With Formula E visiting Cape Town, the city is charging up to host one of the biggest motorsport events of the year in South Africa.
The 2.94km circuit goes around the Cape Town Stadium, with the paddock, pit lane and fan village in Green Point. The cars line up on Vlei Road and, come lights-out, turn left on to Helen Suzman Boulevard, then left again to loop past the V&A Waterfront, the Oranjezicht City Farm Market, Granger Bay and Mouille Point, flanked by the Atlantic Ocean, and then back towards the stadium.
Formula E is, at its core, a street-racing affair. It has used existing circuits, such as the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, but the championship’s goal is to bring racing into the heart of cities around the world, giving fans the opportunity to be up close and personal to the action.
Racing in the streets of the Mother City will mean disruption to traffic and the lives of residents, with some full road closures lasting from 24 to 26 February.
“The consultation process around the impact of the Formula E event started in 2021 with meetings between ratepayer associations and event organisers,” councillor Nicola Jowell told Daily Maverick.
“The residential properties mainly affected in terms of access to their homes are on Beach and Bay [roads] after the intersection with Surrey Place. All residents are being issued with access permits which will enable them to access the street (where possible) and their building or designated parking place.”
Residences on the track have been provided with alternative parking, and Bay Road residents can access their properties through a purpose-built entrance on the nearby golf course at the Hellenic Club.
In Granger Bay, residents will have dedicated parking pre-arranged at the Oceana Club and will be able to access their homes through the coastal walkway.
The entire circuit will also be enclosed and lined with blue cement bollards and fencing, which will make viewing the race possible only from the grandstands and designated points within the venue.
Jowell said the event would be monitored by private security, that there would be “an extensive presence of additional safety and security services around the precinct” and that “there is no possibility of people [or animals] wandering onto the track”.
“This is a very exciting event for the City of Cape Town and our events precinct, which is becoming one of the busiest in the world. Certainly in Africa.
“The event organisers have shown a commitment to working with the community. No doubt there will be many learnings to come out of this event which will enhance the event for next year and hopefully aid in limiting the impact on the broader community,” Jowell said.
Formula E is an all-electric, single-seater world championship in which 11 teams with two drivers each compete in races across the world. Like other series, such as Formula 1, drivers compete to be world champion, while collecting as many points as possible for their teams’ bids for the constructor title.
Last year’s champion was Stoffel Vandoorne of Mercedes-EQ. The year before, teammate Nyck de Vries won – and has since earned a Formula 1 seat with Alpha Tauri.
The series is in its ninth season, having run since 2014 through 10 cities and 11 races. This year, 11 cities are on the roster, with 16 rounds wrapping up in London in July.
What sets Formula E apart from other series is the power. Gen3 cars, the latest Formula 3 vehicles that debuted this year, are fitted with batteries to drive electric motors, delivering around 350kW of power.
This adds a different strategy element to the racing. Formula E does not have pit stops for tyre replacements – the cars run on the same set throughout a race – so strategising about when to pit, what tyre to put on and making them last until the end is not as important as it is Formula 1.
Rather, teams must manage their energy reserves and drivers must think strategically about when to push for an attack and use more power and when to conserve and regenerate their power. This adds an exciting element to the races, as drivers strive to find a perfect balance.
South African Formula E reserve driver Kelvin van der Linde says Capetonians will get front-row seats as these strategies unfold. He adds that the Cape Town e-Prix course is thought to be one of the fastest on the calendar.
“[It’s going to be] very, very fast, which means energy management is going to be critical because the longer you’re flat out, the more energy you need to recover. That naturally makes the racing better as well, because the more energy management is involved, the more strategy is involved. It’s really set up for a spectacle,” says Van der Linde.
Speaking to media after winning Round 4 in Hyderabad, India, last week, Jean-Éric Vergne said the South African race was a welcome addition to the calendar.
“I think Formula E has been doing a great job of adding new cities and making races happen. I like the trajectory that Formula E is taking to go to new countries and grow the fanbase,” the double world champion noted.
“I’ve been to Cape Town once before and I have very good memories from the city; I’m happy to go back,” he told Daily Maverick.
Powered by electricity, Formula E is taking a new approach to racing, presenting an alternative to traditional fuels. The batteries powering the cars are charged by biofuels, the tyres are made with 28% sustainable materials and the entire event has been certified as net-zero.
“Personally, I was initially not a big fan of racing electric vehicles, because I’m a petrolhead, right? But unfortunately, that is the way that our society is going to have to go in order to save our planet,” racing driver and motorsport presenter Naomi Schiff told South African media.
“And, of course, there’s still a lot of things that need to be developed, and technology continues to evolve, but Formula E has done a really good job – the Gen3 cars are spectacular,” she says.
