When it comes to how fancy your racing series is under the FIA governing body, it depends on a short, five-letter word: “world.” Without that word, you’re just a championship. With it, you’re a world championship, like the all-electric FIA Formula E World Championship will be starting with the 2020-2021 season.
Apologies in advance to the driver who wins the title for the 2019-2020 season that’s going on right now, as they’ll just be a champion, not a world champion. Pal, whoever you end up being, you got robbed.
Formula E announced the new addition to its name on Tuesday, saying it’s the culmination of “a dream shared by [founder] Alejandro Agag and FIA President Jean Todt,” who recently finalised its status together after the FIA and its World Motor Sport Council voted for the title. It’s been a quick rise since the series ran its first race in 2014, as the decision to make it a world championship comes a couple of weeks into what is just its sixth season in existence.
When the series does become a world championship next season, it’ll be a pretty big deal. The FIA only has four series currently listed with the “world” title in their names—the World Endurance Championship, World Rally Championship, World Rallycross Championship, and the Formula One World Championship. F1 is the natural rival to Formula E’s rise, given that it represents the top level of open-wheel racing of the past and present, while Formula E and its planned support series more represent the electric, autonomous future road cars seem to be headed toward.
Thus, that’s kind of been the view of things for a lot of people since Formula E came around: F1 is the pinnacle, Formula E is the startup series trying to get its footing. The regular migration of manufacturers into Formula E in order to show off their electric capabilities, sometimes at the expense of competition in other divisions, has helped curb that, but becoming a manufacturer staple and becoming a motorsport staple are two far different things.
Having 12 teams and the constant intrigue of the companies building road cars isn’t nearly as meaningful if Formula E is still viewed as young and lesser than some of the more established championships, and a world-championship title, even if it is just a name, could go a long way in alleviating those concerns.
But, of course, there’s an entire season to run before we get to that discussion.