How Will The 2021 Formula E Calendar Look?
Mexico and China postponed, Chile and Saudi Arabia confirmed – what else will change about Formula E’s 7th season calendar?
Formula E had issued a provisional calendar for Season 7 back in June, with all races set to take place in one calendar year for the first time in the series’ history. However today (21/10/20), Formula E and the FIA have announced that the previous schedule will be heavily revised, and announced the first 4 races of the season along with two postponements.
The original Season 7 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship calendar was as follows:
1. Santiago, Chile
2. Mexico City, Mexico
3. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
4. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
5. Sanya, China
6. Rome, Italy
7. Paris, France
8. Monte Carlo, Monaco
9. Seoul, South Korea
11. Berlin, Germany
12. New York, USA
13. London, UK
14. London, UK
The Mexican and Chinese races have both been postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and have announced the first 4 races to be a Santiago double header followed by a Saudi double header. Further calendar announcements are set to come in 2021, with a statement from Formula E saying, "Races in Mexico City and Sanya have been postponed until later in the year.
"We are focused on racing in as many of our international host cities as possible, sticking as closely to our planned and previously announced calendar as we can.
"In all decision-making we prioritise the health and safety of our staff and the entire Formula E community of teams, manufacturers, partners, drivers and fans, as well as the citizens and residents of the cities in which we race."
Now we know that the Season 7 calendar will change, let’s take a look at what venues may end up hosting an ePrix in 2021.
The Original Race
Firstly, let’s look at which races from the provisional calendar may take place.
Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, Mexico City, Mexico:
Di Grassi passes Wehrlein on the line for victory in Season 5 // Image credit: Formula E
Originally meant to host Round 2 of the 2021 season, Mexico has been ‘postponed indefinitely’. Being one of the most popular races of the season, with the Formula E layout of Mexico’s F1 venue providing nail-biting races, the championship won’t want to let the Mexico City ePrix slip away and will look to reschedule it for later in the season when Mexico’s COVID situation becomes clearer. The venue is being used as a COVID hospital, so unless the country’s situation improves enough for the circuit not to be needed, there will be no racing action in Mexico.
Rescheduling the Mexican event is harder than it looks due to the city’s geographical location. Being one of the closer Formula E venues to the equator, the temperatures will rocket in the summer, which would be when any reschedule race would likely take place. We have already seen Santiago prove challenging for the teams’ powertrains as Chile’s race is also in the height of summer, so having multiple heat-intense races may not prove popular with personnel. Equally however, with Formula E being an innovative championship, pushing the powertrains to their limit and beyond may prove attractive to the organisers and manufacturers, so they can gain further understanding of the current limitations of electric technology.
Haitang Bay Circuit, Sanya, China:
Formula E is keen to have more Asian races on the calendar, especially in the industrial giants of China and Japan. Because of this, losing Sanya for the second season in a row is not high on FE’s list. It is not clear as to why Sanya has been postponed, as China is understood to have made major steps in controlling their epidemic. Nevertheless, the event has been postponed, but because of China’s COVID situation it is likely that the Sanya ePrix will take place at some point in 2021, unless they have another outbreak.
Circuito Cittadino dell’EUR, Rome, Italy:
The tight final sector of the Rome ePrix circuit // Image credit: Formula E
The Rome ePrix was one of the earlier races of the Season 6 calendar to be cancelled after Italy suffered horrendously from the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, after recovering well over summer, COVID cases are dramatically rising this month. While the race in Rome is penciled in for April 10th, it is likely the event will be postponed out of safety, however being a European event it should be easier to slot in later in the season if the situation in Italy has improved.
Logistically, Rome is one of the harder events to put on, being one of the longest circuits on the calendar and located in the EUR district of Rome. This makes it harder for the event to be isolated from the public if necessary and takes longer to prepare for, meaning if the event is postponed, it is more likely not to be rescheduled than others.
Paris Street Circuit, Paris, France:
Paris became one of the several races to be cancelled in 2020 and unsurprisingly so, as the Paris Street Circuit is located right in the centre of Paris, around Les Invalides. Because of this, Paris would have to find itself in a very good COVID position for it to hold a Formula E race, for the same reasons as Rome. Advantages for Paris over Rome however is the length of the circuit is much shorter, and France has a very high presence in both Formula E and motorsport in general, which would undoubtedly make it a higher priority race than others.
France’s current COVID situation is worse than Italy, with daily cases ranging between 15k and 30k, and with the race scheduled to take place just 14 days after the Rome ePrix, it is likely if Paris is cancelled then so will Rome.
Circuit de Monaco, Monaco:
Bruno Senna goes flying in Formula E's first Monaco ePrix // Image credit: Formula E
The Monaco ePrix is set to return to the Formula E schedule on its biannual contract, usually swapping Formula E and the Historic Grand Prix each year. However 2021 is set to see both HGP and FE take place in the same year, joining the F1 Grand Prix to all take place across 5 weeks. 2021 is also set to see Formula E’s debut on the full Monaco GP circuit, rather than the shortened layout used hitherto.
After being cancelled for 2020, the FIA will want the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix to take place in 2021, however if that race is cancelled, the organisers may not deem it worth setting up the circuit, which practically takes over the entire city state, without its principal race. With the 5-week period occurring in April-May (May 8th for the Formula E race), and with a much smaller population anyway, Monaco may well be good to go ahead – the largest jump in cases per day was 9 on March 28th, with cases currently rising by two or three a day.
