The reality of Formula E postponing the Sanya E-Prix
Sanya E-Prix © FIA Formula E
Sanya E-Prix © FIA Formula E

The reality of Formula E postponing the Sanya E-Prix

With confirmation that the Sanya E-Prix is to be postponed due to concerns regarding the Coronavirus epidemic, Katy Fairman looks at the knock-on effect of Formula E losing the race from this season’s calendar.

In the past few weeks, the world has been unsettled by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in China. The World Health Organisation declared this new coronavirus (2019 n-CoV) a global health emergency on 30 January. The city of Wuhan, home to 11 million people in Central China and where the virus was first reported, is currently on lockdown as officials scramble to contain the outbreak. New confirmed cases are on the rise and the virus has spread to over 20 countries worldwide.

Confirmation came yesterday that the Sanya E-Prix has been postponed from its scheduled 21 March date due to the “continued spread” of the coronavirus.

Formula E explained the decision to call off the race in the following statement:

“In view of the continued spread of coronavirus and after close consultation with the relevant departments of Hainan Province and Sanya Municipal Government, Formula E – together with the FIA, the Federation of Automobile and Motorcycle Sports of People’s Republic of China (CAMF), and regional partner Enova Holdings – have jointly decided not to race in Sanya on the scheduled date of March 21, 2020.

“Given the current growing health concerns and with the World Health Organisation declaring the coronavirus an international emergency, Formula E has taken the necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of its travelling staff, championship participants and spectators, which remains of paramount importance.

“We are working closely with our regional partner and the local authorities in Hainan Province and Sanya Municipal Government, to continue monitoring the situation as it develops. All parties will take the appropriate amount of time to study the viability of potential alternative dates should the situation improve.”

Geographically, Wuhan is situated in the central part of mainland China, over 1,700 km away from Hainan Island, where Sanya is located. However, Wuhan is a key transit hub for travellers from Europe who are heading to other destinations in the region. Naturally, the health and safety of staff, media, local partners and fans must remain the top priority.

While the race in Sanya has not been cancelled outright, Formula E’s other commitments mean it will be a big challenge to find time in the calendar and the necessary resources to host the E-Prix before the current season wraps up in July.

Although other solutions have been discussed, including turning one of the later rounds into a double-header, this news comes as a blow to Formula E and the relationship it hopes to foster with the Chinese market, as well as for Chinese owned teams like teams champions DS Techeetah, and NIO 333 Racing, who were eager to compete on home soil.

The postponement of the Sanya round and possible cancellation from this season’s calendar would mark the first time Formula E did not race in China since the championship began in 2014.

Hong Kong was left off the season six calendar as a result of the ongoing anti-government protests in the Special Administrative Region. It is believed the situation is being constantly reviewed, with hopes that Formula E will return to Hong Kong for next season.

Away from Formula E, China is also known for being a market leader in the acceptance and enthusiasm for electric vehicles as well as being the world’s largest auto market.

In a recent article from Bloomberg, statistics that showed the sales of ‘passenger vehicles’ had peaked in China during 2018, but since then sales had taken a steep decline. However, sales of ‘alternative energy vehicles’ had only continued to grow.

The demand for electric vehicles in China is intense. So much so, that when looking into the estimated revenue from electric passenger vehicle sales in 2018, Chinese automakers took up half of the places in the global top ten.

BMW topped the sales chart, that excluded Tesla and included joint venture activity, with an estimated revenue of $7.43 billion, but Chinese company BYD was just behind with $7.38 billion.

In fact, of the top ten, that features automotive corporations such as Nissan, Volkswagen and General Motors, Chinese automakers are estimated to make a joint-revenue from electric passenger vehicle sales of $20.84 billion.

Chinese automakers also take up nine places out of the top ten when it comes to the percentage of revenue that is made up from sales of electric passenger vehicles.

Aside from China, there are still Formula E rounds scheduled to take place in Asia in Jakarta and Seoul, respectively. Although this will be of great relief to Formula E knowing they will still have electric street races on the streets of Asia, it won’t be able to fill the void of possibly losing Sanya on the calendar.

As for what will happen if Sanya can’t be rescheduled, there have been suggestions that Berlin or New York could entertain a double-header if there are the resources and time available to do so. Nothing is confirmed yet and it has been noted that Formula E and all relevant parties are continuing to monitor the situation.

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Written by
Katy Fairman
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