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May 25, 2024

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Track tension mounts as Shanghai gears up for Formula E net-zero races

FORMULA E World Championship, the world’s first net-zero all-electric motorsport series, has returned to China after five years.

And for the first time, Shanghai is holding doubleheader races today and tomorrow.

Though it debuted in the city, Formula E has a deep bond with China. The first race of the inaugural season took place in Beijing in 2014. The cities of Hong Kong and Sanya in south China’s Hainan Province also hosted races until 2019.

With the championship celebrating its milestone 10th anniversary, Formula E CEO Jeff Dodds is excited about its long-awaited return to China with a new Shanghai E-Prix.

“It’s important for us to race in Shanghai because China is the leading country in electric vehicle manufacturing and the adaptation of electric vehicles,” he said.

“Shanghai is a pioneer city regarding the number and promotion of electric vehicles, while FE technology can be applied to road cars,” Dodds added. “The passionate sporting fan base here makes Shanghai the perfect venue for Formula E.”

He promised to present Shanghai with “the most environmentally friendly and competitive sports race in the world.”

While Formula One sits at the highest peak of motorsports thanks to its extreme application and promotion of automotive technology, Formula E is the undisputed crown jewel of electric vehicles.

A Formula E team’s development cost can reach US$140 million. The GEN3 car can reach a top speed of 322 kilometers per hour and still has great potential.

Due to Formula E’s leveled car powertrains, chassis, batteries and tires used by 11 teams, the track competition is intense.

Compared with hardware, battery management strategy and software ability matter more.

“There can be as many as 100 overtakes in one race,” Dodds noted. “Last season, the championship was not decided till the last stop, as three teams had the possibility of becoming the winner, which says a lot about FE’s competitiveness.”

Motorsports’ most obvious impressions are high horsepower and noisy engine sound, but the all-electric Formula E cars have minimized that irritation to the ears without sacrificing race excitement. It’s therefore extremely friendly for family audiences, especially children.

During the race, no earplugs are needed so that the circuit radio commentary and fan cheering are audible, which brings drivers and supporters closer to each other. Entertainment choices at the Fan Village will keep visitors occupied when drivers are off track.

The Shanghai E-Prix is using the top part of the “Shang”-shaped (上) Shanghai International Circuit.

The Jiading District circuit has hosted the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix for two decades. Though many drivers are old acquaintances of the venue, no one has experience on the new 3.051-kilometer track tailored for the Shanghai doubleheader.

Several drivers shared their insights and expectations of racing at the adjusted circuit in a Formula E car.

Sébastien Buemi is no stranger to the Shanghai International Circuit. The Swiss was a Toro Rosso F1 driver from 2009 to 2011 and a Red Bull Racing test and reserve driver from 2012.

“I have been racing in Shanghai with Formula One and endurance racing for a long time,” Buemi told Shanghai Daily. “It’s a good track. I’m looking forward to going back.”

Buemi joined Formula E’s Envision Racing last season and finished sixth in the driver’s standings. His 2024 partner is Robin Frijns.

“In Formula E, we have groove tires with little down force, so the car can move a lot,” he explained.

“The cars are relatively small, while the track will feel big for us, so we would have lots of overtaking possibilities on the straights. I think it’s going to be interesting, and we need to go to Shanghai to see how this car behaves.”

Jaguar TCS Racing driver Mitch Evans said: “Normally we’re racing on the streets, so the track in Shanghai is going to be a little bit different for us. A permanent facility like the Shanghai International Circuit is very wide, very flowing, very different to a lot of the tracks we race on.”

The New Zealander added: “One day if we could race on the streets of Shanghai, it would be amazing.”


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