan the lack of noise and historic tracks but it feels as though Formula E hasn’t been designed for that purpose.
It initially involved teams swapping cars at the race mid-point and has evolved now to have fan voted power boosts throughout – it’s pushing the limits of engagement in sport.
Agag becoming mainstream
“Formula E and Formula 1 are not on a collision course, I think there is a parallel,” Agag added.
“I see the parallels in a complimentary way – where slowly electric will be the sport that will represent more mainstream, and combustion will be more of a classic.”
The Formula E circus travels to the North African city of Marrakesh this weekend. The Agdal district of the former capital city for the Mediaeval Almoravid Dynasty will play host to a circuit of tight corners and short, sharp straights.
“Our DNA is in the cities and we like that, our sponsors like that, our manufacturers like that,” Agag prompts when questioned about the future of street racing.
“But we’re not there yet – let’s get the performance where it should be and then after we will reflect on where.
“I’d love to go back to China, definitely – my race in Hong Kong has some of the best memories ever – and I would love to go to Brazil, and Sao Paulo as well as to South Africa.
“I would love to go to so many places. I would love to go to the West Coast of the United States and the Nordics, so many places.”
Visibly excited by the discussion on further expansion, Agag sits across a coffee table with a Red Bull on its glass surface, a “special can” of the energy drink as he describes it. Why? That remains unknown.
Extreme E, too, continues to take off – the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg have teams in the series.
That series continues next week in the sunny island of Sardinia, where a double header will take place in the Mediterranean.
Off to Monaco that afternoon, the 51-year-old Spaniard and former politician leans in as he is asked about the influence of the Middle Eastern influence on his sport.
The Saudi Arabia-owned Public Investment Fund (PIF) sits on the board of Agag’s E1 boating venture and this week the Kingdom announced its Neom eco region will partner with McLaren in their electric endeavours.
“The way the world is going it is going to be more divided everyday,” he said. “So what we’re seeing in the war in Ukraine is that globalisation is under threat.
“For me, the only thing that can bring people together is sport. So now more than ever, it is important to keep sport away from politics and away from those questions.
“Of course there are issues and they will be discussed, but not in sport. For me, sport needs to be separate from everything else, and the only element that can unite all humans.
“E1 is a startup model where we have the initial capital and a good partner in the PIF so we are very well financed and then from here we should try to make it breakeven in Europe.”
The E1 Series is a fascinating prospect but a little bit of an enigma. Boating is not the most watched sport so there is scope there for expansion.
There is also the attractiveness of being able to host the competition within inner city locations – Venice and Monaco will offer fans the chance to get close to the action.
Venice Racing Team are the first confirmed participants in the series and more are set to follow.
“[Successful testing] was pretty good to see – I wasn’t really expecting that,” Agag added.
“I think the performance of the boat exceeded our expectations because normally on the first test, many things go wrong.
“We’re talking with 60 cities and there’s amazing interest all over the world. Of course, people were waiting to see the boat and I would have to say the same: let’s start making the real calendar with real agreements once people can see the boat.
“We’re going to race in Monaco, which we already said. I would love to race in Hong Kong, I would love to race in Sydney Harbour, I would love to race in Rio de Janeiro – Geneva, Zurich, London, Paris – we can race anywhere.
“We cannot race in Riyadh but we can race in the Red Sea.”
Breaking into the sports market is difficult but in Formula E, Agag and co have done that. With further development into the Extreme E series, that, too, continues to grow.
As for the E1 Series, it remains unknown. But if there were to be a singular individual to count upon to turn electronic hypotheticals into sporting realities, it’s Agag.