Of the three “to be decided” encounters on the recently announced 13-event 2023 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship schedule, the series’ South African debut looks more likely than its return to China.
The Cape Town and Sanya E-Prix events are scheduled for February and March next year, but a combination of logistical and commercial challenges allied with Formula E’s more cautious approach to firm up the races before it is proven that they can definitely take place delays the entire new program.
In the case of Sanya, the tourist resort town of Hainan Island in the South China Sea, there is little confidence in being able to hold an event next March.
Indeed, Chinese authorities have suspended all direct flights from the UK and certain other countries as the COVID situation continues, and the measures will be “subject to review but no date has been announced” for lift them according to the British government.
Visa eligibility for travel to China remains limited, and logistical problems created by the no-fly zones over Russia have also caused additional difficulties.
Formula E has confirmed to The Race that Sanya, which staged an inaugural event in March 2019 won by Jean-Eric Vergne’s DS Techeetah, is the planned venue for the March 2023 TBD race.
“Sanya is the place we have, but I find it hard to believe how we are going to be able to physically race there,” Alberto Longo, Formula E championship manager and co-founder, told The Race.
“Without having the possibility today to travel there, we will see.
“We now have three more months for the World Motor Sport Council in October, which has been delayed a bit. It was originally in September and now we are in October [19th].
“It gave us some space and breathing space for it to happen. Sanya has already happened so it’s not a new venue and maybe it can be confirmed so until then it may be viable to do so.
If the logistical issues change and the site becomes more easily accessible, a race could be organized fairly quickly given that Sanya retains some of the infrastructure from 2019, including debris fences and walls.
“The reason why we cannot confirm the date is very obvious,” added Longo, who was speaking at the recent Marrakech E-Prix.
“I mean, COVID still applies there, restrictions are still very tight in this country. We needed to buy some time to decide if it was viable for us to go or not.
“Our goal from now on is basically to confirm the three races we have as TBD and if one of them doesn’t happen we will not only look at that option [Marrakesh]but others too.
The first TBD on the calendar is the date identified for the inaugural Cape Town E-Prix which was officially announced last July. Since then, a delegation of FIA and Formula E officials have traveled to the Greenpoint area of the city to view the site of the planned circuit.
The event’s promoter and organizer, the e-movement, was optimistic about the plans and told The Race via one of its movers for the deal, Iain Banner, that it had signed “a 10 5+5 years, from the first race in 2023″.
The scheduled race remains to be determined until WMSC in October, but Longo said he was “very confident” that the South African debut of Formula E will go ahead as planned.
This was confirmed this week by the political leaders who added their support for the E-Prix, with Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis telling local media that he hoped “in the years to come Formula E will become as big a fanbase as Formula 1.” ″.
“Hosting it in Cape Town will ensure millions of people see our beautiful city around the world,” added Hill-Lewis.
“The organizers are putting on an exciting show the week before the race to showcase the best in e-mobility and renewable energy.”
Earlier this month, South Africa’s Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula, confirmed that 100 new locally-made electric trains had been completed for future use in the country. 80% of railway lines in South Africa are supplied with electricity.
Some civil engineering upgrades for Cape Town’s Greenpoint area have already started under a R44 million programme.
The race last week detailed 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.
This has resulted in the 2023 Rome E-Prix being moved from its usual April slot to July to cover a possible gap in the calendar and also because it is closer to London and more efficient logistics for the second European leg of the calendar after take-off. races in Seoul and Jakarta.
“I think it makes perfect sense,” Longo said.
“First of all, they [the EUR district in Rome] I really wanted to race a bit later and bringing it closer to London also makes logistical sense in terms of sustainability.
“So it was a win, win, win situation and we said OK, let’s do it.”