The Vallelunga circuit near Rome is being considered as a surprise potential home for an alternative Rome Formula E race after recently signing a letter of intent to host an E-Prix next April.
A new home for FE's Italian round is needed after the series decided not to commit to continuing at the Rome EUR street circuit it's used since 2018, in what it presented as a safety-based decision.
This, though, has been disputed by many in the Formula E paddock, including drivers, who were not consulted on the decision - which has been framed as being a legacy of July’s multi-car accident.
Now Formula E is investigating substitute Italian races at permanent venues, with MotoGP venue Misano and Formula 1 grand prix track Imola also scouted as possible host venues for 2024.
While Misano is believed to be logistically an easier location, Vallelunga is a more relevant venue to continue with a Rome E-Prix moniker as it is located just under an hour north of downtown Rome.
An official letter of intent for Vallelunga to host Formula E has been reported by local media to have been signed this week, with the Lazio Region expressing an ‘intention to support and contribute to the organisation of the FIA ABB Formula E Roma E-Prix race, at the Vallelunga International Autodrome'.
Vallelunga: Great track, great heritage, but...
The mere fact that Vallelunga is being considered as a track for Formula E shows typical aspects of FE’s last-minute and often chaotic strategy for finding venues. So, the two may be perfectly matched!
With nine weeks until the 10th Formula E season kicks off there is still no absolute clarity on the full and final calendar.
While that is enormously frustrating for teams and manufacturers, they are familiar with the moveable and often transient aspects of FE schedule planning that are met now with just resigned shrugs.
It is a colossally difficult job for the organisers to put together these schedules but a race at one of Europe’s oldest tracks, which rarely hosts world championship-calibre races, seems desperate.
The track itself is good, with a blend of old-school quick corners that scythe through rugged hillside, including the famous ‘Cutting’ section of track and the Curva Grande start sweep that make the more famous Monza equivalent look tame.
Infrastructure-wise though it will be complex for Formula E should it end up at Vallelunga. The amenities are better than they used to be after recent upgrades but a dearth of big local hotels in the area will be one concern.
As far as heritage goes, Vallelunga has plenty. It hosted the non-championship 1963 Rome Grand Prix, won by Bob Anderson’s Lola-Climax.
Its annual Gold Cup sportscar race has been an ever-present, while the short-lived original Don Panoz-backed European Le Mans Series raced there in 2001, and the football-themed single-seater championship Super League Formula visited in 2008 with Andy Soucek setting the official circuit lap record of 1m23.475s for the Atletico Madrid team.
It was also an occasional F1 testing venue for Italian teams until the mid-2000s and appeared on the European F3 calendar in 2013.
Formula 3000 was a staple for Vallelunga as well with races held between 1985 and 1991.
The 1987 event was memorable for a cataclysmic accident in which Yannick Dalmas split his ORECA-run March in half just after the first corner, causing the race to be red flagged.
Alex Zanardi won the final International F3000 race there for the Il Barone Rampante team, when he led home eventual champion Christian Fittipaldi.
More recently, the now defunct World Touring Car Cup staged a round at the track on the Historic International layout last year.
Mikel Azcona, a sometime tester for the ERT Formula E team previously known as NIO 333, finished both races on the podium. The wins were shared by Nestor Girolami and Gilles Magnus.
The Milan-based affaritaliani.it website also detailed that the outline of the letter includes a motivation to host the event due to the ‘the institutional and social relevance of the initiative’.
The letter is reported to have been signed by the president of the Lazio region, Francesco Rocca, and by the councillor for environment, sport, climate change, energy transition and sustainability, Elena Palazzo.
The involvement of the Lazio region and its negotiations with Formula E and Vallelunga indicate that the circuit, which was involved through the Italian federation - the ACI - in working at the previous Rome E-Prixs, is now favourite to host next April's FE round.
Lazio sports councillor, Palazzo, is said to have issued a statement that outlines the plans, saying: "We undertake to allocate, in the event of the E-Prix being awarded, a contribution of €500,000.
"This is an important and necessary step to guarantee the permanence of one of the most followed and loved events, with enormous repercussions on the economy of the area, which raises awareness on the issues of environmental impact.
"The Vallelunga racetrack, in the municipality of Campagnano, is perfectly suited to best hosting this prestigious event.
"I am convinced that we have managed to find the best solution that will satisfy the public and organisers."