The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship takes its compelling message of sustainable mobility to Indonesia for the first time on June 4, when round nine of the 2021-22 season goes green in the capital city of Jakarta. The latest expansion of the series’ global footprint brings the Formula E vision of zero-carbon motorsport to a nation of 280 million people – the world’s fourth most populous country and a vital linchpin in the future of electric vehicles.
Jakarta is approximately 6,700 miles from the championship’s last host city, Berlin, and the 11 teams are faced with the challenge of adapting to an untested setting. In this case, it’s not a matter of the fully electric single-seaters simply meeting the racecourse for the first time; instead, the track is entirely new, purpose-built for this E-Prix. The drivers will have no experience from past years to call on, and the engineers will have no real-track data to use as a starting point for car set-up. A forecast for warm, humid weather conditions, along with the fresh road surface, adds to the pressure on teams to quickly adapt to conditions during the limited practice sessions.
Those on-track runs will be closely monitored by the teams to determine energy demands and establish strategy for the race. Managing the energy usage from the battery packs to assure a competitive pace all the way to the end of the 45-minute plus one lap race is always a logistical challenge, just as it is for the electricity grids that ABB specializes in building and equipping. It’s an aspect of Formula E that becomes even more relevant with the rollout of the Gen3 racecars in Season 9, when ABB becomes the official charging supplier for the series.
The weight of those tasks may well be overshadowed by what it took to create the course itself, a sinuous 2.4-kilometer (1.5 mile) stretch of pavement encompassing 18 turns. Situated north of the city center near Java Bay in the Ancol Beach area, a popular recreation park, construction began only in February of this year, according to series’ governing body, the FIA. The layout includes banked sections and a long, fast straight, assuring high-speed duels, as well as the tight corners that typify Formula E courses.
As the first FIA World Championship event held in Jakarta, the E-prix required a course constructed expressly for the race, a feat that demanded close coordination among the FIA, the local promoter and the city government to assure that the facility would be completed on schedule. By the time crowds arrive for practice and qualifying sessions, some 8.5 km of spectator fences and 5 km of debris fence will have been put in place, and around 1,400 concrete barriers positioned to define the course. The construction took about 300 crew members to get it all done.
The Jakarta course differs from other temporary E-prix locations in terms of its post-race life. Electricity and water infrastructure installation will remain in place, and plans call for the track to serve as a testing ground for the vehicle electrification needed to meet the government’s sustainability goals. Broadcast and timekeeping equipment will be removed directly after the race, while larger elements brought in to serve spectators will take as long as two weeks to disassemble.
While Indonesia’s domestic industry for electric vehicles is small today, the vast archipelago’s natural resources already play a pivotal role in the global EV picture. Indonesia is the world’s top producer of nickel, a metal vital to producing the batteries that power EVs; it also has the planet’s greatest nickel reserves. The government is shifting policies away from just mining and exporting the ore to encouraging local refining and production of batteries and development of electric vehicles.
The Jakarta race opens the second half of Season 8 with the promise of being every bit as competitive as the first, a three-continent run that produced five different winners in eight races. The Berlin rounds saw victories by Edoardo Mortara of ROKiT Venturi Racing and Nyck de Vries of the Mercedes-EQ team, each adding to their wins in earlier rounds this season.
Even so, it is Stoffel Vandoorne, driving for Mercedes-EQ, leading the championship points, retaining his position at the head of the pack on the basis of strong podium finishes in both Berlin rounds. Well within striking distance of grabbing away the top place in the points chase – if they can secure good finishes in Jakarta – are Jean-Éric Vergne of DS Techeetah and Edoardo Mortara. The impressive results from de Vries and Vandoorne, the Mercedes-EQ drivers, extended the gap in the teams’ standings over ROKiT Venturi and Techeetah.
Still, Jakarta and the following races offer plenty of opportunities for a reordering of the positions as the season progresses. Marrakesh is next up on the calendar, followed by double-headers in New York, London and Seoul, South Korea.