until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

Pressure is on Formula E to follow F1's USA lead

by Sam Smith
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The New York E-Prix had a decent run as Formula E's stars-and-stripes home - but for the last 18 months the all-electric world championship has struggled to find a replacement.

As Formula 1 goes stratospheric in the US, Formula E is in a current stasis where it is looking to take right turns on future venues.

Let’s be blunt. Last year's (and this year's) option Portland, for all its charm as a decent parkland IndyCar venue, is not an out-and-out desirable home for Formula E on many levels. It is a stop-gap to something else and should be seen as such.

Portland E-Prix, Formula E

While its race last season was memorable and the crowd reasonable, the fact is that after New York City (2017-22), Miami (2015) and Long Beach (2015 and 2016) it really felt like a comfortable pair of shoes rather than the bouncy pair of bling Nikes that Formula E should be vaulting off stateside.

At present there is a decent chance that Formula E will race in Los Angeles in the 2024-25 campaign, with a race around one of the cities major sports stadia a possibility for kick-starting the 11th season later this year.

The Race has also discovered recently that both Atlanta and Virginia Beach have had discussions with Formula E about hosting races. Atlanta has been in talks for several years, while the possibility of Virginia Beach is being talked up internally at Formula E Holdings for a 2026 debut.

With Phoenix already having announced its desire to try and attract an E-Prix, options appear to be much more abundant than they were a year ago. This is good news for Formula E as it has to leverage itself in one of the most important markets for itself and its entire framework of partners and teams.

Key US-based figures with skin in the Formula E game are reasonably aligned in what they want going forwards, with team owner Michael Andretti telling The Race at Portland last June that “we need to get to markets like LA and New York".

Michael Andretti, Formula E

“We were in New York, it’s a shame we lost that, but I think even LA is really important because of the way that everybody looks at the environment," stressed Andretti.

“I think we’ve got a big following for us there. I think it’s important, we’ve got to get to a couple of those big markets eventually. Personally, the stadium model would be awesome.”

From a TV audience perspective, the U.S is growing slowly. According to information received by The Race from a senior source at Formula E Holdings key markets, of which the US is of course one, contributed 54% of the total audience in 2023. That is a slight increase from 52% in 2022.

The largest markets from a TV perspective are Formula E are Germany, Italy, UK and France. They all saw a decrease in viewership - while the US, Japan, Brazil and India were on the up.

“If we didn't activate it all in the United States, that would be a problem,” Maserati MSG co-owner Scott Swid told The Race.

“If we activate more, I think it would be better to attract sponsors because whether you're an Italian company or a Chinese company, or an Indian company, or an American company, doesn't matter, especially the OEMs [manufacturers].”

Maserati, Jaguar, Formula E

Next season there will be the addition of the Roku streaming platform. According to Formula E, "five races will air live on CBS Television Network and simulcast on Paramount+, with both channels already featured and integrated prominently on Roku’s platform".

"Additionally," Formula E also said, "Roku users that subscribe to Paramount+ can easily enjoy the races airing on the service through the Paramount+ app on Roku’s Sports Experience. CBS Sports Network will also show one highlights programme per round.’

That’s a bit of progress. But will it be enough for Formula E to really get a foothold on the US broadcast scene? There are doubts, not least because the understanding of Formula E is pretty minimal.

The reason why that is so has its roots in the failure of the world championship to capitalise on its five-year stint in New York City. It never really caught alight despite a spectacular vista of Manhattan - and the Statue of Liberty and Wall Street both being just a short boat trip away.

Jean-Eric Vergne, DS Techeetah, Formula E

There was never a real buzz outside of the paddock that Formula E was on at all and the fact that the capacity for fans was so little, below the 10,000 mark, meant that any sense of a genuinely big event in the splendour of the Big Apple was a non-starter.

Even the mid-summer scheduling of the race didn’t do it many favours, according to Swid, as “summer is big in New York and people take it a little easier.”

What wasn’t easier was getting tickets for the limited number of grandstand seats for a key partner of Swid’s team in 2022. “You don't know what we had to do to beg, borrow and steal to get him general grandstand seats."

“New York in July on a weekend, it just gets lost," Swid added. "Many New Yorkers are out of town because there's a tonne of stuff to do on the weekends in the summer.

“If you had New York maybe in April or May or October maybe it would have worked better so it’s not just the venue but the actual calendar.

Swid makes an interesting observation in that simply chasing big cities isn’t necessarily the magic bullet for Formula E.

Mexico City E-Prix, Formula E

He sees the success of the Mexico City round, for the last two years the starting point for the world championship, as a decent case study in concentrating on an event that, while ticking off that big city box, already has a racing culture.

“I don't think it has to be in New York or it has to be Los Angeles or it has to be Portland, it just has to be something that works,” he says.

“Mexico City works and if we could have something like that in the US, it would be amazing.”

The amazing, wherever and whenever that might be, is what Formula E in the US is yearning for. Its volatile calendar is showing some signs of settling from a consistency-of-events point of view. Monaco is in April; Riyadh is in January; London is in July.

With that consistency needs to come at least two stateside events, ideally one on the West and East coasts of the country. Some think it’s an American dream for Formula E but actually the indications are that with some good judgement and perseverance it will re-establish a foothold that has so far failed to grip.

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