Formula E

The latest on Formula E’s 2023 calendar gaps

by Sam Smith
4 min read

Of the three ‘to be decided’ fixtures on the recently announced 13-event 2023 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship calendar, the series’ South African debut is looking more likely than its return to China.

The Cape Town and Sanya E-Prix events are targeted for February and March next year but a combination of logistical and commercial challenges allied to Formula E’s more cautious approach to firming up races before it’s proved they can definitely take place is delaying the totality of the new schedule.

In the case of Sanya, the tourist resort location on the island of Hainan in the South China Sea, there is little confidence in being able to host an event next March.

That’s because Chinese authorities have suspended all direct flights from the UK and some other countries as the COVID situation continues, and the measures will be ‘subject to review but no date has been announced’ for lifting them according to the British Government.

Eligibility for visas for travel to China remains restricted and the logistical issues created by no fly zones over Russia have also caused some added difficulties.

Formula E confirmed to The Race that Sanya, which held an inaugural event in March 2019 won by Jean-Eric Vergne’s DS Techeetah, was the planned location for the March 2023 TBD race.

“Sanya is the location that we have but I find it hard to believe how we are going to be able to physically do a race there,” Formula E’s chief championship officer and co-founder, Alberto Longo, told The Race.

“Without having the possibility today even to travel to the location, we’ll see.

“We have now three months more for the World Motorsport Council in October, which has been delayed a little bit. It was originally in September and now is October [19th].

“That gave us a little bit of room and breathing space in order to make it happen. Sanya has happened before, so it’s not a new venue and maybe it can be confirmed, so by then it may be viable to do it.”

Should the issues around logistics change and the venue become more easily accessible, a race could be put on relatively quickly given Sanya retains some of the 2019 infrastructure, including debris fencing and walls.

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“The reason why we cannot confirm the date is very obvious,” added Longo, who was speaking at the recent Marrakesh E-Prix.

“I mean, COVID is still applying there, the restrictions are still very firm in that country. We needed to gain a little bit of time in order to decide if it is viable for us to go there or not.

“Our target, as of now, is basically to confirm the three races that we have as a TBD and if one of them doesn’t happen, then we will look into not only this option [Marrakesh], but some others too.”

The first TBD in the calendar is the date pinpointed for the first Cape Town E-Prix which was formally announced last July. Since then, a delegation of FIA and Formula E officials have visited the Greenpoint area of the city to see the site of the planned circuit.

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The promoter and organiser of the event, e movement, has been bullish regarding the plans and stated to The Race via one of its driving forces for the deal, Iain Banner, that it had signed “a 10-year deal. 5+5 years, commencing from the first race in 2023″.

The planned race remains a TBD until the WMSC in October but Longo said that he was “very confident” that Formula E’s South African debut will go ahead as planned.

That has been backed up this week by political leaders adding their support for the E-Prix, with Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis telling local media that he hoped “in the years ahead, Formula E will grow as big a fanbase as Formula 1″.

“Hosting it in Cape Town will ensure that millions see our beautiful city around the world,” added Hill-Lewis.

“The organisers are putting on an exciting show in the week before the race to showcase the best of e-mobility and renewable energy.”

Earlier this month South Africa’s transport minister, Fikile Mbalula, confirmed that 100 new locally manufactured electric trains had been completed for future use in the country. 80% of rail lines in South Africa are powered by electricity.

Some work on civil engineering upgrades for the Greenpoint area of Cape Town have already begun as part of a 44million Rand programme.

The Race detailed last week the issues surrounding the future of the New York E-Prix – which holds its 2022 event this weekend – due to an expansion of the cruise industry in and around the Red Hook area.

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That has resulted in the 2023 Rome E-Prix moving from its usual April slot to July as a cover for a potential gap in the calendar and also because it is closer to London and more efficient logistics for the second European leg of the schedule after flyaway races in Seoul and Jakarta.

“I think that makes total sense,” Longo said.

“First of all, they [the EUR district in Rome] really wanted to do the race a little bit later and getting it closer to London also has logistic sense in terms of sustainability as well.

“So, it was a win, win, win situation and we said OK, let’s do it.”

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