Hong Kong exits, as Marrakesh, Sanya enter Formula E calendar

Lucas Di Grassi during the 2019 Marrakesh E-prix (Courtesy of Formula E)

Hong Kong has lost its latest major sporting event amid the ongoing unrest in the country, with Formula E dropping its round from the 2019-20 calendar in favour of a return to Marrakesh, Morocco.

The news came as the electric-vehicle racing series and the International Automobile Federation (FIA) confirmed next season’s calendar following a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC).

Having initially been left off the 2019-20 schedule, Marrakesh will return for a fourth race since 2016-17, taking Hong Kong’s fifth-round slot for an event which will be held on February 29. Hong Kong has seen a number of sporting events cancelled in recent weeks amid the instability in the country.

The Hammer Series team cycling competition last week brought an early end to its 2019 season after electing to cancel its Hong Kong event, while golf’s PGA Tour Series-China last month did likewise after cancelling its Clearwater Bay Open tournament.

The Autosport website reports that Formula E is keen to return to Hong Kong in 2020-21, with the decision to cut next season’s race taken after talks with city officials concluded that the smooth running of the event, particularly concerning track construction, could not be guaranteed.

A Formula E spokesperson told Autosport: “After careful consideration and following conversations with key stakeholders, Formula E and event organisers have mutually agreed to not race in Hong Kong in season six. All parties, including the HKSAR government, remain committed to continuing racing in Hong Kong in future, while ensuring the operational excellence of our events.”

The 2019-20 Formula E calendar will see 12 cities stage 14 races, marking the championship’s busiest season to date. The schedule features a record nine capitals and three new locations in Seoul, Jakarta and London, which have been handed dates of May 3, June 6 and July 25-26, respectively.

The Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia kicks off the season once again on November 22-23, with the Mercedes-Benz EQ and Tag Heuer Porsche teams debuting to complete a full 24-car grid for the first time in Formula E.

The only slot that was yet to be confirmed from the provisional 2019-20 calendar has been filled by Sanya, with the Chinese city to stage a race on March 21. The season will conclude at ExCeL London on July 25-26.

Alberto Longo, co-founder and chief championship officer of Formula E, said in a statement: “The 2019-20 ABB FIA Formula E Championship looks like it’ll be the closest and most unpredictable season we’ve ever had in our short history – in terms of manufacturers competing, thanks to Mercedes-Benz and Porsche joining, and with the amount of incredible capital cities set to showcase the most competitive line-up in motorsport.

“We’re proud to be taking our mission and message of racing for a cleaner future, faster, to five continents around the world and look forward to more fans and families enjoying all we have to offer at our events.”