The recent cancellation of the Brussels ePrix is yet another example of the difficulties faced by the organisers of Formula E in bringing each race to city centres around the world. It is not the first time that a city has been dropped from the calendar and is likely to not be the last. Topher Smith looks at the challenges of the series in bringing the sport to the people.
The city centre aspect of Formula E has been a massive appeal from the inauguration of Formula E, bringing the cars and drivers closer to the fans and showcasing the impressive structures of various locations around the world. It not only provides exciting racing at close quarters, but also showcases the potential of electric technology to the world.
Brussels’ cancellation is unfortunate, but not the first time that a city has been unable to host an ePrix. Moscow was taken off the calendar due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ only a month before the season two event was scheduled to take place.
London, which had a five year contract, was also dropped following protests from the local residents around Battersea Park, while Punta del Este also did not remain on the calendar for season three.
The latest news is that the Brussels ePrix, previously penned in for 1 July, has been dropped following a lack of a suitable venue for the event to take place.
Brussels had always been uncertain, with two proposed circuit layouts at the Atomium and in Koekelberg giving reason to believe that nothing was finalised and the lingering impression that not a lot of effort was being put in to make it happen.
However, the organisers at Formula E have come up with a more than suitable solution to the problem in order to keep the season at 12 races.
Given that we are already a quarter of the way into the championship, it would be highly unfair on any city in the world to replace Brussels at such short notice and I am sure that many fans of Formula E would be unhappy to see one less race on the calendar.
A lot of time and money goes into organising an ePrix for a weekend. As well as lining the track with barriers, building grandstands and paying track personnel, it would be highly impractical for a city to put a viable ePrix location together in a couple of months. Step forward Berlin.
A constant presence on the Formula E calendar, but not without its own problems. Staged at the Tempelhof Airport in season one, the Berlin race was moved to the Karl-Marx-Allee near Alexanderplatz for season two. Following government disputes, the city centre location was unceremoniously dropped and forced to relocate back to the Tempelhof Airport for an all-new track to be constructed on the apron.
One example of Formula E’s adaptability followed by another. It was probably the best move for the race to return to the Tempelhof Airport where the race can still be run without affecting the calendar, and now quite possibly the best move for Formula E to replace the Brussels ePrix by turning the Berlin ePrix into a double header event and keep 12 races to decide the season three champion.
The location does not cause disruption in the city centre and is still close enough to attract local fans to the event. It also does not put pressure on another city in the world to step in and fill the void left by Brussels, meaning that converting an existing event to a double header is quite possibly the more practical, logistical and effective solution to the problem left by Brussels’ vacant slot.
This may not be the end for Brussels, however. As the city has also shown an interest in hosting an ePrix, it may be possible that it could return to the calendar for future seasons if a suitable location for the circuit can be found.
While it is a shame that Belgium won’t become another country to host an ePrix, I applaud the organisers at Formula E for coming up with what could have been the best solution possible to a tricky situation.
Topher Smith | e-racing.net