Formula E continues to closely monitor its scheduled 2021 calendar venues during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and is readying contingency plans before it embarks on its first official world championship season.
The calendar was issued by the FIA after June’s World Motor Sport Council meeting but Formula E is preparing alternative events should disruption mean some of the dates are impossible to fulfil due to government legislation and travel restrictions.
Teams and stakeholders in the championship are seeking to get as much clarity as possible on the viability of race venues due to pressure from their commercial partners on hospitality, marketing and activations around events.
Co-founder and chief championship officer of Formula E Alberto Longo has told The Race this week that the series is “scenario planning for every foreseeable eventuality – and some unforeseeable ones.”
“We want to complete as full a calendar as possible in season seven – our first as a world championship – while also taking every precaution possible to ensure the health and safety of the full Formula E community, as well as the citizens and residents of the cities in which we race,” confirmed Longo.
The Race understands that Formula E has recently renewed discussions with Silverstone should it need to activate contingency plans in 2021.
This could be for a series of races that run in April should the city centre races in Rome and Paris have to be cancelled. Equally, provision is likely to also be given for plugging a potential void in July, should it be impossible to race in New York City, which continues to be one of the cities hardest hit by COVID-19 in the whole world.
Such a move would give an opportunity for an unofficial Formula E UK residency with a plan still in place to accomplish the first-ever London E-Prix at the ExCeL Arena for the season finale at the end of July. However, the likelihood of races at Silverstone will largely be dependent on exactly when a Formula 1 British Grand Prix takes place in 2021.
Marrakesh, which has hosted Formula E races in all bar the first two seasons, is also on a list of contingency events and is attractive because it has flexibility on slotting into an early 2021 date should the first two races in Santiago and Mexico not be viable.
Early December plans for freight to be sent to the first race of the new season in Chile are still in place.
This should be completed as scheduled if the pre-season Valencia test takes place as intended in an initially scheduled period of November 27 – December 1, which is two weeks after the second MotoGP round at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo.
Some teams have told The Race that they see little point in travelling to Santiago should partners and commercial activity not be possible, if a behind-closed-doors race were to happen.
The O’Higgins Park location would be relatively straightforward to secure should no public be allowed on the site. Last season, increased security at the venue was put in place due to civil unrest in the city and the race went ahead without incident.
Longo told The Race that “the situation regarding coronavirus is constantly changing in every region, so it is impossible to give a final answer about racing behind closed doors or not at this time.”
The second round in Mexico City is allotted for February 13 at the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit, which currently houses a COVID-19 field hospital within the paddock area.
However, local sources have indicated to The Race that this is scheduled to be cleared for mid-December in readiness for events in 2021, the first of which is the Mexico City E-Prix.
The Diriyah double-header is expected to host a first-ever Formula E night race in the final weekend of February but doubt is already being cast on the Rome E-Prix, which is scheduled to start the European leg in April 2021.
However, Longo refuted any current issues with Rome, saying that “we have the full support of the local Roman authorities for the 2021 Rome E-Prix scheduled for next April.”
The Rome track infrastructure will though have to be modified for the race should it take place as scheduled. The FIA race control centre and other aspects of the pitlane will have to change to comply with COVID-19 protocols.
Formula E and the city of Rome announced last April that a five-year deal had been agreed to host the race on the streets of the EUR district of the eternal city.
A third Rome E-Prix had been initially planned for April 2020 but was cancelled due to the emergence of COVID-19. Formula E’s press release detailed an event at the venue “until at least 2025”. The news was issued at the end of April amid the height of the pandemic.
The fourth Monaco E-Prix will take place on the full circuit in May, including the new-for-2021 extension around the Portier and Tunnel area of the track.
It remains unclear if Formula E is able to amend its calendar via the special “delegation of authority to the President of the FIA”, which was mandated earlier this year due to the disruption created by the pandemic.
This includes being able to take any decisions “in connection with the organisation of international competitions for the 2020 season, which may be required as a matter of urgency.”
It remains unclear at present if this will continue into 2021 but an update on the topic could be made public after next Friday’s FIA WMSC meeting.