OPINION: Fanboost or Fan-Lose?

ATRL’s Chiara Schanno takes a look at the highly critiqued Formula E’s Fanboost and debates the pros and cons of one of the unique aspects of the series.

Chiara Schanno

March 31, 2022

Formula E has many things that make it unique, and one of those things is the so-called Fanboost. It was introduced all the way back in the first Formula E race ever in 2014. In theory, it allows a set number of the most popular drivers (as voted by fans before each race) a power boost for a certain time in the race. In practice, Fanboost isn’t exactly that easy. When it was announced to generate a bigger fan-involvement from the start, among the supportive voices, there were also many critical opinions voiced – a fact that hasn’t changed since then. On the contrary, one could argue that criticism has now the upper hand on support.

 

One of the major points used to criticise Fanboost is how easily it can be manipulated. From the very first season it was clear to many people that something couldn’t be right with the results: always the same drivers won the voting, and in addition to that, the drivers who were at the top shortly before voting closed were nowhere around the top when the results were announced. One of the drivers to publicly call for “harsh penalties” for the drivers who were caught cheating was Sam Bird. Speaking to Katy Fairman in Season 4, Bird argued that it was not fair on the fans who voted correctly. He also brought up the fact that it “does go on” if there were no penalties implemented.

Some fans even call for the abolishment of Fanboost. In this recent Reddit discussion, an overwhelming majority of people voted and argued in favour of getting rid of the extra boost.

For Season 8, Formula E have implemented several changes to the Fanboost voting that are supposed to make it harder to cheat or buy votes, such as asking for a CAPTCHA when signing in for the first time and removing all voting options besides the official Formula E Fanboost website and the official Formula E app (which takes you to the website). Despite this, the point of many people, among them Reddit user McMrChip, still stands: Fanboost is too much of a “popularity contest”, meaning the most popular drivers win every time.

What started out as funny sign by Mitch Evans in Season 5 has grown to something some would call a serious problem.

Photo via @jaguarracing on Instagram

However, not every fan thinks that Fanboost is in itself a bad idea but that it needs a serious revamp now that Formula has grown considerably from Season 1. One of the fan-proposed solutions (Reddit user Lucas_Racer63) would be a simple rule that makes it impossible for the same driver to get the additional power every race. But the possibilities for change are almost endless, as they can be either very simply rules like the one mentioned above or more complicated ones, for example creating something closer to the way Gridplay affects the Final in Extreme E: the drivers not in the final race can give their votes to another team in the final and the votes they received are added up with the ones the individual drivers from that team received. As there is obviously no final in Formula E, that could be e.g. the top 10 drivers, and the remaining 12 get to distribute their votes to another driver of their choice from those top 10. Of course, that could lead to even more drama depending on who gives their votes to whom and so on.

 

Speaking to journalist Hazel Southwell back in May 2021, Formula E CEO Jamie Reigle announced that the series will evaluate if Fanboost is still needed with the arrival of the Gen3 cars in the 2022/2023 season. He made it clear though that should Fanboost be removed from the series for Season 9, this decision was gonna be made based on a purely strategic basis and not because of all the criticism it has received. Either way, that would make many people happy, as they would still have gotten what they wanted all along.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chiara Schanno was introduced to Motorsport through their family at a young age. Getting really into F1 in late 2016, they soon started to watch more series and is now particularly interested in electric racing like Formula E and feeder series racing like Formula 2. A non-motorsport related (fun) fact about Chiara is that they have stage experience in both acting and singing. They are based in Germany.

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