Seoul Street Circuit, Seoul, South Korea:
Seoul’s Formula E debut was originally set for 2020, however with the race being cancelled there is hope that the 2021 race will go ahead as planned. South Korea have handled the pandemic incredibly well, with just under 25.5k cumulative cases. Because of this, it is hopeful that the inaugural Seoul ePrix will finally get underway on May 23rd. I doubt this race will be cancelled again unless things drastically change in Eastern Asia.
Tempelhof Airport Street Circuit, Berlin, Germany:
Tempelhof Airport Street Circuit // Image credit: The Checkered Flag
After proving it can host 6 races in 9 days, its safe to say that the Berlin ePrix at Tempelhof will go ahead in 2021 unless Germany’s COVID situation greatly worsens. As it stands, cases there are on the rise, with an average of 6000 cases per day over the past week, however even with that number of cases per day, because of how easy it is to isolate the event from the public, I would think the race would go ahead. Don’t be surprised if Berlin also hosts a double header or more in 2021 once again.
Brooklyn Street Circuit, New York City, United States of America:
We all know America’s COVID situation – having just topped 8 million cumulative cases, the USA is one of the worst hit countries in the world. Despite this, national motorsport is well underway, with NASCAR being the first racing series to return in May, and IndyCar completing its entire season under the pandemic this weekend in Florida, the only street race of the season.
Florida’s current COVID situation is much better than New York’s with just over 31k cases being registered in New Jersey October 19th. The Brooklyn circuit isn’t in a massively populated part of the city, being in the dockland area of New York, which would make it easier to run the event. The race isn’t until July 10th, so there is still time to monitor the situation in New York, however I wouldn’t be surprised to see the 2021 NYC ePrix cancelled.
ExCel London, London, United Kingdom:
The chances of a Formula E race running at ExCel I think are extremely low. The arena is currently set up as a Nightingale hospital, which caused the cancellation of the venue’s Formula E debut last summer. The Nightingale hospitals have recently been told to prepare for patients once again as winter looms, so unless COVID-19 is eradicated by summer 2021 (which is highly unlikely), ExCel London will continue to be set up as a hospital, meaning Formula E would not be able to race there.
Having said this, I still expect there to be a race in the UK in Season 7 – Formula E has been rumoured to visit several permanent venues in 2021 as hosting a street race in the pandemic is nearly impossible to achieve. Let’s look at which permanent racing facilities may make their Formula E debut in Season 7.
Donington Park, United Kingdom:
The Craner Curves at Donington Park // Image credit: Autosport
The Leicestershire venue is Formula E’s main base of operations, handy with its location at the end of East Midlands Airport’s runway. The former European Grand Prix venue hosted preseason testing for the first three seasons of Formula E, so as a result has hosted closed doors test races. While the undulating, flowing nature of Donington is as far from a traditional street circuit as you can get, it would provide an interesting contrast, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Donington does feature on the calendar if the series turns to permanent venues.
Circuit Ricardo Tormo, Spain:
The Valencian venue is currently host to Formula E’s preseason testing as of Season 4, with testing moving there over Donington as it was easier to modify to resemble a street circuit. Also home to the MotoGP Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, it is one of Spain’s well known motor racing venues. Formula E uses the National Circuit of the venue, with an added chicane on the start-finish straight to better resemble a street circuit. The circuit has also hosted test races as part of preseason testing, so would be ideal to host a championship race if necessary.
Autódromo Internacional do Algarve/Autódromo do Estoril, Portugal:
Bird's eye view of Estoril // Image credit: Car Throttle
After Antonio Felix da Costa’s dominant championship victory in Season 6, the Portuguese market has become a high priority for Formula E to break into with an ePrix. It is understood that Formula E are actively looking to host a championship race in Portugal in 2021, with either Estoril or the Algarve likely to host, and Da Costa has already done a demo run on the streets of Lisbon to celebrate his title victory.
The Algarve International Circuit is set to make it’s F1 debut this weekend for the return of the Portuguese Grand Prix, and early talks are known to have been with the southern Portuguese venue, with Formula E possibly taking advantage of the increased spotlight on the Algarve due to the F1 race.
However it is believed that the current discussions are focussed on former Portuguese Grand Prix venue Estoril. The circuit is much smaller and tighter than the fast and flowing Algarve circuit, which would suite Formula E much more if it wants to keep as close to its city centre-racing DNA as possible.
Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan, Morroco:
The Marrakesh street circuit has had previous Formula E experience, hosting the Marrakesh ePrix four times between Seasons 3 and 6. The circuit is of a hybrid layout, meaning it uses both permanently built tarmac and public roads, making it easier to set up than a traditional street circuit. Having hosted Formula E races before, the championship and the FIA know the race infrastructure needed very well, which gives the African venue an advantage over any new circuits.
Silverstone Circuit, United Kingdom:
It is known that Formula E have been in discussions with the British Grand Prix venue over hosting a Formula E race in either April or July 2021, depending on whether the Rome, Paris and New York ePrix go ahead or not. What also needs to be factored in is Silverstone’s own busy schedule, as Britain’s biggest racing facility, any Formula E race would likely be needed to fit in around already scheduled events, including Formula 1, BTCC and MotoGP.
It is not known what layout would be used, and if any modifications would be implemented like at Valencia, however with many question marks over the London ePrix, Formula E are undoubtedly looking elsewhere to ensure a British Formula E race takes place in 2021.
So that is a rundown of how the Season 7 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship calendar could look in 2021. I hope you enjoyed the read and feel free to let me know your thoughts on the topic in the comments!