Rock star of Spanish business and former politician, the Formula E CEO, Alejandro Agag joined London Live to discuss the very first Formula E races London will be hosting in June in Battersea Park.
He sat down with Anthony Baxter to explain how he convinced mayor Boris Johnson to add Formula E to London’s sporting calendar, why Leonardo Di Caprio became one of his supporters, the future of zero emission motoring, politics and how his first car was stolen.
British racing drivers can’t wait to race at Battersea Park in June in front of their home crowd.
Ten teams, each with two drivers will go head-to head performing in front of a new generation of motorsport British fans.
The world’s first fully-electric racing series will host its final two rounds in Battersea on a specially created 15-turn, 2.92km circuit – designed by FE’s London Event Team together with British architect Simon Gibbons.
200 km per hour and no chaos on the streets
Mr Agag said: “We don’t want to see a parade. We really want to see the best drivers. We show that electric cars are very safe, fast and cool.
“We obviously do not want to block the traffic and create chaos, so no road closure or traffic problems. Boris Johnson, Westminster and all parties have been very supportive.”
The Council asked the Formula E team to drive a car during the night in Battersea Park to check the level of noise.
”It was reasonable” Mr Agag said. Which actually means that at high speed-approximately 80 decibels, still not loud enough to wake anyone up.
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “The atmosphere will literally be electric and Battersea, which is already booming with the buzz of regeneration, will be alive with the excitement that this new, world-class event will no doubt spark.”
The track is in Battersea Park, right next to River Thames, just across from Chelsea and with some of the most famous features of London’s skyline in the background.
Racing driving Sam Bird excited about the location
British racing driver Sam Bird, who competes for the UK-based Virgin Racing team, said : “It seems to combine fast straights, a couple of high-speed bends, as well as some challenging chicanes and braking zones.
“I think the London ePrix spectators will be treated to some close, fast racing with plenty of action and overtaking.
“The organisers have done a good job with this layout and I can’t wait to race there.”
Mr Agag says he does not compete with Formula 1.
“We have a good relationship with the guys from Formula 1, we joke, but Bernie Ecclestone does not really believe our cars are good cars,” he added.
Leonardo Di Caprio joined the team
Formula E is a new motor racing series with cars powered only by electricity, with zero emission and pollution.
Think F1 but electric. Leonardo Di Caprio, who has his own environment protection foundation has supported the Formula E team.
“ I had dinner with Leonardo Di Caprio in New York,” Mr Agag said.
“Initially he asked how he could help and I think having people like him makes us more known and more credible. He is very ambitious and take it very seriously.”
What is different about this car?
It’s electric therefore zero emissions.
Races are held in city centres and fans influence the atmosphere of the race on Twitter using ‘Fanboost’.
The Formula E car is being built by some of the biggest names in traditional motor sports such as McLaren, Williams and Renault.
“When the cars will be cheaper, cities will be full of electric cars but we have to change the mentality,” said Mr Agag.
“The environment is the key. Boris is a good example. We want more mayors like him.”
Inspiring schoolboys in London to buy electric cars
In addition to the Formula E action, spectators will also get to enjoy the championship’s support race – the FE School Series – which sees children from 10 local schools compete in self-assembled electric kit cars around the full-size race track.
Organised by UK charity Greenpower the series aims to inspire young people to develop careers in engineering and sustainability:
“We want those kids when they buy cars to buy electrical ones. Is going to be fun for kids and family,” he said.
At least 50,000 are estimated to come at the first London Formula E Race.
Ex investor in Queen's Park Ranger's
Alejandro Agag was part of the consortium that got together and bought Queen’s Park Rangers.
Through his connection within sport, Mr Agag became friends with Flavio Briatore, Bernie Ecclestone and Lakshmi Mittal. Together, they bought the club in 2007.
“Me and Mittal didn’t know too much about sport at that time,” he said.
“We thought it would be easy. But football is very difficult thing. If your kids don’t want to play because they are upset with their mother, that’s the end.
“Motorsporting is a lot more precise, It taught me a very important lesson: stay away from the football.”
His first car got stolen
Alejandro Agag’s first car was an Opel.
“I used that car for exactly three days and then it got stolen,” he said.
“I remember we were in French Alps around New Year’s Eve and during the evening my mother came over and said ‘someone stole your car’.
“I think the thieves were some party people. I bought the car with my own savings. I was running a bar at the time.”
He is now driving an electric Renault and spends most of his time “in the sky” travelling from one continent to another.
This year the championship calendar looks quite busy: Miami ePrix in March, Long Beach ePrix in April, Monaco and Germany in May, Russia and London in June.
Mr Agag still finds time to go for a stroll with his family in Battersea or Richmond parks. “I’m travelling all the time but I’m lucky to have a great wife and great kids,” he said.
“They are very patient.”
Mr Agag was one of the youngest members of European Parliament. He left politics after he decided to get married to Ana Aznar Botella, the daughter of then Prime Minister, Jose Aznar.
I’m proud to be a Spanish but I’m a Londoner now
The 43-year-old Spanish businessman set up his electric vehicles start-up in 2012.
He Agag said: “It started like a dream with no money and cars. I’m proud to be Spanish but I feel I’m a Londoner now.
“In Spain if you want to close a road for a race you are risking your life. In London is different.”