The 2019/20 FIA Formula E Championship calendar was released last week, and it looks like it could cause a headache for the drivers competing in both Formula E and FIA World Endurance Championship next season.
WEC moved to a winter series as of last year, with the ‘Super Season’ – that finished last weekend at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – being the first season that crossed over two years. Moving forwards, the WEC championship will start in September and end with the blue-riband event at Le Mans in June.
Drivers who were competing in WEC and Formula E did not have to worry about too many clashes before now, as the WEC season was usually finished by time the new Formula E season started. But these clashes have now become a very real possibility with the two series taking place over the same time period.
For the 2019/20 seasons, drivers in both series will be faced with two direct clashes and one clash that will make it very difficult for them to attend an E-Prix on the same weekend. The unconfirmed race on December 14th falls on the same day as the WEC 8 Hours of Bahrain, whilst both the unconfirmed Chinese round on March 20th, 2020 and the new Seoul E-Prix on May 3rd, 2020 share race weekends with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring and 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps respectively.
Being eight hours ahead of European time, drivers hoping to get from the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps to the Seoul E-Prix will find it very difficult. If the WEC race finishes at 6pm, it will be 1am local time in South Korea. With the assumption that the race weekend timetables will remain the same in season six of the electric championship, this will give drivers six hours to travel to South Korea and be ready to go on track for the first practice session of the E-Prix.
Another factor to consider is that the Spa round is usually used as preparation for Le Mans. The chance of WEC teams allowing their drivers to skip this important round for the electric series is highly unlikely.
Sebring is 12 hours behind China, meaning that the end of the 1,000 miles on March 20th will be around midday March 21st in China; about the time qualifying for Formula E would start. It will be impossible for drivers to take part in both the WEC and Formula E rounds this weekend.
The drivers currently competing in both WEC and Formula E include Sam Bird, Sebastien Buemi, Alex Lynn, Stoffel Vandoorne, Jose Maria Lopez and Andre Lotterer. Buemi and Lopez have been confirmed by Toyota Gazoo Racing to be in WEC next season, whilst Sam Bird and Andre Lotterer have been confirmed to have 2019/20 Formula E seats.
With hints that Brendon Hartley may be tied to the second Porsche seat, and having recently been announced to be replacing Fernando Alonso at Toyota for next season, this could be a big decision that the Kiwi driver has to take. Technically he is still a works Porsche driver, so the German manufacturer may force him to commit to Formula E if he does indeed get the seat, and give up on the chance of taking his second World Endurance Drivers’ Championship.
Buemi has always been made to put WEC above Formula E by Toyota, so it will be interesting to see how the Japanese team take this if Hartley is forced to focus on electric racing.
One thing is for certain, the drivers competing in both series will have to make a decision before the end of 2019, because missing three rounds of either series will take them out of contention for the championship.