Story highlights

Formula E driver challenges F1 elite

Di Grassi raced in F1 in 2010

Hamilton would find Formula E "hard"

Formula E set for Paris city center race

CNN  — 

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have won seven Formula One world titles between them, but could they replicate their success in motorsport’s Formula E series?

The world’s only racing series for all-electric cars is enjoying its second season of competition with Lucas di Grassi of the Abt Schaeffler team leading the drivers’ championship by a whisker from Renault e.Dams’ Sebastien Buemi.

Di Grassi, who competed for the Virgin Racing team in the 2010 F1 season and finished third behind Hamilton in the Formula 3 championship back in 2005, thinks the Briton and Vettel would take some time to adapt to the challenges of racing electric cars.

“They would have a hard time in Formula E,” Di Grassi told CNN.

formula e drivers standings after long beach

“They are incredible drivers … I raced with them since we were kids in go-karts. They are the most talented drivers of our generation and maybe, I would say, a lifetime. But if they came to Formula E they would have to learn the tracks – they are city tracks,” he added.

“I would invite them to come to race and see how it is. They would be tough competition but they would have a hard time.”

The 31-year-old thinks the different set up of the battery-powered cars might also pose a challenge although the noises the drivers hear are surprisingly similar.

“In other (racing) series – even F1, which is very loud – the air makes much more noise than the engine itself,” he explains.

“The different feeling in Formula E is vibration on the car and the response of the throttle. The noise makes no difference. Electric motors are different – we don’t have so many gears so we don’t have to shift (up and down) so often.”

On top of the world

Di Grassi heads into this weekend’s first-ever Paris ePrix holding the slenderest of leads over his nearest rival, Buemi.

The Swiss made much of the running in the opening races of the season winning two of the opening three races, but was overtaken at the top of the standings by a single point when Di Grassi took the checkered flag at last month’s Long Beach ePrix.

WATCH: Drone vs. Electric car

The win was a vital one for Di Grassi who had celebrated atop the podium in the previous ePrix in Mexico only to later discover he had been disqualified for fielding a car fractionally under the minimum weight.

“Mexico was a great event. We had 40,000 people, the podium was just amazing and to have that victory taken away from me again because of 1.5 kilos (made me) very frustrated. It was right, because you have the rules and respect them, but it was an honest mistake,” Di Grassi explains.

formula e steering wheel graphic
A Bird's eye view of Formula E
02:47 - Source: CNN

“More than that the team was very frustrated and to come back from that with another victory and take the lead of the championship was the best reward I and my team could have.”

Di Grassi believes Paris will mark another high point for the new electric formula with the race taking place on a temporary street circuit around the Hotel des Invalides — one of the “City of Light’s” most famous landmarks in the 7th arrondissement on the Left Bank.

“It is the dream city for us to have a Formula E race,” Di Grassi enthuses. “It’s a few hundred meters from the Eiffel Tower so we’re going to have an amazing background. The race is completely sold out.”

Organizers hope that spectators take away more than just memories of an exciting race on Saturday. Even Di Grassi, who admits to being “a big petrol head,” says it’s time to move with the times.

“The public require something different. The world requires a new technology, a new form of energy — especially urban city mobility,” he says.

“The best way to showcase these technologies is by racing and inviting people to watch us race these electric cars and show to them that electric cars are not only clean, they are fast, exciting.

“We are doing proper motorsport and this can maybe change the perception – they might buy an electric car in the future.”

READ: Is this the future of motorsport?

di grassi win long beach tz
Formula E: Long Beach ePrix highlights
04:31 - Source: CNN