How Extreme E beat the odds in inaugural season

COVID-19 impacted the all-electric series' bow in 2021, but by delivering a full campaign, it's in rude health for season two

Laia Sanz/Carlos Sainz (ESP), Acciona | Sainz XE Team

Starting a brand-new championship, on a global scale, with all-electric vehicles whilst also trying to raise awareness about global warming and climate change was never going to be easy. But doing all of that during a global pandemic meant many would have assumed Extreme E’s task was doomed before it even began.

But Alejandro Agag doesn’t seem to understand the words ‘no’ or ‘can’t’.

Despite COVID-19 taking a grip on the world, Extreme E has managed to travel the globe and has delivered exactly what it set out to do.

Against all odds, it assembled nine teams complete with world class owners and drivers, completed all five events, many of which were in remote locations as originally pledged and ended up with a championship that went right down to the wire. So close that Rosberg X Racing were declared champions based on the fact they had more wins than X44 over the course of the season.

It’s an incredible achievement by anyone’s standards and it’s definitely not lost on Agag.

“It’s been a season with a lot of learning, and a lot of flexibility, and almost improvization sometimes,” said Agag.

“Because of COVID we came without testing, we tweaked the race format a few times, the cars were breaking.

“I tell you; my mood today is a million times better than my mood after the race in Sardinia. I was really frustrated by that.

“But we are in the world we live in. With COVID, you cannot test, you have to just basically get on with it, and this is what we did.

Alejandro Agag, CEO, Extreme E, in the press conference
Overall it’s great to learn as we go, and all the lessons will be useful for season two Alejandro Agag

“I’m very proud of the whole team that did an amazing job in really tough circumstances.

“Spark [Racing Technology] put their head down, and fixed the problems, and we’ve seen on race five we have the reliability there.

“Suspension, much better and this is because we did one day of testing. So, we could only do one day of testing before the beginning of the season.

“So overall it’s great to learn as we go, and all the lessons will be useful for season two.”

A new championship, during a pandemic cannot make it through without a hitch and Extreme E is no different.

Beyond the Odyssey 21’s reliability issues there’s also been problems with venues.

Cristina Gutierrez (ESP)/Sebastien Loeb (FRA), X44

The final round of the season should have been the Amazon X-Prix, but with COVID-19 cases soaring in South America, the series had to change tact and find a new location to head to.

It wasn’t exactly remote in the same way as the Saudi Arabian desert or Greenland, but by having the final round at the Ministry of Defence’s Bovington Camp in Dorset in the UK meant Extreme E had honored its promise by hosting five rounds, all in separate locations.

And although Dorset wasn’t Agag’s first choice for an Extreme E venue, he is pleased with how it panned out and believes the series must have at least one round in Europe in the future.

“I have to say I’m surprised how well this location has worked,” Agag told DirtFish. “We were supposed to be in Ushuaia by now, in Patagonia.

“We changed because with COVID it was really, really difficult to do, and I see a fantastic surprise.

Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky (SWE)/Kevin Hansen (SWE), JBXE Extreme-E Team

“The army has been so helpful, and the course has delivered a really good final, so really happy with the venue.

“I think we need to have at least one race in Europe because for sponsors, for partners, for activation and so on.

“We had Sardinia; we had this one. I think the race was nicer here, Sardinia was really tough with the cars. So yeah, I’ll definitely consider it.”

Looking ahead to next year, Agag does have some changes in mind. He understands that elements of the championship haven’t been perfect this year, but he believes the negatives can be ironed out fairly easily, especially some elements of the race format.

“I want to continue improving the reliability of the cars. But apart from that, maybe that kind of semifinals with four cars, maybe. Something like that,” explained Agag when asked about what improvements could be made to next year’s championship.


“I think for me the best track is Greenland because it’s really wide and with big jumps; it allows the drivers to attempt different lines.

“Here, we have seen some good action. Even over the jump there were two cars side by side. But yeah, probably just wider circuits. And I think maybe semifinals with four cars would be more fun.

Agag also has ideas in mind beyond the cars and race format too. Race length is also a factor that needs considering, but the complex nature of each location means working out the right distance isn’t easy.

“Here, we came with this kind of like solution of the three laps. I think four laps is better. Probably four laps would be better.

“So maybe, as long as it’s wider, maybe a good solution is to go shorter tracks and we do more laps. It could be an option.

Alejandro Agag, CEO, Extreme E, in the press conference
Extreme E has a very clear philosophy in sustainability climate action. We have this purpose at the center of the championship. That’s the reason why the championship exists. Alejandro Agag

“But everything depends on the terrain and where we are. Greenland, I wouldn’t change it. I would just do two laps.”

But amidst all of the changes, one thing that won’t change is the championship’s philosophy and its legacy program.

“Extreme E has a very clear philosophy in sustainability climate action. We have this purpose at the center of the championship. That’s the reason why the championship exists, and that has many different aspects.

“One is of course the legacy. We are going to continue with the legacy program in different parts of the world. We have done legacy programs in places where we have not even gone to race.

The Extreme E beach clean in progress

“For example, in Brazil, we have this reforestation program in the Amazon. We haven’t been able to race in Brazil, but we have done our legacy program in Brazil.

“And we want to include partners that share the same goal. So basically, we are a very inclusive championship. I think as long as you have the right direction everyone is welcome.

“Why not welcome an oil company for example if they are going to work on carbon capture technology or many others.

“So that’s our philosophy. I want to expand what I have with as many like-minded partners involved with other sports.

“We will then continue with our legacy; we have some amazing ideas. Our scientific committee is great and they are coming up with all these new ideas for new legacy projects next year.”