Category Archives: Sport

Formula One: Alex Zanardi – No Limits

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At the Lausitzring on the 15th September 2001 during a Champ Car race, Alex Zanardi was involved in a horrific, life threatening accident in which he lost both his legs. Whilst medical staff worked to save his life, his heart stopped seven times. To medical experts his survival is seen as nothing short of a miracle. As a motorsport fan there are maybe a handful drivers for whom you feel a vested interest, maybe because you followed their early career, you happened to meet them, or something about their personality impacts you. Alex Zanardi is one of the first drivers I felt that way about and as I watched the accident live that day, I was sure I had just witnessed the death of a hero.

I could not have been more wrong.

Alex Zanardi’s career following his accident has been extraordinary, once again finding success behind the wheel and what’s more, becoming an Olympic Gold medal winning athlete!  The documentary No Limits delves into what drives a man such as Alex Zanardi to achieve so much, and offers unprecedented access to all areas of his life.

No Limits follows Alex Zanardi, with Bruno Spengler, and Timo Glock as they prepare to compete in the 2015 Spa 24hrs with BMW Motorsport and the ROAL team. Simultaneously, Alex Zanardi is preparing to defend his World Championship title at the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Switzerland.

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Shot entirely in 4k, the look and feel of the film is sublime. The level of visual detail is outstanding. Shots captured of steam literally rolling off Zanardi’s body as he exits the car at the end of a night-time stint offer a perspective into the human challenge of endurance racing, previously unseen for many. I recommend that anyone seeing this film does so on the largest screen possible to get a true feel for the quality of the cinematography.

This trailer for the film gives you just a hint of what you can expect from the feature:

During scenes filmed whilst training at home, Alex Zanardi talks frankly about his life, his accident, and the choices he has made. His relentless and limitless mentality is humbling. Alex Zanardi is by no means someone people should feel pity for, rather someone who can inspire us.

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In developing a film around a subject matter in which the outcome is not yet known, it is the role of the director to find and capture the story. In No Limits, Tim & Nick Hahne depict the raw emotion involved in bringing a team together to compete in the challenge of endurance racing. The modern motor racing driver is often criticized for lacking personality; this film serves to dismiss that perception as we see a group of drivers come together to work together, pushing each other forward and enjoying themselves along the journey.

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As a Motor Racing fan I can not recommend this film highly enough. If like me you have a partner who for whatever reason just doesn’t understand why you are so passionate about a bunch of cars driving round in circles, get them to sit down with you for 60 minutes and watch this film. I believe their appreciation for the sport will be changed, and your Sunday afternoons on the sofa might become that little bit easier to negotiate!

“Limits exist only in our head” – Alex Zanardi. An inspiration to us all.

No Limits is available to download worldwide from February 1st.  Follow this link to see more details.

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Formula One: F1 vs. Nascar

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With the Formula One close season having taken hold, fans craving that motorsport fix often start to explore other racing series.  The 2016 Nascar season kicks off in a little over one month’s time and through a series of short films complied by Mobil 1 The Grid we explore the merits of the series and take a look at areas in which Nascar has the jump on F1.

Guiding Mobil 1 The Grid through this series of films is the Stewart-Haas Racing team, any Formula One fan questioning the credibility of the Haas F1 Team 2016 entry would do well to pay attention here. The shear scale of Stewart-Haas Racing operation is nothing short of breath-taking. The frenetic nature of the Nascar schedule and the teams 4 car line up means that at any given time, the team can have up to 60 race cars moving through the facility. The operation exacts the same if not greater levels of precision and commitment seen through F1.

 

Through levels of team access unseen in Formula One, crew team member James  Keener explains his multiple roles within the Stewart Haas Racing team and the dedication given to not only find success, but continually improve.  On the face of it the technology seen in this film may feel somewhat antiquated when compared to an F1 pitstop, but through standardising process and machinery the series have managed to ensure a process remains relatable to the customer and any focus on improvement is on the individual rather than spending money to find an extra tenth of a second. Perhaps F1 could learn from these standardised approaches.

