Hong Kong E-Prix returns as Formula E announces mainland China race for new-look 2018-19 calendar
Central Harbourfront race moves to a later date on new calendar after doubts over return, while electric motorsport series is back on mainland
Hong Kong’s iconic Central Harbourfront will once again be abuzz when the fledgling Formula E series returns to the city for a third outing next season, with the electric racing spectacle also in line for an overdue return in mainland China.
Hong Kong may have lost its status as the star attraction on the 2018-19 calender, with Saudi Arabia to host the season-opening double header in December – a slot Hong Kong filled in 2016 and 2017 – but Formula E has pencilled in a date of March 10 for its return.
The city will host the fifth race of the season with a Chinese round following on March 23, though a location has yet to be announced. Beijing hosted Formula E races in 2014 and 2015.
The location of the third E-Prix of the season on January 26 is also unconfirmed, with English city Birmingham and Bosnian capital Sarajevo having expressed interest in hosting races.
The new calendar, which was published following a meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Manila, features 13 races in 12 cities across four continents.
Formula E also announced details of a new race format and split power modes for the new-look next generation car, which can complete a full race without the need for a mid-race car swap, in season five.
Drivers will be able to use a higher power mode of 225kW, compared to the standard 200kW, once they pass through an activation zone, with the duration and frequency of use varying at each E-Prix.
Races will now also last 45 minutes plus one lap to reach the chequered flag, instead of being measured only in a pre-defined number of laps.
“The new format and split levels of power being introduced for season five will add an extra strategic element and continue to offer intense and exciting competition between some of the most talented drivers and biggest brands in motorsport,” Alejandro Agag, founder and CEO of Formula E, said.
Other changes include doing away with awarding points for the fastest lap – instead, extra points will be given to the most energy efficient driver finishing in the top five.
A new qualifying format will see the six fastest drivers in qualifying, rather than the top five, making it through to the super pole shoot-out, to accommodate the larger grid of 22 cars, with Japanese brand Nissan and BMW entering teams.
“Formula E is synonymous with innovation and pioneering technology – that’s exactly what we’ll be seeing again next season with the step-up in performance and efficiency of the futuristic next generation car, as well as trialling unique and radical concepts to usher in a new era of Formula E,” Agag said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the new cars and format in action against the backdrop of iconic city skylines – starting in Ad Diriyah in December.”
Hong Kong’s continued presence on the Formula E calendar had been in doubt before Thursday’s announcement.
A senior official had said last year there was a “90 per cent” chance Hong Kong would host another E-Prix, but doubts remained about the logistics of extending the track to reach the FIA’s new standards.
Hong Kong E-Prix organisers saw an increase in revenue from the HK$50 million hit they took on the city’s first Formula E race in 2016, with around 87 per cent of grandstand tickets sold for last December’s season four-opening double-header.
But the 2017 races still delivered a big deficit, while there are also issues surrounding the Central Harbourfront’s 1.86-kilometre circuit.
New FIA rules will require a circuit length of 2.4km for E-Prix races next season, with more cars on the grid.