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Formula E 2016-17

View-blocking barriers necessary for safety say Formula E chiefs – and HK$50m loss ‘irrelevant’

Organisers dismiss criticism from some sectors of the public and insist they want to stay in the city for years to come despite projected loss

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 October, 2016, 12:41pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 October, 2016, 2:05pm

Formula E chiefs dismissed Hong Kong residents’ gripes about barriers around Central which block the public’s view of the race – and insisted they want to be in the city for years to come despite expecting heavy financial losses for the inaugural ePrix.

Screens on streets and walkways around the Central Harbourfront circuit have been erected, preventing a free view of the all-electric racing, drawing criticism from some quarters.

Alejandro Agag, chief executive of Formula E, said it was a simple matter of safety.

“It’s pretty obvious you cannot get the barriers open because you cannot control the cars so it’s a very obvious question of safety,” he said on Sunday.

Watch: Hong Kong’s first Formula E race brings excitement to the city

The event is set to lose up to HK$50 million in its first year, but Agag said that was not an issue.

“That’s irrelevant for us – we’re here to invest, we are here for the long-term we believe that Formula E has to be in the great cities around the world,” he said.

“If we make a loss the first year that doesn’t matter … we are very committed. Formula E is a startup model, we’re investing a lot, we have very strong financial partners backing us, we believe in what we’re doing, and this is a long-term investment.

“We are sure that in the medium term each race will be profitable, but now we want to push to get the ball rolling .. we are very very comfortable with our situation here.”

Jean Todt, the president of motor racing governing body FIA, railed at perceived criticism from the SCMP.

“We are here in Hong Kong for the first time in the history of motor sport – you can always find things that are difficult,” he said.

“This is a great facility, I want everybody to be positive and help … the media have a responsibility to sell the product … negative questions, negative assessments … we want to push the race in Hong Kong.”

Agag added that organisers were delighted with the event so far.

“I think yesterday we never had that much support, it was a record for the day before the race.

“Today all the tickets are sold out which is a great job, we are very happy about this.

“We want to stay in Hong Kong for the long term, we think it is a great venue, we hope we can agree with authorities to stay for many years in Hong Kong.

“It’s a great success in terms of selling all the tickets and the excitement that is around the race.”