The saga surrounding the July 2017 clash between Formula E and the FIA World Endurance Championship has taken another twist over the 6 Hours of Shanghai race weekend.
Following Sunday’s race at the Shanghai International Circuit, a number of drivers will make the trip to Marrakech in Morocco for the second round of the Formula E season next weekend.
WEC and Formula E complement each other well, combining to give drivers a full season worth of racing, with a gentleman’s agreement existing between the two series to avoid clashes.
However, it became apparent over the Nürburgring race weekend in July that the planned race at the German track in 2017 would clash with the penultimate round of the Formula E season on the July 16 weekend.
New York City will host Formula E that weekend, but now risks being without many of the series’ biggest stars after WEC CEO Gerard Neveu told Autosport that the clash would now remain.
Neveu had previously said that the Nürburgring race could move to the July 23 weekend, so long as he had the assurance that the Formula 1 race in Germany, provisionally set for July 30, would not shift back a week. As he has failed to get this, a decision has been taken to firm up the WEC date.
“We do not have the guarantee that July 23 is available, so we stay on July 16,” Neveu told Autosport.
“We had to take a decision with the Nurburgring and the decision is that the WEC race will happen on July 16.
“We don’t have a choice. The Nurburgring is arranging its schedule and renting its track for the other weekends.”
Should the series clash, a handful of drivers will be forced to make a tough decision about which series to race in. Defending Formula E champion Sebastien Buemi has previously said his commitments in WEC with Toyota take priority, although with New York slated as a double-header, it would surely affect his title hopes.
Strangely with this, we can see a silver lining from Audi’s decision to quit WEC at the end of the year, as Lucas di Grassi and Loic Duval no longer face a quandary.
However, Stephane Sarrazin, Nick Heidfeld, Adam Carroll and Nico Prost all may join Buemi in having to make a difficult call, potentially leaving Renault e.dams without either of its regular drivers.
From Neveu’s comments, it appears that time has run out for talks to drag on about a possible date move, but it really depends on how flexible the WEC and the Nürburgring can be.
Because the German Grand Prix may not end up being a problem at all in this.
F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone said earlier this week that he was still pushing to get Hockenheim firmed up for 2017, having listed the track on the provisional calendar as being ‘subject to agreement’.
Hockenheim is unable to host the German Grand Prix on an annual basis due to the high costs involved, theoretically making 2017 its ‘off’ year. A few years ago, the Nürburgring would have stepped up and taken its turn; sadly, its own financial struggles have put that to rest.
So while Neveu hasn’t got an assurance the German Grand Prix won’t move to the July 23 weekend, there also isn’t any assurance that the race will happen at all. The chances of it happening look slim to nil.
With Hockenheim out of the picture, relying both the WEC and the Nürburgring can be flexible, then a switch to the July 23 weekend would surely be workable – unless this is the early rumblings of a struggle for supremacy between the two championships.
Failing that, then tough decisions will have to be made. And neither series would be a winner from this saga.