 

 

Taking a look through the Stewart Haas Racing paint shop, we get our first indication of what the Haas F1 Racing team livery could look like. The answer pretty much anything! Unlike F1, Nascar offers it’s teams a freedom to change car paint schemes and sponsors on a race by race basis. Teams and drivers are known more by their racing numbers rather than the colours of the car, something F1 has started to emulate in over the past few seasons.  In the case of Stewart Haas Racing, the team has secured a series of long term partners, Mobil 1 being one of them. Through the livery freedom afforded to teams, cars offer partners a tool to get involved in promotional activities over the course of a season. This flexibility in colour scheme and length of agreement can be attractive to sponsors, an area in which F1 appears to be increasingly struggling.

 

 

Nascar has in the past been perceived by some as antiquated in its approach to safety when compared to other racing series. This perception could not be further from the truth. Nascar is dedicated to continuously raising the bar for the driver and the fan. Working closely with the teams and race venues great moves have been taken to reduce risk without impacting the show.

 

 

Finally, Mobil 1 The Grid profiles Danica Patrick. The first lady of Nascar. A true ambassador for the series and for women in motorsport. With the support of the Stewart Haas Racing team Danica Patrick has a established herself as a formidable competitor and within s series in which race craft is key is continually building towards delivering major success for the team. F1 teams would do well to look at long term support Stewart Haas Racing has offered Danica Patrick and how this commitment is paying off.

 

 

Nascar ignores the backroom politics and is fully focused on making the show the best it can be for its fans. With levels of access unheard of in the F1 community at a price that won’t break the bank, when you are making your motorsport holiday fix plans for 2016, Nascar deserves serious consideration.

Formula One: Ferrari debuts on the Italian Stock Exchange

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On Monday, January 4th 2016, Ferrari officially listed with the ticker symbol RACE on the Italian Stock Exchange. Ferrari now have stock listing on both the MTA and the NYSE.

“Ferrari: A new milestone, a new start”

These were the words Sergio Marchionne inscribed in the guest book of the Italian Stock Exchange during the Ferrari Listing Ceremony on the MTA.  Raffaele Jerusalmi, CEO of Borsa Italiana (the Italian Stock Exchange) presided over the ceremony, which took place a few months following Ferrari’s debut on the New York Stock Exchange last October 21st, while Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy, was the guest of honour.

The stock began trading after Ferrari Chairman Sergio Marchionne, FCA Chairman John Elkann, Ferrari CEO Amedeo Felisa and Ferrari Vice Chairman Piero Ferrari  rang the traditional opening bell.

Thereafter Marchionne held a brief speech, during which he thanked Prime Minister Renzi for attending the ceremony, and for what he is doing for the country. He underlined the fact that Ferrari’s listing on the MTA represents a new start, rather than a point of arrival, emphasizing that the now complete spin-off from FCA reaffirms the independence Ferrari has always enjoyed within the group.

Furthermore, he highlighted the brand’s Italian heritage and thanked John Elkann and Piero Ferrari, heirs of Giovanni Agnelli and Enzo Ferrari, who in 1969 forged a great alliance based on mutual respect. Marchionne also paid tribute to the city of Milan (represented in the audience by Francesca Balzani, Vice Mayor of Milan) where Enzo Ferrari began his career behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo.

Naturally, Marchionne also made reference to the impending Formula 1 season. He joked with Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene that now that all requested investments have been made,  he expects Ferrari to return to return to its rightful place at the top of the sport.

Joking aside, as a publicly listed company Ferrari are now, more than ever, answerable to shareholders. Whilst short to medium term investment and commitment to Formula One may be assured, it the team do not see success continued support could be increasingly difficult to justify.  A cost conscious Ferrari could ultimately be beneficial to Formula One with a clear budget cap and therefore annual cost being of appeal to the banking / investment community.

