Global ambitions tarnished by troubling drop-outs

Formula E’s shiny new calendar reveals a clear strategy for world-wide domination: four races in the Americas, three in Europe and three in Asia. It’s a push towards a global fiefdom that even F1’s Bernie Ecclestone may be jealous of.

There are a few surprises from today’s announcement. Chief among these is that three cities have been replaced: Rome, Rio de Janeiro and Bangkok yield to Monaco, Hong Kong and Punta del Este.

(Punta del where? It’s a tiny Uruguayan town; population 9,300. The entire country has 3.3 million residents – Rome alone is home to 2.8 million.)

That’s 30% of the line-up, which seems a troublingly high statistic by anyone’s reckoning, especially considering that most of the race tracks had all been signed up fairly recently, and all within the last year. Some of those had particularly high profile launch events too – Rome, we’re looking at you – which make the about-turns more startling.

Part of that churn may well be down to the significant demand for power infrastructure that each location will need to service, as we pointed out here.   

The inclusion of Monaco won’t raise any eyebrows. If anything, it was far odder that the location had been dropped after being strongly tipped for a spot on the calendar by promoter Alejandro Agag just six months ago.  

There are a few overlapping dates with F1’s 2014 plans, which might affect viewing figures. The Formula E calendar begins in September but the F1 schedule runs until the end of November in 2014. However, there are only two direct clashes: 20 September, the opening Formula E weekend in Beijing, is when F1 will be qualifying in Singapore; and 8 November, when Formula E will race around Hong Kong, is when F1 drivers will be fighting for pole for the Austin GP.

The second of those clashes may be more significant, given the strong US agenda that promoter FEH seems to be developing.

Notable by their absence are the Middle East, with its pots of money; Australia, a powerhouse in sports of all types including motor racing; the entire continent of Africa (although F1 skirts this too); and Russia, which is set to host Formula 1 in 2014.

As detailed design of tracks gets underway, we expect to see one or two more changes as the technical challenges come to the fore.

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