Formula E will race on a little-known version of Formula 1’s Chinese Grand Prix venue the Shanghai International Circuit track this May that will bypass the long back straight.
The track layout plan now communicated to FE teams confirms what was first revealed by The Race last October.
Shanghai is one of three venues on the 2024 FE calendar shared with F1, along with Mexico City and Monaco. It is also returning to the F1 calendar this year for the first time since 2019, having been absent due to the COVID pandemic and its consequences since then.
The May 25-26 Shanghai event will be Formula E’s first in mainland China since 2015, although it did race on the island of Sanya, a special diplomatic region of the country, in 2019.
The track will diverge from the F1 circuit at the Turn 9 area after the sweeping corners that make up Shanghai’s most challenging section, then cut through the infield and on to the start/finish straight part-way through the pit entry road, with a chicane on the way. This means the first 20 metres of the main straight are not used.
The circuit, which is known officially as the Motorcycle West Long track, is 1.8 miles in length and distinct from the A1GP circuit which did use the long back straight in 2007 but missed out the Turn 6 right-hand loop.
Taking part in that A1GP race for Team Switzerland as an 18-year-old means Envision FE racer Sebastien Buemi at least has some experience of a truncated version of Shanghai.
“Obviously I know the full track well,” Buemi told The Race.
“I do remember a bit [of the layout FE will use], it’s a shortcut but it doesn’t completely change the track either.
“The way we cut it doesn’t look like we’re doing a Mickey Mouse track.
“Maybe I would have preferred Sanya to be honest. I don’t know if the Gen3 would have fitted properly there.
“Let’s give Shanghai a try before we complain about it, let’s see.”
The Shanghai switch is part of a growing trend of Formula E racing on permanent racetracks rather than street circuits, and of sticking to versions of those permanent tracks that are relatively close to their standard configuration for other championships.
That includes the deal with IndyCar venue Portland that began last year - and generated a race of extreme energy-saving that featured what FE calculated as 403 passing moves while drivers tried to maximise slipstreaming and avoid leading - and FE’s Italian round moving to MotoGP track Misano for 2024.
“I expect in Misano and Shanghai maybe more something like Portland, maybe not as extreme as Portland but a bit in the direction of Portland,” Buemi added of the likely racing style at those venues.
Buemi has a strong history of success at Shanghai having won six-hour World Endurance Championship races there in 2014 and 2017 with Toyota.
He hopes Formula E is able to dress its new tracks to give them more of an FE race feeling and not fall into the trap previous championships have when adapting a permanent circuit in a truncated form.
“I really hope they manage to do a good job in Misano and Shanghai, to not make it look like one of the WTCC tracks I’ve seen in the past,” added Buemi.
“I remember watching WTCC in Shanghai with those big piles of tyres to avoid people cutting the corners. This would not be good for Formula E.
“We sell the latest and best technology, we have partners coming in, the whole environment has to look right.”