Formula One: Alfa Romeo branding set for Toro Rosso?

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With 2015 Ferrari power unit supply secured for Italy’s second F1 team in 2016 and reports published by the Reuters Sergio Marchionne, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO, has hinted Ferrari power units may soon sport Alfa Romeo branding for a customer team within F1. The possibility of Scuderia Toro Rosso adopting the branding is an increasing possibility.

Whilst public offerings in both the New York and Milan stock exchange have effectively spun Ferrari off from FCA, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, through majority shareholder Exor retain significant shareholding in the sports car maker and as such remain keen to transfer the racing pedigree across other brands within the organisation.

Both Scuderia Ferrari and Scuderia Toro Rosso have declined to comment on speculation around possible branding at this time, but the rumours have not dissipated. With news emerging this morning that Spanish oil giant Cepsa have not renewed sponsorship commitments with Toro Rosso clearing the way for possible Shell branding with the team for the 2016 season possible alignment appears increasingly likely.

The rationale for FCA and Ferrari to pursue such a move exists on both a commercial and sporting front. Commercially FCA could lean on the youthful nature of Toro Rosso, Red Bull and the young driver line up in an attempt to entice a younger audience to the Alfa Romeo brand, a brand which with ambition exists to more than quadruple sales by 2018. From a sporting perspective there is then the question around the future of Max Verstappen; following a sensational rookie year in 2015 many expect Mercedes and Ferrari to be battling to secure his services at the earliest possible juncture. Getting Verstappen under the Alfa Romeo brand whilst still under Red Bull contract and exposing him to virtues of life as a Ferrari driver may go a long way to steering the decision toward a scarlet future.

Formula One: Where next for Graeme Lowdon?

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After battling to bring the Manor Marussia team to the F1 grid in 2015, Graeme Lowdon and John Booth officially terminated their agreements with the team on November 20th  , leaving Steven Fitzpatrick, Abdulla Boulsien, and Vincent Casey as the remaining registered directors of the team. At this time, it is not clear if the name Manor will leave the team with Graeme and John, but it is understood a name change was discussed in a recent strategy group review. It should also be noted a holding company Just Racing is registered alongside Manor Grand Prix Racing at the team headquarters in Banbury.

Both Graeme Lowdon and John Booth are highly respected figures in the F1 paddock, as is the racing pedigree of Manor. Until a recent interview for Sky Sports it was believed Lowdon and Booth came as a pair, and the partnership would be unlikely to be seen in F1 in the near future. However, during the interview suggestion was made that Graeme Lowdon may be joining another team on the grid in a new capacity. In addition, the launch of the ‘@realmanor’ twitter handle suggests the name may continue to be used in the future away from the current team.

With a future as part of the team formally know as Manor Marussia seemingly out of the question, this article will explore the possible new home on the 2016 grid for Graeme and the likelyhood of each.  It has been assumed that any new role would be for a UK based team, and that despite questionable management decisions made at Red Bull Racing in recent seasons, management remain supportive of the current structure. Given the changes with the Renault F1 team a move towards Enstone has also been disregarded at this time.

Williams F1 Team:

Despite finishing 3rd in the 2015 Constructors Championship the Williams F1 Team and drivers have voiced disappointment with the team performance, seemingly unable to extract that final element of performance required to mount a genuine challenge for the top step. This coupled with a number of blunders in pitstop procedures and rumours of senior management moving to new challenges with the Haas F1 Team, perhaps the pragmatic no nonsense racing approach adopted by Graeme Lowdon would sit well alongside the commercial savvy of Claire Williams.

Sahara Force India F1 Team:

Change in team branding and possibly ownership is expected in the near future, Graeme Lowdon and even the Manor brand could offer racing pedigree and a steady hand during a possibly lively management period.

