Formula E will start its new season with a floodlit double-header in Saudi Arabia next month, the all-electric championship said on Tuesday.
The season was due to start in Santiago, Chile, this month but the races were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic after the country closed its borders to arrivals from Britain, where a number of the teams are based.
This was because the country imposed travel restrictions to UK citizens following the revelation that a new strain of COVID-19 was prevalent in the country. Since then the UK has entered into a third national lockdown with schools and non-essential businesses being forced to close.
Teams and championship partners were informed today that Diriyah’s February 26-27 round, which will feature Formula E’s first-ever night races, would begin the seventh season. The campaign is still to be known as the 2020-21 campaign in deference to the all-electric championship’s year straddling structure.
The two Saudi races in Diriyah on Feb. 26 and 27 will be the first Formula E has staged at night.
Hopes that the Santiago E-Prix could be held pre-Diriyah were largely quashed on December 29 when Chile confirmed the first case of this variant on its soil.
This led to the health ministry announcing a mandatory 10-day quarantine for every person traveling to the South American country. To be released from this quarantine, a negative PCR test, to be taken on the seventh day of isolation, is required.
Confirming that Diriyah will be the first event on the schedule, Formula E co-founder and deputy CEO, Alberto Longo told The Race today that the key factor in confirming Diriyah was “a massive will from the local authorities to host the race”.
“We have also put in place a massive COVID protocol, which is obviously proven at both Berlin and Valencia,” Longo said.
“So the will of the local authorities and these robust COVID protocols mean we can happily say that we’re going to be launching the seventh season in Diriyah.
“We’re planning to have an event with VIPs and we’re planning to have an event also with public.
“So there is what we call an almost normal event we’re going to have in Saudi with a certain amount of public but not a totally normal event.”
Longo also confirmed that Formula E logistics and operational departments are studying aspects of the current Rally Dakar in Saudi Arabia to ensure any additional hurdles can be overcome next month.
“We’re working together with the same team, so basically, the Ministry of Sports is the one in charge of delivering both events together with the national federation,” confirmed Longo.
“We’re updated on the evolution of the Dakar on a day to day basis and getting all the learnings from that is really useful to have.”
The Dakar Rally is currently being held in Saudi Arabia, which will also host a Formula One race for the first time in November. That race in Jeddah will also be held at night.