"That's very tough" - Drivers mourn Rome and question safety issues as the main cause
A few weeks ago, it became clear that Formula E will not be returning to Rome in 2024. In a press release, the electric racing series cited safety concerns as the reason for removing the Italian capital from the race calendar. A decision that is anything but well received by fans and drivers. Some drivers even expressed doubts about the official reasoning.
It was the worst accident in the first nine seasons of Formula E: Sam Bird lost control of his Jaguar on a bend, spun and came to a halt on the racing line after hitting a wall at right angles to the direction of travel. Several drivers saw the stranded car too late and collided with Bird or with the track barrier. A total of eight cars were involved in the mass crash, and it was only by luck and the high safety standards of the electric racing series that all drivers were uninjured.
Rome was removed from the calendar. "This follows a review by experts at Formula E and the FIA into the season 9 races in Rome, where the new faster, more powerful Gen3 car reached the limits of the narrow, sharp-turning circuit in Rome's business district," wrote the racing series in October. "Formula E is exploring alternative venues, including permanent circuits, to maintain an event in the key Italian market. An update on the venue in Italy is expected before the end of the year." The drivers did not react particularly enthusiastically to the announcement.
Wehrlein: "One of the best Formula E circuits"
"That's very tough," says Porsche driver Pascal Wehrlein, when asked by e-Formula.news. "For me, this is one of the best Formula E circuits, albeit a very dangerous one. And that was probably the reason why it can't take place next year. But I hope that Rome will come back in the future."
"Personally, for me Rome is one of the favourites in terms of the track, in terms of the layout," Max Günther agrees. And Andretti newcomer Norman Nato is also disappointed: "I'm gonna be missing Rome. It's definitely one of the best tracks for us drivers. But it was really fun to drive: a proper Formula E circuit with fast corners, low speed corners and bumpy."
McLaren driver Sam Bird admits that the circuit was criticised by the drivers after the accident in the summer. "There was an issue with this part of the track. We were vocal after the race about this area of track, that it needed to be changed," said the Briton. However, this was not the reason why it was removed from the calendar. "We all also stated that we loved driving this circuit. I think it was one of the best circuits on the calendar."
Vergne: "I don't think it's a safety issue"
Other drivers are even clearer: the safety reasons are just an excuse. "Rome was one of the coolest tracks we had in Formula E," explains two-time champion Jean-Eric Vergne. "It's a shame we can't be going there anymore. But the reason we don't race in Rome, I don't think is a safety issue. That's my personal opinion. Every track has issues. the amount of massive crashes that have been (in Formula 1), it's not a reason to go away from Monaco. It's part of motorsport, the risk is always there."
"Safety is not a legitimate excuse, to be honest," agrees his former team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa when asked by e-Formula.news. "The track is exactly the same as with the Gen2 (car). The speed of the corner where we had the accident, where I was involved, is exactly the same with the Gen2 or the Gen3 car. So I don't think safety..." he pauses briefly. "But you know, my job is to drive the car, so... I don't know."
As e-Formula.news learned in Valencia, there could actually be a completely different reason for the cancellation of the Rome E-Prix. The annual costs for the race on the streets in the EUR district are said to have been around eight million euros. An E-Prix on the two permanent race tracks in Misano or Vallelunga, which are currently considered the hottest candidates for the Italian double header in April, is said to cost only a fraction of this sum...