The FIA Formula E Championship published its first preliminary calendar for its inaugural season recently, announcing ten street races around the world. Metropoles like Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Beijing and London are among the host cities. A tremendous performance by Formula E Holdings, which announced these cities during the past months. But taking a closer look, it will raise some eyebrows as well.
Formula E impressed by announcing proudly Rio de Janeiro and Rome as the first two cities that would host the one day event. We remember Lucas di Grassi driving around the Colosseum very well. But suddenly these two races – and also the Bangkok round – were excluded from the preliminary calendar. Until now, the series haven’t communicated why these brilliant cities with great landmarks are disappeared. However, they are still a candidate city for the second season, but it has raised some question marks about the other events too. How certain are these?
From a logistic point of view, the calendar looks solid. However I’m not an expert on this subject, you can find logic transportation solutions. DHL is a sponsor, but that doesn’t mean they will fly all the cars around the world whenever is desired. Unlike the Formula 1 calendar, there are usually three to five weeks between the races. That will allow the racing series to take its time to relocate their cars and equipment. Not only by plane, but even also transportation by containers or trucks seems possible. The FIA Formula E Championship organises three events in Asia first, then a five week gap towards the event in Uruguay. The new year (2015) starts in Argentina, before another five week gap between this race and the event in Los Angeles. After Miami, the closing three stages will be in Europe.
Challenging track designs
Alejandro Agag, the CEO of Formula E Holdings, once said there are over 25 cities that offered their proposals. I believe they did, but there are less cities that want to pay for it. Suddenly Punta del Este (Uruguay) made its appearance, while Monaco and Hong Kong were also included on the ten races calendar. Monaco is convenient, as it will partner up with the Historic Grand Prix. The Asian city needs no explanation and is a welcome addition, although designing a track in the busy streets might be a challenge. And Uruguay? Have a look at Google Maps. You will find a perfect destination for a summer holiday: beaches, shops, many restaurants, big boulevards and cosy little streets. Designing options in a place like this are limited.
For a perfect city track you will need at least streets with three lanes and a minimum of 2,5 kilometres long. This must not include the main road as the city can expect major traffic problems. It’s something I have experience while working for the City Challenge organisation. We were racing in Baku’s city centre, a beautiful location near the seaside boulevard at the Caspian Sea and we were surrounding a former and iconic Government building. However, we closed one of the main roads, causing inhabitants serious traffic jams. Besides a three lanes minimum, an advantage would be when the possible track can include some twisty roads as well.
Overtaking won’t be easy
Having found roads that are wide enough and will not cause major traffic jams for inhabitants, track designers would have to look into the possibilities for overtaking. Because we all know the narrow Monaco track, were only qualifying, a good start and a decent pit stop will result in a possible win. The public wants excitement and therefore some decent created corners and a nice ‘flow’ is desired. And this is not easy.
Normally a racing series will visit the tracks they want and uses the facilities that are already existing. The track is already there, grandstands, pit boxes, buildings for hospitality purposes, the media centre, marshals, etc. Nothing of this exists on a purpose build city track and just setting up a FIA Grade 3 circuit including concrete blocks and fences costs already a few million euros. To cut down the costs, Formula E might consider using existing facilities like (the streets around) the Wembley stadium in London. The series already announced that uses former Airport Tempelhof in Berlin. Although the tarmac might use a little construction work, it is wide enough to safe money on safety measures for example. We might see more similar places that Formula E will use, like the Olympic Park in Beijing perhaps?
While the preliminary calendar has been revealed, and teams are being announced, we will wait patiently until the calendar has been confirmed early December. The presentation of the track designs is something we also very look forward to.
Photos: Formula E and City Challenge