The first round of Formula E’s upcoming season has already been postponed. The Santiago ePrix doubleheader in the heart of Chile’s capital was originally slated to take place on January 16-17, 2021; due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be rescheduled.
Anyone familiar with FE likely will not be surprised. The nature of the series is very different from that of, say, Formula One; FE races almost exclusively in city centers, in parks, or on public roads. Paddocks are not permanent facilities, instead being composed of temporary tents in close quarters.
It’s not exactly the friendliest form of motorsport for social distancing—but the big concern here is the fact that new strains of the coronavirus have been discovered in the United Kingdom, which has caused Chile to close its borders to the UK. Five of the sport’s teams—Envision Virgin Racing, Mahindra Racing, Mercedes, NIO 333, and Jaguar Racing—are UK-based, meaning that drivers and team personnel would be unable to travel to the event.
This isn’t the first blow to the 2021 Formula E schedule, either. Races in both Mexico City and Sanya have been postponed until later in the year, resulting in a retraction of the calendar that the series released in June of 2020.
So, instead of scheduling any events, FE has opted instead to play it by ear. The series depends on a close interplay between its racing events and the local communities, so FE and the FIA are going to be scheduling races in batches depending on the state of local COVID-19 protocol, cases, and restrictions. The goal is to have fans in the stands in some capacity and to allow the racing to proceed without travel restrictions.
COVID-19 saw the final six races of the 2020 season held at Berlin in a period of under two weeks. Let's hope we don't have to resort to that in 2021.