Formula E

Formula E: ‘Batmobiles’ on streets of Hong Kong but Central Harbourfront track still faces issues

  • Electric racing series wants to extend circuit length to meet FIA guidelines
  • New bigger Gen2 cars and ‘attack mode’ could test logistics
PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 November, 2018, 8:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 November, 2018, 9:41am

The streets of Central Harbourfront will welcome Formula E’s new “Batmobile” Gen2 cars for the season five Hong Kong E-Prix in March, but the 1.86-kilometre circuit still has logistical problems.

The all-electric racing series’ founder and CEO Alejandro Agag said a team came to Hong Kong earlier in the summer to see if an extra 100 metres could be added to the track, which has 10 turns and two hairpins.

“We were trying to extend it a bit, but I think it wasn’t easy,” Agag said. “It’s not a problem for the moment, because the FIA are really keen on racing in Hong Kong.

“The track we have, it’s OK. Maybe down the line when the cars go faster and faster ... this track is one of the smallest tracks, so we have to extend it. But for this year we won’t be able to extend it so we have to wait.”

The track may eventually need more than an extra 100 metres, though.

New FIA rules require circuit lengths of 2.4km for E-Prix races this season following manufacturers Nissan and BMW’s entry into Formula E. More cars are expected on the grid in future seasons, too.

But like the Monaco Grand Prix in Formula One, Hong Kong has been given special exemption by the FIA with the two tracks under 2km.

“We would love to have it at 2.4 or 2.5km,” Agag said. “There is a way if you go left towards the Four Seasons Hotel and back. For the moment we cannot go there but maybe in the future we will.

“The races have always been very good here but I think it would make for a more exciting race if we have a longer track, maybe with another fast overtaking point or a fast corner.”

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The first red flag in Formula E history was brought out in the first Hong Kong race last year after a huge jam on lap one on the exit of the chicanes at turns three and four.

With the new Gen2 cars bigger than the Gen1, those problems could be exacerbated.

“But these are normal racing problems, not major problems,” Agag said. “We like a lot the track here. The guys [drivers] love Hong Kong, too.

“The part of the short corners is a bit slow but then you have the long straight where they like it, and the fast corner under the Apple Store. There are a few really nice points on this track.”

The logistics of the track could be further tested by the new “attack mode” of the Gen2 cars. Drivers can pick up an extra 25 kilowatts of power, in addition to the usual 200, for a few laps as a reward for driving off the racing line at a corner and through an activation zone.

“I think the car is going to be big sensation next season,” Agag said. “People are going to be watching these Batmobiles race around the streets of Hong Kong.

“With the attack mode this track can be super exciting, so during eight minutes these guys can push a button and go a lot faster.

“It will be like watching a video game, but a real race, with these super futuristic cars. We are gonna have the race of the future next year.”

The 2017 Hong Kong E-Prix was a season-opening double-header, but in 2019 there will be just a Sunday race on March 10.

“I prefer one race to two,” Agag said. “The problem with two, you don’t really get a winner of the weekend. You get two races, you have two winners.

“We try to avoid now double-headers. We’ve got rid of all the double-headers except the last one in New York, because then you’re gonna get the winner of the championship so it’s fine.”

Fans who were hoping they could see Hong Kong kick off the new Formula E season may be a bit disappointed the opening race has gone to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

“I still think it’s gonna be very special,” Agag said. “What’s great about Hong Kong is the venue, to see the buildings and the pleasure when we race, that still stays the same.

“It will be good to try another date in the calendar. We will have some races under the belt. We will have the new cars, we’ll be getting at the peak of performance by then.

“It will take teams a few races to get used to the new cars. It will be as great as usual. We try every year to make it bigger, so I think this will be the biggest so far.”