Formula E has built itself from lowly foundations into one of the premier competitors for the world’s leading motorsport series, Formula 1.
But even those running an all-electric racing series focused on sustainability and addressing environmental concerns cannot deny that expansion is on the mind.
Under the baking heat of a Roman summer, Formula E chief executive Jeff Dodds set out his plan for the future of the series.
China n the horizon?
“There’s something lovely about coming back to the same venues because you’re building a local awareness of the sport,” Dodds said in Italy this month. “But at the same point, I also want to bring in some new cities to create more buzz and more awareness.
“Tokyo was a great announcement for that for next year. We’re in North America with Portland, but I think there’s scope to have more North American races.
“And if you’re going to go back to North America there are big cities, whether that’s Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Atlanta. I’d love to be in another big venue in North America.”
But Dodds – and motorsport more widely – doesn’t just have eyes on expansion to the west.
McLaren, who have teams in both Formula 1 and Formula E, have told City A.M. in the past that F1 needs to go back to China, and potentially have an additional race there. Dodds agrees in the context of Formula E.
“We need to be in mainland China,” he added. “I know we can dance around that a bit but we need to be in mainland China.
“Every manufacturer partner of the six manufacturers we work with says the most important market for them globally is China.
“We have three open locations on the calendar [where cities can be drafted in at shorter notice]. Last year two of those were Cape Town and Hyderabad.
“Maybe there will be Cape Town and Hyderabad next year as well but that leaves a third venue on the calendar. Maybe that’ll be North America, maybe mainland China.”
But the conversation surrounding China continues to be a difficult one. Much like discussions around Saudi Arabia, there are connotations that come – rightly or wrongly – from associations and relationships with those nations.
Formula E race in Saudi Arabia and the “E” group, which includes speedboats and extreme off-roaders, has investment from the Saudi Public Investment Fund, yet the brand as a whole has been able to ride the tsunami of questions surrounding involvement with the country. So will their approach be similar to China?
“I think we’ll inevitably get asked questions about things like that,” Dodds says.
“But in the end we are part of an ecosystem, we want to drive a message home around being a platform for sustainability, to educate people around the need to change and to make choices to drive a more sustainable future.
“China is one of the biggest countries in the world by population. It is an incredible platform from which to tell that story. We will do things in the right way. When [more] questions come, we’ll be ready to answer.”