It’s a fight that should have continued today with the return of the Hyderabad E-Prix, but instead, the all-electric championship has a seven-week gap from the last round in Diriyah until the cars hit the track again in Sao Paulo next month after the Indian race was canceled as recently as January.
Rumblings that the future of the Hyderabad race was in trouble started as early as September last year, though, when Motorsport.com revealed that it was set to drop off the calendar after the organizing team behind the event had disbanded a month earlier, with promoters also pulling funding from the race.
Having not featured on the provisional 2024 calendar that was released in June, Hyderabad was eventually included as part of a revised schedule in October after intensive talks behind the scenes which seemed to have secured its return.
But the prospect of holding another race in India took a dive as a new local government in the Telangana region was elected – one who had openly opposed the staging of the race in 2023.
It was this political shake-up that prompted Formula E organizers to release a statement at the very end of December, stating it was “seeking urgent clarification” with the government about the staging of the race.
Less than two weeks later in early January and approximately a month until the event was scheduled to be held on February 10, it was announced the race would not be going ahead to the frustration of championship organizers.
“I was genuinely gutted when the India race fell through,” Formula E CEO Jeff Dodds told Motorsport.com.
“It’s a really important market for us to be in and I think it takes time when you start racing in a region or at a venue to find a cadence and understand what works, what doesn’t work.
Photo by: M Saad
“So it’s really disappointing to go to a venue for one year, which is kind of the learning year and then not get the chance to put improvements into place the second year.”
The inaugural Hyderabad E-Prix had certainly not been totally free of problems, with many people left unimpressed by the facilities available to them in the paddock as work continued on the track itself until the last moment.
Suggestions that public vehicles had also been let onto the track between sessions by a disgruntled policeman who had asked for tickets and not received an answer to his liking, prompting an unwanted traffic jam that had to be frankly cleared before track action resumed, certainly didn’t t help matters.
Despite the problems the race went through, which likely would have been improved second time around as per Dodds, there’s no denying that India is a destination that the championship wants to return to.
According to the UN, India is the most populous country in the world and a major market globally for electric vehicles – something which Formula E has wanted to tap into for several years.
Formula 1 tried and failed in this regard over a three-period between 2011-2013 when races were held at the Buddh International Circuit, but for a championship such as Formula E which hits a decline in 2024 and is continuing to grow, being a success in India could prove pivotal to its long-term survival.
Jake Hughes, McLaren
Photo by: M Saad
Not to mention the close links it already has with the country having only raced there just the once so far. Indian manufacturer Mahindra has competed in the championship since its inception in 2014, Tata Consultancy Services – title sponsor of Jaguar – is also based there, while the country has a driver in the form of rookie Jehan Daruvala this year.
All of which makes the loss of the event even harder to accept for Dodds.
“I was really disappointed that we’ve got big partners and manufacturers that have a close tie or a close link to India that aren’t going to get the benefit or the pay-off of having a race in that important market,” he adds Dodds.
Another aspect that also shouldn’t be underestimated is the image it portrays when a world championship is forced to cancel a race just weeks prior to it taking place. At a crucial time in the growth of Formula E world-wide, such a decision will not have gone down well with investors, teams and fans.
Even if the root cause was out of the control of Formula E organizers, only time will tell if there are any lasting effects.
“I hope it hasn’t damaged the brand and I think most of the people who have reported on it or commented on it understand the complexity of that race and why it was canceled and know there was not a lot that we could do about it ,” Dodds adds.
India remains a huge untapped market when it comes to motorsport in general and the loss of the Hyderabad race has been a hit too many, not least the fans.
But there is still a belief that a return to India will be possible in the futurewhich is something Formula E, teams and sponsors will be hoping happens sooner rather than later.