‘The correct call’: Formula E drivers react to cancellation of ExCeL races
- Credit: Sam Bloxham
Formula E’s British drivers have reacted to the cancellation of their home race, which was due to take place at the ExCeL in July.
The event would have marked a return of electric racing to the British capital after a four year absence, but organisers cancelled the event due to the time required to transform the venue into a race track.
Last month, the temporary Nightingale Hospital was officially opened at the site, providing space to care for up to 4,000 coronavirus patients.
And the Formula E drivers, who are now battling each other online using simulators rather than in cars on the track, are supportive of the decision to cancel what was close to becoming a sold-out season finale.
Envision Virgin Racing driver Sam Bird, who visited Salisbury Primary School in Manor Park earlier this year, said: “I’m disappointed to not be racing at ExCeL London this season but it is obviously for a very good reason.
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“The work the NHS have been doing in the UK is remarkable, as well as the key workers across the world, to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic in these unprecedented times.
“I’ve been working hard with my team during the lockdown so that we are as well prepared as possible for when we can safely return to racing.”
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Oliver Rowland visited the ExCeL last summer to mark one year until the planned London E-Prix, turning on a countdown clock in the venue’s entrance hall.
The Nissan driver said: “The ExCeL has been turned into a Nightingale Hospital so that’s obviously a very good reason why we can’t race there and it’s important that stays there to protect people.
“I think keeping [the London E-Prix] in future years is very important, obviously being British it’s very special to race anywhere in this country so I’m really looking forward to getting back there in future years.”
BMW driver Alexander Sims is currently third in the championship standings after five races, and - had the rest of the season continued strongly for him - could have been crowned the series’ first British champion in front of a home crowd.
“As soon as we heard the ExCeL was going to be used for a hospital, we knew that the race wouldn’t be possible to be held a few months later,” he said.
“From a racing perspective it was a shame to lose the London race but in the light of what was happening at the time and is still happening it was totally understandable and the correct call.
“I had never really thought earlier in my racing career that the prospect of racing inside London would have been an option, and obviously Formula E brings that to life.
“The prospect of doing that was really cool and I was really looking forward to having a home race in Formula E.
“I don’t live in London but I used to and I know London reasonably well, so it would have been really cool but obviously in the current situation it’s completely understandable that we’re not racing there and hopefully we can go back there at some point in the future.”
James Calado, who made his Formula E debut in November’s season opener, added: “Racing in London, in and around the ExCeL, was going to be a really special moment for me and Panasonic Jaguar Racing.
“It is a shame that we’re not able to do so this season. However, the Nightingale Hospital is an important initiative which I fully support and I recognise the incredible work the NHS and key workers are doing at this time.
“We’re racers and we’ll go racing again when it’s safe for us, the team and our fans to do so.”
There is a good chance the British drivers will be able to experience a home race in the future as, when Formula E first announced a return to London, the series also revealed that a multi-year deal had been signed with the ExCeL.
The unique track layout, featuring 23 corners, had been designed to run both inside and outside the venue.
Announcing the deal last year, series chief executive Alejandro Agag described the ExCeL as Formula E’s “new home” in the capital, having not raced in London since visiting Battersea Park in 2015 and 2016.