Why the timing is perfect for a radical London E-Prix return

Four years on from the last time London played host to a Formula E race, the UK capital will return to the calendar to host the 2019/20 season finale in a radical fashion.

FE has not been a series to follow convention, but it will be one of the first major categories to hold a race in a convention centre, with the new-look London E-Prix to be held on a partially-indoor circuit which will weave around the Royal Victoria Dock and through the ExCeL London building.

Formula E London track map

Image credit: ABB FIA Formula E Championship

The event will be a double-header round scheduled to take place on 25 and 26 July 2020 and conclude the FE season.

It will be the first London E-Prix since 2016, when Battersea Park played host to the championship finale for the second year in succession in an event which proved controversial with local residents and even resulted in judicial action.

A review of Wandsworth Council’s closure of the park for the race weekend was held and the event was only permitted to take place with confirmation that FE would drop Battersea Park from the calendar for the following season.

As such, FE was forced out of London. Various alternative venues for a UK round have been suggested in the interim period, including a Birmingham Superprix style event, but nothing has managed to stick the landing.

Enter a brilliantly radical concept to have a circuit wind through the ExCeL London building and around the city’s Docklands to propel the London E-Prix back onto the FE calendar – and at a hugely opportune moment too.

The 2018/19 season has so far delivered four epic races, with the Ad Dirryah, Marrakesh, a roasting Santiago and Mexico City E-Prixs all providing exciting races with nail-biting conclusions.

The final lap of the race in Mexico City, in which Lucas di Grassi stole victory from Pascal Wehrlein within the final few yards, will surely go down as one of the most memorable moments on the 2019 world motorsport stage.

Thrilling racing has been complemented by spectacular qualifying laps, with the new Gen-2 FE car delivering on the ambitious promises made by the series.

Even the maligned “Mario Kart-inspired” Attack Mode – introduced for this year to add an element of strategy to the now pitstop free races – has not only proven to work but has also converted the vast majority of doubters in a very short space of time.

Add to that the strongest roster of drivers the category has ever been able to boast, there are plenty of selling points to entice new fans to FE – and fans in the UK have even greater incentives.

British driver Sam Bird is one of the title favourites, while series rookie Oliver Rowland has made a solid start to life at Nissan e.dams.

Viewing races in the UK is easier than ever, with terrestrial, satellite and digital options available. BBC has picked up the rights to this year’s coverage, with Sunday’s race at Hong Kong earning a spot on BBC Two’s schedule, rather than being placed behind the Red Button service.

BT Sport and Eurosport also broadcast races and qualifying sessions live and YouTube coverage is also available. Accessibility to coverage at this scale of diversity is near unprecedented.

With live F1 now unavailable on a free-to-air basis – barring the British Grand Prix which has to be televised terrestrially by UK law – FE has the opportunity to capitalise on the huge market of casual motorsport fans who will find 2019 to be their stepping off point when it comes to F1.

The return of the London E-Prix is the final piece in the jigsaw. FE may not have grabbed the attention of UK viewers in the manner seen overseas, but it is delivering a product that becomes ever harder to ignore and there is nothing quite like a home race to garner and incentivise added attention.

Grab the motorsport enthusiasts with the superb wheel-to-wheel racing and unpredictability. Grab the channel hoppers with the accessibility and grab those intrigued by the prospect of a partially-indoor motor race with a radical concept on the doorstep of one of your most crucial and fastest-growing markets.

Another brilliant idea for the underdog series which continues to have more hits than misses.

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