The feature-length Formula E documentary And We Go Green received its long-awaited online release on Friday night, landing on YouTube a year on from its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
Directed by Academy Award winner Fisher Stevens and renowned British director and photographer Malcolm Venville, And We Go Green takes you behind the scenes during Formula E’s tense and fiercely competitive fourth season (2017-18) and features some of the most candid interviews you’re likely to have seen in any recent motorsport documentary.
The narrative focuses largely on the fight for that season’s drivers’ title, and for the most part, those are the bits that will retain the interest of the die-hard fans. Jean-Eric Vergne’s redemption story features heavily throughout, with a formidable supporting cast including the likes of Vergne’s team-mate Andre Lotterer, long-time rivals Lucas di Grassi and Sam Bird, as well as season one champion Nelson Piquet Jr.
For the more casual viewers, or perhaps those more interested in Formula E as a technological concept, the film circles back regularly to highlight the series’ back-story and how its founder, Spanish former politician Alejandro Agag, sees it as a catalyst for change within the motorsport industry.
What’s most fascinating though, are the many scenes that lay bare the drivers’ individual weaknesses and insecurities, and also reassuringly, their human qualities.
While watching And We Go Green, you’ll certainly laugh at a few bits, you’ll probably shake your head in disapproval at one or two others, but (unless you’re a shade tougher than this writer) you might find one particular scene pretty damn emotional.
So, what exactly are the standout moments? Let’s start at the beginning…
Agag furious at Hong Kong start-light failure
At the opening round of the season, Agag is less than pleased at the failure of the start lights to come on. He furiously marches over to a group of Formula E personnel and demands to know who’s responsible, before shouting “I’m gonna f*cking kill them!”. It’s a short scene just a few minutes in, but it’s genuinely quite hilarious.
As driver bromances go, Jeandre™ are the real deal
Some of the more light-hearted moments in the film feature the blossoming friendship between Techeetah team-mates Vergne and Lotterer. From larking around on an evening out in Hong Kong to Verge grilling Lotterer in Marrakesh for not having read the rule book, it’s clear that these two have a genuine connection.
That’s even more evident towards the end of the film when Lotterer explains that he understands why Vergne appears at times to be in ‘a bad mood’ because of the pressure he places on himself.
The exchanges these two share away from the track provide a fascinating insight into what made them such a formidable pairing on it.
Bird talks openly about his career frustration
As sad as it is to hear Bird (the only Formula E driver to have won in every season thus far) discuss his career in terms of regrets, it in some ways reaffirms just how competitive a championship Formula E really is, and how much success in it means to the drivers.
Bird goes on to explain how his boyhood dream was to race in Formula 1 but jokes that there’s “more chance of me going to the moon on a banana” than doing that now. Later in the film, he talks more openly of his frustrations at failing to win the Formula E title, and how he’s sick of being “the f*cking bridesmaid”.
For anyone who’s seen Bird race, and has witnessed what a formidable competitor he’s been over the years, it’s hard not to feel for him during these scenes.
DI GRASSI and PIQUET JR get a few things off their chest
It’s no secret that di Grassi and Piquet Jr do not get on, but this is the first time that many will have seen them talk openly about each other in this way.
Di Grassi goes all-in on Piquet Jr for “bad-mouthing other drivers” and is scathing with his remarks regarding Piquet Jr’s involvement in the 2008 Crahsgate controversy.
In return, Piquet Jr says he has no interest in faking a friendship with di Grassi and reveals his compatriot attempted to block his entry into the championship prior to season one.
Sadly, a scene involving the pair that the Inside Electric team saw last year was cut from the final release. We‘re unsure as to why, but in it, the two trade considerably stronger verbal blows than those in the final theatrical release. TV gold it would most certainly have been.
Vergne breaks down when asked about BIANCHI’S DEATH
In a staggeringly emotional scene, Vergne the impact that the abrupt end to his F1 career had on him and reveals that several people deserted him as a result. He then mentions that he “lost a friend” and when asked to clarify who he means, Vergne is overcome with emotion and requests to have a moment to himself.
It’s a heartbreaking scene but lays bare the impact Bianchi’s untimely death had on Vergne, a driver he rose up through the junior formulae with and considered amongst his closest friends.
Bird talks of furious fallout with Vergne in season two
Later in the film, Bird talks of a heated exchange between him and Vergne that led to them not speaking for much of the 2016-17 season.
When asked his opinion of partnering Bird while at the Virgin team, Vergne says: “There was really two parts in the team. There was his side; English people who were against me… so I went into attack mode and that made us very bad enemies”.
Bird reveals that tensions reached a climax following the Paris race when Vergne ignored team-orders to let him through: “Chaos broke out after the race. I’m calling him a f*king this and a f*king that, he’s calling me the same, and we didn’t speak for the rest of the season.”
Piquet Jr reveals the extent of strained relationship with his father
With And We Go Green being set largely during the 2017-18 season, Piquet Jr talks openly with director Fisher Stevens about the struggles he was having during that period and hints at problems in his personal life that affected his performance on the track.
When asked by Stevens to clarify his comments, he opens up about the lack of support received from his father; himself a glitteringly successful racing driver whose shadow has always loomed large over Piquet Jr’s achievements.
As motorsport documentaries go, And We Go Green may not be as polished as F1’s Drive To Survive, and its certainly not as PR-spun as McLaren’s Grand Prix Driver documentary, but that’s probably a good thing.
It does a great job of balancing the drama the drivers create purely by themselves, with a fairly solid narrative that leads you to believe Formula E is on the path to something truly big.
One thing that’s evident throughout though, and something that’ll hardly come as a revelation to readers of this website, is that racing drivers are emotional creatures, often opinionated, and most too are fairly ego-centric.
Of the drivers featured, not all paint themselves in the best light imaginable, but that’s kinda what we love about them, right?