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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Karl Matchett

Passionate fans and increased speed: Mexico City gives Formula E’s Gen3 era the perfect platform to shine

Formula E Gen3 race car Mexico City 2023 CSM

As the curtain came down on Stoffel Vandoorne’s title celebrations in Seoul, the emotions and thoughts were decidedly mixed throughout Formula E.

On the one hand it had been a year of real progress, with growth of audience and some hugely exciting and memorable races along the way. Take Jake Dennis somehow winning in London again for example, or the rain-induced crazy finish in New York, along with the brilliant crowds on show in Jakarta - 60,000 strong there last year.

These were signs of the all-electric racing championship becoming bigger, bolder, better: having a message and a meaning reach more people and winning admirers along the way for the thrill of the chase, if not always necessarily for the raison d’etre.

But at the same time, it was perhaps another case of opportunity missed. Some within Formula E privately noted that after the season finale, with the cameras on the makeshift podium and the prizes being handed out, the background was not the impressive entrance to the stadium where the street race finished, nor of a packed crowd saluting the drivers for the final time of the year. Instead, it was the mostly-empty grandstand, with fans certainly inside the ground but scattered throughout and mostly behind the cameras, giving the impression to TV viewers that it was an ill-attended event or that onlookers had swiftly departed after the racing had finished. It was a reminder that even eight years into a fast-rising sport’s lifespan, lessons are to be learned, improvements made and the full potential of Formula E unleashed.

Now, with the lights about to turn green on Season 9, the possibilities appear limitless once more. It’s not just a new season in FE, but a new era; the Gen3 cars have every major upgrade desirable for speed fanatics, have technological innovations which highlight the championship’s importance even beyond sport and have some of the biggest names in vehicle manufacturing plastered across them. And, importantly, it all kicks off in a setting which should do real justice to the excitement: Mexico City.

For the uninitiated, Formula E race weekends are hugely energetic, very compact and extremely intense. For the teams and drivers, there’s a Friday practice session and then on Saturday it’s practice early morning, qualifying mid-morning and race time at 2pm local.

The whole ordeal, other than in cities such as London and Berlin which host a double race weekend, can be over and done with in fewer than 24 hours, from the start of FP1 to the chequered flag. It means an incredibly rapid preparation from the crews who go in ahead of the raceday to set up the street circuits, the media centres, the fan village - and just as swift a departure after the final clean-up.

Tens of thousands will again be in attendance in Magdalena Mixhuca, with the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez providing a raucous end point to each lap of just over 2.5km.

Here the cameras will capture the atmosphere, as well as which drivers deal best with their new vehicles.

“I think it’s a fantastic race to start the season,” reigning champion Vandoorne - now with new team DS Penske - said. “First of all, the fans there are amazing - they’re really so passionate about the sport. It’s always great to see such big crowds, it really adds something extra and special to the event.

“I’m just looking forward to going back racing again. The buzz, the adrenaline you get is completely different than when we go testing. I’m looking forward to having that feeling again.”

He’s not the only one with those emotions ahead of the new campaign.

Mexico City was already one of the fastest tracks on the FE calendar and that should certainly be the case with the Gen3.

(Jamie Sheldrick/Spacesuit Media (

Envision’s latest signing Sebastien Buemi is keen on the ability to attack that it offers, as he looks to start life with his new team in positive fashion.

“[Mexico] is a good mix between a street track and a normal circuit. And also, I believe it would suit the Gen3 quite well, it gives some good opportunities to fight and see the speed of the Gen3,” he told the Independent. “We also want to show that the cars are faster and I think we will be able to see something good there.

“You need a good amount of self-confidence to know that if you have the right tools, you fight at the front, but obviously I know that I can do it. Choosing Envision is very important decision in my career because after the last two seasons with Nissan were really hard. It’s important for me to get the opportunity to bounce back properly. Envision has always fought at the front; we should be able to fight at the front of the grid - we’ll know soon if that’s right or not but I have good confidence.”

Elsewhere, all eyes will be on two notable arrivals to the Formula E scene: McLaren have taken over the team which was run by Mercedes, making the papaya side the only manufacturer with a foot in both F1 and FE camps.

(Formula E / LAT / CSM)

And, for the first time in 60 years, Maserati have returned to single-seater motor racing, signing up Maximilian Guenther and Edoardo Mortara as their driving pair.

“I’m feeling great about Mexico City, and I’m very excited to get started,” the former said. “It’s a very special place for every driver. The fans are probably the most passionate of the whole season and every year, the stadium section, Foro Sol, has an amazing energy and buzz. The altitude makes it quite unique compared to other races on the calendar.”

For Mortara, who was in the title hunt himself until the final few rounds last season, the effective reset for all teams and drivers heading into the relatively unknown with the new car makes it a bit of a free-for-all, one he’ll naturally be hoping to make the most of.

“I’m really looking forward to Mexico City. With the Gen3 car, we’re at a new stage of discovery in electric vehicle technology and we’re nearly starting from scratch,” he said. “It’s very different to drive, and the increased power under braking and acceleration makes for an enjoyable challenge behind the wheel. In Formula E, the margins are super tight, and it will be very hard to identify who will be the team to beat at this stage.”

For the drivers and teams, it’s again a clean slate, a chance to show their worth and fight for honours.

For Formula E itself, it’s a refocused spotlight on a major enhancement, an opportunity to earn followers for the long haul and show that after a century of races and three vehicle upgrades, this is no longer only about what’s possible, but about what already is.


The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship returns on Saturday 14 January for the 2023 Hankook Mexico City E-Prix with races across the season live on Channel 4 and Eurosport

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