Fears were that it could take out almost half the rounds left for the season and with locations like Jakarta already looking fragile, when the disease made its way to Europe and was given the “pandemic” status by the World Health Organisation, Formula E and FIA took the decision to temporarily suspend the season.
The statement meant that Formula E would be postponing rounds such as the inaugural Seoul E-Prix as well as popular locations like Paris and Rome. Sanya and Jakarta were also put on pause officially, two races which had already experienced a mound of issues.
Before the suspension, Formula E had undertaken five races of Season 6.
Unfortunately, for the championship, the interruption was implemented when races became more frequent for the electric racing series. The new season started at the end of November last year, with the next race after that being almost two months later in mid-January. Another two races in February kickstarted the pace of the calendar as it began to reach its peak travelling around Asia and Europe, before a finale in London this July.
The suspension meant that another five future races were to be put on hold over the next two months; the same amount of races that Formula E has completed since the season started. It was a huge blow for Formula E but totally the right decision with the current international situation.
Although a huge chunk of the calendar was put on pause, Formula E still has plans to race in Berlin, New York and host a double-header in London as previously scheduled.
Unfortunately, for these remaining locations coronavirus is as present as ever.
Whilst writing this article Germany has 51,674 active cases and is one of the worst affected countries, the Governor of New York has described COVID-19 as spreading in his state like a “bullet train” and both the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, and the ExCeL Centre (which was set to host the London finale) are currently being transformed into a temporary hospital for patients.
Despite these three remaining locations still currently being scheduled to host their respective races in June and July of this year, it now looks to be increasingly likely these rounds will too be postponed or cancelled.
Although no Formula E races have been cancelled as yet, it seems unrealistic to expect countries, and indeed major cities, that are recovering from the worst health scare in generations to be jumping at the opportunity to reschedule an electric motorsport race around their city centres.
So, where does that leave the championship?
Well, for the season to count as an official championship season, there need to be a minimum of six official ‘events’; whether they are held behind-closed-doors, as has previously been proposed, or they host fans and spectators.
As it stands, Formula E has hosted four events this season: Diriyah, Santiago, Mexico and Marrakesh. An event is not to be confused with a race, hence why, despite hosting two races in a double-header weekend, Diriyah is only counted as one event.
These remaining two ‘events’ would need to run like a normal race weekend with all sessions adhering to Formula E’s sporting regulations. Events can contain one or two races, but these races can’t be on the same day.
Inside Electric understands that Formula E are aware of the current situation in the remaining locations on the calendar, as well as the list of cities that have already had events postponed.
Formula E unveiled a ‘flag system’ earlier in March to assess the likelihood of hosting their scheduled races. Red flags meant no racing would happen, a yellow flag indicated that racing was still a possibility, and green flags displayed meant that the races were scheduled to go ahead as planned.
The months of March and April are currently red, May is yellow, and June and July are green. Here at Inside Electric, we understand that discussions are underway to change the status of racing for both May and June to red, with any event scheduled during those months now unlikely to go ahead. This would mean losing the Berlin E-Prix which was one of three events still scheduled to go ahead.
With only New York and London left on the calendar, and both their venues being used to host the surplus of COVID-19 patients in temporary hospitals, these locations seem unrealistic and leave Formula E with a real challenge to find alternative locations and quickly.
It had previously been suggested that the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia had been set to replace the Rome E-Prix at the start of April, home to Formula E pre-season testing for the past three years, but this was quickly ruled out as Spain was hit with a massive spread of coronavirus which currently shows little signs of slowing. It should be noted that all the Formula E cars are currently being stored in Valencia.
Inside Electric believe that as part of their ongoing contingency planning, Formula E are evaluating the following options:
Extending the calendar
With the current season timetabled to finish on Sunday 26th July 2020 in London, it is understood that Formula E could look at racing in August and September of this year.
This would be an unknown for the championship, which usually takes its summer break then before preparations begin for the new season. Pre-season testing usually happens mid-October which wouldn’t leave much time for teams to get their cars ready for FIA homologation.
Racing behind closed doors
An idea that Inside Electric first reported on last month, racing “closed-door” for a TV-only audience, could be how the final two events are held. However, as we explained, this proposal has not been well-received as the risk of quarantine would remain for teams and staff.
No more street circuits
In an attempt to get these final two events completed so Formula E can crown a champion, Formula E could scrap the idea of racing on the city streets and instead head to more traditional race tracks. Formula E have done this previously with locations such as Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City which was modified for Formula E as recently as February, as well as hosting simulated races around the Circuit Ricardo Tormo during testing.
Inside Electric also understands that all of these discussions are underway with Formula E and their relevant parties as part of ongoing contingency planning. The priority is to complete the season by hosting another two events so they can crown both a drivers’ and constructors’ champion, as they prepare for Formula E to become a world championship from the 2020-21 season onwards after gaining the official FIA World Championship status.
Obviously, the focus will now centre around rescheduling any remaining races if the spread of COVID-19 reduces significantly in the coming months. With almost every type of motorsport being affected by coronavirus currently, trying to arrange races with the relevant authorities and groups for the second half of this year will be a challenge that should not be underestimated.
|1||Diriyah E-Prix||Riyadh Street Circuit||22/11/19|
|2||Diriyah E-Prix||Riyadh Street Circuit||23/11/19|
|3||Santiago E-Prix||Parque O’Higgins Circuit||18/01/20|
|4||Mexico City E-Prix||Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez||15/02/20|
|5||Marrakesh E-Prix||Circuit Moulay El Hassan||29/02/20|
|11||Berlin E-Prix||Tempelhof Airport Circuit||21/06/20 *|
|12||New York City E-Prix||Brooklyn Street Circuit||11/07/20 *|
|13||London E-Prix||London ExCeL Circuit||25/07/20 *|
|14||London E-Prix||London ExCeL Circuit||26/07/20 *|
- *Race still provisionally scheduled, but likely to be postponed or cancelled.