Formula E to reveal updated calendar with two new race venues
© FIA Formula E
© FIA Formula E

Formula E to reveal updated calendar with two new race venues

Formula E is close to confirming plans for a heavily revised 2020-21 season calendar. New races in Vallelunga and Valencia are likely to be added as the viability of holding races in city centres continues to prove challenging.

With next month’s doubleheader in Diriyah the only races to be publicly confirmed at present, Inside Electric understands that the teams have been briefed on plans to add races in six further locations over the coming months, but the status of several events on the original calendar remains uncertain.

With the majority of teams being based in the UK, a rising death toll, national lockdown, and a ban on international travel has presented several challenges in getting the new season off the ground. Despite this, Formula E is pressing ahead with plans to race in Diriyah next month with strict COVID protocols having already been communicated to the media and team personnel planning to attend.

Should the season-opener go ahead as planned, Formula E is expected to confirm a short break afterwards which would see no races taking place during the month of March.

It’s expected that the championship will then return to Italy in April, although at present that’s unlikely to be at the Circuito Cittadino dell’EUR in Rome as initially planned. If local restrictions make it impossible to stage the race there, the Autodromo Vallelunga, a permanent circuit 40km away, is thought to be considered as a suitable backup venue for the vent.

It is also likely that Formula E will return to Valencia, where its held its official pre-season tests for the past few years. The Circuit Ricardo Tormo has hosted many rounds of the MotoGP championship in the past, while Formula E has staged ‘demonstration races’ there on each of the past three years during testing. This will be the first time, however, that the circuit will host an official race and round of the Formula E championship.

Despite current concerns around staging races in many European city centres, it’s expected that the race in Monaco will go ahead on 8th May, two weeks before the principality’s flagship F1 event takes place on the same layout. Unlike cities like Paris and Rome, Monaco has fewer political and logistical roadblocks to overcome when closing down parts of the principality for events.

Following the Monaco round, Marrakesh is likely to make a welcome return to the calendar towards the end of May. The Circuit Moulay El Hassan was rumoured to be an option to stage multiple races last year when the pandemic first hit, and its location away from the bustling centre makes it more viable than some other street circuits.

Having been shifted from its original season-opener slot, Santiago will be reinstated to the calendar this summer, with a doubleheader on 5-6th June appearing to now be confirmed. Earlier this month, the President of the Chilean Federation for Motorsport, Mauricio Melo Avaria, sent a letter requesting that registered officials “reconfirm their availability and willingness to be part of this FIA event.”

In addition to the above, Inside Electric understands that a race in Mexico City – another event to have been moved from the original schedule – could still take place this season; however that’s unlikely to be in the first half of the year owing to the city’s continued struggles with COVID-19.

With the short-term future of races in New York City and London appearing to be uncertain, it’s likely that the championship could again return to the Tempelhof Circuit in Berlin to complete the season, possibly in July. With the teams having reservations about repeating last year’s hectic six-race schedule, it’s more likely that any Berlin event this time will be at most a doubleheader.

What the 2020-21 could look like

  1. Diriyah, Suadi Arabia – 26/2
  2. Diriyah, Suadi Arabia – 27/2
  3. Vallelunga, Italy – date TBC
  4. Valencia, Spain – date TBC
  5. Monte Carlo, Monaco – 8/5*
  6. Marrakesh, Morocco – 22/5*
  7. Marrakesh, Morocco – 23/5*
  8. Santiago, Chile – 5/6*
  9. Santiago, Chile – 6/6*
  10. Mexico City, Mexico – date TBC
  11. Berlin, Germany – date TBC
  12. Berlin, Germany – date TBC

* Dates provisional pending approval by the World Motorsport Council. The next meeting is currently scheduled for 5th March 2021.

How the 2020-21 has evolved since it was first announced

The first draft of the 2020-21 season calendar, approved by the World Motorsport Council last June, originally featured Santiago as the season opener, followed by races in Mexico City, Diriyah, Sanya, and a familiar-looking European schedule with races in Rome, Paris, and Monaco.

The Seoul E-Prix, pushed back a year from its original 2020 date, was then to follow in May, before a TBC round (likely to have been Jakarta) and a return to Berlin. The intention was to see out the season with races in New York City and London’s iconic Royal Docks – the latter pushed back a year from its original July 2020 date.

Several of those dates have since been shelved, and in October an updated schedule was released following the ‘indefinite postponement’ of the Mexico City and Sanya rounds. At the time, only the Santiago and Diriyah rounds were confirmed, with the former being upgraded to a doubleheader.

That changed again in December when the Santiago rounds were postponed leaving the Diriyah doubleheader on 26th-27th February as the only confirmed dates on the 2020-21 calendar.

An early-season race in Santiago proved challenging as the Chilean government suspended all flights from the UK and barred all non-resident foreign nationals. This ruling came as a direct response to the discovery of a new, more transmissible variant of the coronavirus. That ban has yet to be lifted at the time of writing.

What this means for the other races on the original calendar

These developments present an uncertain future for several of the other races originally planned to take place this year. It now appears unlikely that the races in Sanya, Rome, Paris, Seoul, Jakarta, New York City, or London will feature this season.

Sanya, Seoul, and Jakarta

China has not hosted an international sporting event since the pandemic began last year and has enforced strict protocols, including a 14-day quarantine for international arrivals, to avoid any further spread of the virus.

In Seoul, fears of a third wave of the disease are growing as a spike in new cases has been reported in recent days, while in Jakarta, hospital bed occupancy has exceeded 90% as the city continues to be amongst the hardest hit by COVID-19.

Rome, Paris, and London

Europe is in the midst of a harsh second wave and cases throughout many major countries, particularly the UK, are as high as they’ve ever been.

Yesterday, the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned following criticism of his handling of the pandemic, while in London, Prime Minister Boris Johnson cut a forlorn figure as the UK – currently in a nationwide lockdown – passed the milestone of 100,000 deaths.

Paris has its own difficulties too, as a 6 pm curfew put in place two weeks ago appears to be having little impact in slowing the spread of infections.

New York City

One of the cities hardest hit by the pandemic last year, New York does finally appear to be making progress in controlling the spread of infection. City officials confirmed this week that the rate of transmission has dropped below one and plans are in place to administer more than 100,000 vaccinations a day to New York citizens.

The chances of a New York E-Prix anytime soon remain slim as it’s rumoured that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering using the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal facility as a mass vaccination site.

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Written by
Rob Watts