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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Formula E, F1’s Electric Counterpart, Wants Three U.S. Races. Is It Possible?

  • Formula E will race in one U.S. market this summer: Portland.
  • The series hopes to one day be in as many as three American cities.
Simon Galloway/Formula E

The Miami Grand Prix has come and gone, and Formula One speedsters won’t be back at another U.S. track for five and a half months. But before Red Bull Racing, Max Verstappen, and all their challengers return Stateside for events in Austin and Las Vegas this fall, an F1 competitor of sorts will get a chance to bask in the American spotlight next month.

Formula E, a 10-year-old electric racing series with cars not too different-looking than those in F1 (although a little bit slower), sees the U.S. market as a key growth area as it enters its next decade. In late June, FE will touch down in Portland to conduct the lone U.S. race weekend on its calendar. But before then, FE is likely to announce the schedule for 2025, which will be its 11th season, and growing the series’ footprint here—as F1 has done—is a top priority.

“I’m aware of six other cities in North America that have contacted us and we’re in contact with about bringing a race to them in the future,” Formula E CEO Jeff Dodds tells Front Office Sports. Portland hosted its first FE race last year after the New York City ePrix, held annually from 2017 to ’22 (except for ’20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic), was disbanded due to construction at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal disrupting the street race’s buildout. Previous seasons have also seen FE races in Long Beach, Calif., and Miami.

The Contenders Are …

In addition to potentially staying in Portland or returning to Southern California, Dodds says Formula E has also had conversations with interested parties in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, and Phoenix. And, like F1’s quick growth from just one U.S. race in 2021 to three in ’23, Dodds thinks the U.S. market is big enough for three FE races, too, maybe as soon as ’30. 

“I’ll make this up, but let’s say we have one in New York and one in Los Angeles; I think you would then take a view on whether there’s also room for one in the middle of the country or there’s not,” Dodds says. “But, I think, certainly, we move to two quite quickly, and then we see if there’s a place for a third.” Dodds wouldn’t comment on how much it costs for city and FE organizers to host a race but says it varies across markets.

Formula for Success?

Formula E has one team, McLaren, that also fields cars in F1, and another, Andretti, that is trying to break in. And in comparison to F1, the U.S. fan base is much smaller. While F1 races in Miami, Las Vegas, and Austin draw hundreds of thousands of fans each, FE’s Portland event drew an estimated 20,000 last year. The last time FE was in Brooklyn in 2022, about 14,000 fans showed up across two days.

Viewership is a little complicated because Roku, Formula E’s biggest U.S. broadcast partner, doesn’t release audience figures. CBS is showing five races this season, and the telecast of the season-opening Mexico City event averaged 905,000 viewers in January. Last year, F1 averaged 1.11 million viewers across ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC for its entire season.

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