The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship has entered its ninth season, bringing a host of new and exciting street circuits. From the bustling streets of Hyderabad to the scenic beauty of Cape Town and the vibrant atmosphere of Sao Paulo, these circuits have captured the imagination of motorsport enthusiasts worldwide. But have you ever wondered how these temporary street circuits come into existence, blending safety, excitement, and logistical prowess? Join us on an exhilarating journey as we unravel the secrets behind the Formula E street circuits.
How are Formula E Street Circuits Chosen?
Formula E’s Unique Approach to Track Selection
Formula E distinguishes itself from traditional motorsport championships by predominantly racing on temporary street circuits. These circuits are strategically located in the heart of the world’s most prominent cities, offering a thrilling spectacle for fans and drivers. But how are these unique circuits selected?
The Initial Expression of Interest
The journey to a Formula E street circuit begins roughly 18 months before the projected race date when a representative from a potential host city expresses interest to the championship promoter, Formula E. This initial phase is crucial, laying the foundation for a partnership marked by open communication, collaboration, understanding, and compromise.
City Development Director’s Role
Oli McCrudden, the City Development Director at Formula E, plays a pivotal role in managing the early relationships with potential host cities. Together, they envision the future, ensuring that their visions align. McCrudden’s expertise is vital in establishing a strong and fruitful partnership, setting the stage for the circuit’s development.
The Art of Designing and Building a Formula E Street Circuit
Crafting the Circuit Proposal
Once a host city is on board, a track designer is appointed to create a circuit proposal. This proposal becomes the canvas on which the street circuit will be painted. However, creating a circuit that combines safety, excitement, and logistical efficiency is no easy task.
Feasibility Study and Deliverables
Formula E conducts a feasibility study, assessing the circuit’s compliance with the FIA’s International Sporting Code and considering factors like civil work requirements and the positioning of critical structures. Contract exchange only occurs when all deliverables are clear and agreed upon.
Safety Inspections and Homologation
Nine months before the event, the National Sporting Authority (ASN) sent a formal request for homologation to the FIA Safety Department. This initiates a thorough safety inspection process, where FIA Circuit Inspectors evaluate various safety features, including barriers and run-off areas.
The Role of FIA Circuits Commission
The FIA Circuits Commission, comprised of circuit safety experts worldwide, reviews the Safety Department’s findings. This collaborative effort ensures that the circuit meets the rigorous safety standards of an FIA World Championship.
Final Approval and Event Safety Plan
With four months to go until race day, the FIA Circuit Inspector, FIA experts, and Formula E staff visit the site for final approval. This visit includes meticulously reviewing the circuit layout and all peripheral structures, such as pit garages, race control, and medical facilities.
Calculating Safety Personnel Needs
Collaboration with the local ASN is essential in defining the event safety plan. This plan includes calculating the required number of marshals and firefighters for potential recovery situations, ensuring safety is always a top priority.
Simulations for Race Length
Around a month and a half before the E-Prix, the FIA Technical Department conducts simulations with the latest circuit layout. Modifications may be requested if there are concerns regarding energy regeneration due to insufficient braking zones.
Team Feedback and Simulator Preparations
A month before the event, the FIA Sporting Department shares the final circuit layout with the championship’s teams. This allows teams to commence their simulator preparations and voice any significant concerns.
Building and Approving a Formula E Street Circuit Safely
The Track Build Commences
Two weeks before the race, the track build kicks off, closely monitored by Formula E. FIA experts join the effort during the final phase to ensure that all safety features are in place and make any necessary practical adjustments.
The Crucial Track Walk
A comprehensive track walk takes place on the Thursday morning of the race weekend. This walk involves key stakeholders, including the FIA Race Director, Safety Car Driver, Sporting Delegate, e-safety Delegate, circuit builders, and Formula E staff. It verifies everyone with the circuit layout and allows for last-minute corrections if needed.
The Inspection by FIA Circuit Inspector
FIA Circuit Inspector Scot Elkins, who also acts as the FIA Formula E Race Director, thoroughly inspects the track to ensure it aligns with the final reference plan approved by the FIA’s Circuits Commission. An exhaustive inspection report is produced, and if all criteria are met, the circuit license, signed by the President of the FIA, is released, allowing track action to commence.
Months later, a track review group, comprising members from the FIA, Formula E, and driver representatives, meets to discuss potential improvements for future editions of the circuit. This commitment to refinement ensures that Formula E continues to deliver safe and exciting street racing.
Formula E’s approach to designing and building street circuits combines precision, collaboration, and innovation. The journey from concept to competition is marked by careful planning, rigorous safety inspections, and a commitment to delivering thrilling racing experiences in the heart of vibrant cities. As Formula E ventures into its tenth season, with Tokyo as its next destination, the world can eagerly anticipate yet another electrifying chapter in electric motorsport.