“I remember in season one, they were having to have pit stops to change cars, because the battery wouldn’t last the race distance, whereas now they’re racing 45 minutes, with cars that can do up to 300kmh. So it’s great to see them pushing the limits of this technology.” DM168
The E-Prix teams and drivers
ABT CUPRA FORMULA E TEAM
Nico Müller: The experienced driver is back in Formula E after a two-year spell in DTM, joining ABT on the German team’s comeback to the championship for Gen3. Nationality: Swiss
Robin Frijns: After returning to Formula E in 2018/19, Frijns competed for five seasons straight with Envision Racing, and was often a frontrunner. He’s changing things up for Gen3, though, with a move to ABT CUPRA Formula E Team. Nationality: Dutch
Kelvin van der Linde: The team’s reserve driver, Van der Linde stepped into the cockpit for ABT CUPRA in place of the injured Robin Frijns, making history as the first South African to line up on the grid – and potentially in time for a home race in Cape Town. Nationality: South African
AVALANCHE ANDRETTI FORMULA E
Jake Dennis: Dennis is enjoying his third season in Formula E, continuing his race-winning partnership with Avalanche Andretti but this time with Porsche power under his feet as he targets the big prize: a world championship trophy. Nationality: British
André Lotterer: The three-time Le Mans 24-Hour winner and former World Endurance Champion was set to depart Formula E after last season, after a two-year stint with Porsche, but instead made a surprise signing with Avalanche Andretti. Nationality: German
Stoffel Vandoorne: Vandoorne headed into a fourth campaign in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship with Mercedes-EQ, having helped the marque on its way to the Teams’ World Championship alongside Drivers’ champion Nyck de Vries in Season 7. In Season 8, he went one better and secured top honours and the Drivers’ World Championship crown at the Seoul finale, having assembled a dominant, consistent campaign. Nationality: Belgian
Jean-Éric Vergne: Vergne made history after he became the first back-to-back champion in Formula E after his title-winning campaigns in 2017/18 and 2018/19. ‘JEV’, as he is known, is still looking for title number three. Nationality: French
Sébastien Buemi: 2015/16 Drivers’ champion Buemi heads to pastures new after leaving the e.dams stable – a prior Renault and Nissan representative throughout his Formula E career to date – for Envision Racing at the start of the Gen3 era. He is one of the most successful drivers in Formula E World Championship history, and he’ll be on the hunt for a return to title-winning form in Season 9. Nationality: Swiss
Nick Cassidy: Rising star and Japanese Super Formula and Super GT champion, Cassidy made a strong start to his Formula E career in 2020/21 with Envision Racing and there is certainly plenty of pace and promise to build on. Nationality: New Zealand
JAGUAR TCS RACING
Sam Bird: Bird is back again with Jaguar TCS Racing to kick off the third season in his Formula E career – one of only a handful of drivers still on the grid to have competed in every season to date in the electric race series. A winner in every season of the Formula E World Championship except during a disappointing Season 8. Nationality: British
Mitch Evans: Having joined Jaguar TCS Racing ahead of its debut season, Kiwi racer Evans remains with the legendary British motorsport outfit for a sixth campaign in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. Nationality: New Zealand
Lucas di Grassi: Di Grassi was the winner of the first-ever Formula E race – the 2014 Beijing E-Prix – and is the most successful driver in the history of the championship. For the 2021/22 season, it was pastures new at ROKiT Venturi Racing, after a seven-year association with Audi’s Formula E team came to an end. Adding to his storied career, he was the first to reach the 100-race mark in Seoul. Nationality: Brazilian
Oliver Rowland: Mahindra Racing entered a technical partnership with the returning ABT
Sportsline for Gen3, and Rowland returns for a second campaign with the Anglo-Indian squad, hoping to kick up a gear at the start of Formula E’s new era. Nationality: British
MASERATI MSG RACING
Edoardo Mortara: Mortara took the title fight to the finale for the second season in a row after a storming Season 8. Wins in Diriyah, Berlin, Marrakech and Seoul were spoilt by a sticky patch – no-scores in London and the Seoul opener – that gave eventual champion Stoffel Vandoorne the advantage. In Season 9 he joins the newly christened Maserati family. Nationality: Swiss
Maximilian Günther: The young star lines up for Maserati MSG Racing in Season 9, hoping to unlock his potential further with a very competitive outfit and add to his victory tally. Nationality: German
NEOM MCLAREN FORMULA E TEAM
Jake Hughes: After some time in the shadows as a test and reserve driver, Hughes makes the step up to a full-time drive with McLaren, as the legendary team makes its debut in Formula E. Nationality: British
René Rast: Rast is back in Formula E, bringing his fast and determined driving style to McLaren for that famous marque’s debut in the all-electric street racing series. Rast has unfinished business in Formula E and dons papaya to get it done. Nationality: German
NIO 333 RACING
Sérgio Sette Camara: The mercurial driver stepped across to NIO 333 for Season 9, looking to marry his blistering one-lap pace with more consistency and positive progress in the Gen3 era. Nationality: Brazilian
Dan Ticktum: After starting a new chapter in his career in Formula E last season, Ticktum makes another run around the world with NIO 333. Nationality: British
NISSAN FORMULA E TEAM
Norman Nato: Nato is back with a full-time drive for Season 9, returning to the championship with Nissan and seeking to recapture the race-winning form that took him to a debut victory in the final race of Season 7. Nationality: French
Sacha Fenestraz: This fellow is the latest rookie hotshot in the highly competitive world of all-electric street racing. The factory Nissan outfit has stepped in and completely taken over the reins of its Formula E effort – with an impressive, all-new line-up to tackle the Gen3 challenge. Nationality: French-Argentine
TAG HEUER PORSCHE FORMULA E TEAM
António Félix da Costa: Season 6 champion Da Costa makes the jump to TAG Heuer Porsche for 2022/23. The passionate driver brings his racing-winning prowess to Porsche as the legendary German brand hunts for title success. He is one of the most experienced Formula E drivers on the grid, having been a popular fixture in the series since Season 1. Nationality: Portuguese
Pascal Wehrlein: After scoring a popular debut victory for himself and Porsche last season, Wehrlein gets set for his third campaign with the TAG Heuer team. The popular driver will welcome a new challenge in a Gen3 car. Nationality: German. DM168