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Formula E

Silverstone in line to replace London as Formula E host

by Sam Smith, Alice Holloway
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Silverstone is likely to become a future Formula E venue as the all-electric world championship is increasingly expected to move away from its present London ExCeL Arena home.

The Race can reveal that talks between Formula E and Silverstone have recently intensified and a possible April date for the first E-Prix around the home of the British Grand Prix has been outlined.

Formula E has raced at the ExCeL Arena since 2021 and this July’s event will be its fourth and now likely its last hosting the all-electric world championship.

ExCeL has had significant building expansion to its infrastructure over the last two years, and is largely unable to accommodate any significant expansion to the present 1.03-mile circuit.

This is believed to be the key reason as to why Formula E is likely to move away from the London E-Prix.

Additionally, Formula E is also targeting more of a mix between large-scale city centre venues such as Tokyo - and a possible race in Los Angeles - with permanent or modified permanent facilities such as Mexico City, Misano and Shanghai.

This is believed to be both cost-driven and also to prepare for the Gen4 era of Formula E, when the cars are set to be quicker and more dynamic at top speeds, making smaller circuits more difficult to contain cars which will have a maximum available power of 600kW and use an active front powertrain.

Formula E is also known to have considered Brands Hatch but Silverstone became a favourite to host a UK race in recent months after more extensive talks took place.

Formula E CEO Jeff Dodds recently told a media round table in Tokyo that permanent circuits would continue to be scoped out in addition to city centre street and exhibition hall/stadia type tracks to make up the Formula E schedules of the future.

“We were all very surprised with how positive the race was in Portland last year, which is not the same circuit as [the upcoming round at] Misano but there are similarities in the way that circuit is set up,” said Dodds.

“There’s part of me that thinks that circuits that are great for motorbikes often create good circuits for Formula E because we’re a lighter, nimbler car, more overtaking, so sometimes it can feel more like a motorsport race.”

The Race says...

Trying to make sense of why Formula E would forsake an ideal fit for its purposes by choosing an airfield track far away from a major conurbation is not easy.

In the fan-friendly, in a sustainable sense, environs of the London ExCeL, Formula E felt as though it had finally found its home away from home. With its purpose-built amenities, efficient transportation in and out, and the inside/out uniqueness of the circuit, it had become a quirky but immensely enjoyable staple of the British motorsport calendar over the last three years.

It wasn’t perfect. The track, by constraints of space, had to be short. That brought a mix of chaos and frustration for drivers, with overtaking opportunities minimal and to a large extent flat-out races with little in the way of order change.

Even when the elements conspired to, at least on paper, mix things up last July, it ultimately provided one of Formula E’s most lacklustre races despite the rain - thanks to the lack of space.

Formula E seems to want it all when it comes to the tracks it races on. It wants a big event and it wants a perfect circuit for Formula E cars. Can it have both?

The answer to that is yes. Monaco ticks both boxes and perhaps Sao Paulo does, too. Mexico City ticks the former but not the latter, while Diriyah and Berlin lack in areas of outright atmosphere, although in the case of the latter it generally somehow works.

But can you put in your mind's eye Formula E cars, in whatever configuration of circuit, bringing the action to Silverstone?

In its wide-open and windswept expanses that is clearly difficult. Formula E would have to build something special should it be heading there, which seems the case, next spring.

The big danger for Formula E is that the round at Silverstone just becomes another single-seater race at Silverstone. Where will the uniqueness come from?

Perhaps a radical layout (bring back Bridge Corner!?), a huge zero emissions event and the opening up of the Silverstone Innovation Centre for an EV festival would help build it up.

All those things are for the future. But should Formula E race at the home of British motorsport it will need to build something completely bespoke so it doesn’t just become another race meeting on another permanent facility.

Why drivers don’t want permanent tracks… yet!

“I don’t like it, personally [FE moving towards street tracks], right off the bat,” a typically forthright Dan Ticktum told The Race recently.

“I think where the championship is at the moment, the cars are very low-drag, we’re focused on efficiency, which I think is great. I think the whole image of being in a city centre and promoting electric sustainability and transport in the middle of a city is very important, so I think the more we stray away from that is not good.”

There were very similar opinions up and down the pitlane on if tracks like Misano, Shanghai and Silverstone should be part of a diverse calendar or not.

Clearly, on one level they are much easier and cheaper and less disruptive to use. But as per the long-held debate in Formula E circles, what is its identity now?

From the sporting standpoint racing at Silverstone will be far from popular for its combatants. That, allied to the general disregard they have for the present Gen3 design, does not feel good for anyone.

“I think city tracks are harder, so in my opinion I think that gives us, the teams that aren’t as strong, gives a driver more of an opportunity to show off,” added Ticktum, whose ERT squad is 10th in the standings.

“It’s why I’ve always loved Macau; it’s so difficult, you can turn up in a [F3] car that’s maybe not quite good enough to win at Silverstone but you make it win at Macau.”

Those opinions are valid. But next season the Gen3Evo will break cover and already there is talk of laptimes improving by two-three seconds. Those who drove the active front-powertrain and new Hankook rubber at Mallorca last November were enthused, so potentially it might work out OK on traditional circuits.

Ticktum, though, was not convinced. "When Formula E gets to the point where we can run high drag, high downforce and get close to Formula 1 cars, let’s say, in terms of laptimes – I want to make it very clear that’s not our aim at the moment, we have a very different message, this championship, compared to Formula 1 – but once we do, if we ever go that direction, then I think, yeah, we should be on more permanent circuits.

“But I think for the moment, where the championship is, I think it’s beneficial to stay on exciting street circuits. I think the racing is cool, there’s more chances for exciting things to happen and just a lot more fun for a driver as well.

“I just think, like I say, where the championship is and will be for the next few years, I think the more street circuits the better, in my opinion.”

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