Haas F1 Team:

Success in F1 comes through experience. Graeme Lowdon has highly relevant experience to any new team joining the sport, he knows how to run a team on a budget and optimise all resources available. He also has practical experience of working with Scuderia Ferrari and knows the Haas UK headquarters well.

Mclaren Honda:

Ron Dennis has publically stated the team will be making a series imminent management changes, it is possible the team may again look to split the role of Team Principle bringing in a head such as Graeme Lowdon could be bring a fresh perspective on how to approach racing, and reduce the burden of responsibility on Éric Boullier.

In conclusion, it would be possible to draw sound rationale for any of the afore mentioned teams to be keen on attracting Lowdon’s services. The question should also be which prospect would be appealing to him. Outside of motorsport Graeme Lowdon is a successful entrepreneur, co founding Nomad Digital, providers of Wifi and wireless systems in transportation networks. His success away from the F1 grid allows him a security that he does not ‘need’ the sport.  Either way it is highly unlikely any announcement will be made until the new year, but of the teams mentioned the most likely would seem to be either the Haas F1 Team in a bid to further strengthen the management structure or what could be a very exciting challenge with Force India.

That being said those fashion aware amongst you may have noticed since leaving the Manor Massuisa team Graeme elected to wear blue in most public appearances. Which team wears blue?

Formula One: New names injected into the Red Bull Junior Team

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Though the final line up of the 2016 Red Bull Junior Team will not be announced until the new year, there are at least three new names that will be featuring next season: Sérgio Sette Câmara, Niko Kari and Luis Leeds.

Luis Leeds

Born 6/3/2000 in Melbourne, Australia
Competing in the 2016 MSA Formula with Arden

The 2015 Mexican Grand Prix was a big event for Australian Leeds, who grabbed the attention of the F1 world by convincingly winning the opening race of the new Mexican F4 Series. “To travel overseas and race in Mexico was an amazing experience and to have the success was unbelievable,” enthused the 15-year-old, who has just completed his first F4 season in Australia.

“To think that I am now part of the Red Bull Junior Team is just incredible and I can’t wait for the MSA Formula season to start in Britain. I know that the level of competition will be much higher, but at least the cars will be the same so I can take what I have learnt here and make use of it.”

Niko Kari

Born 6/10/1999 in Tuusula, Finland
Competing in the 2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship with Motopark/Timo Rumpfkeil

Finnish 16-year-old Kari comes to the team as SMP F4 Champion, having dominated the Northern European series with seven wins and 19 podiums from the 21 races. “It was a great year and the series had some really good drivers so it wasn’t easy. I believe that if you do your work well you can achieve your aims and shouldn’t be worried about it,” asserted Kari.

“That’s the way I am looking at next season, of course I will have a lot to learn in F3 but I will work hard to make the best of this big opportunity. It’s a great feeling to be invited to be part of the Red Bull Junior Team. I think it will be a fantastic year, I can’t wait to see Pau, that will be my first street circuit and to go to Spa, that is my favourite, I have already tested there a few times in a Formula Renault and F3 car.”

Sérgio Sette Câmara

Born 23/5/1998 in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Competing in the 2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship with Motopark/Timo Rumpfkeil

With impressive pace at Zandvoort and Macau, Sérgio showed something of what he is capable of. “Yes, my first season in single seater didn’t start that well for me, but the podium in Spa came at the right time and from there things improved a lot and especially the second part of the season with the podium at Red Bull Ring and the third in the Zandvoort Masters gave me a lot of confidence.”

“I am very proud to join the Red Bull family and it is a great opportunity to be part of it, I am very grateful for it. I am very confident for this coming season and really looking forward to start competing again. I am sure that, together with the team and working on the same direction as we are, we will get our objectives.”

Formula One: Red Bull Racing PUMA partnership confirmed

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Red Bull Racing have just reconfirmed their agreement a long-term partnership with PUMA, as Team Partner and Supplier of Race and Teamwear as well as Licensed Partner for the 2016 Formula One season and beyond.
This new partnership aims to reinvent the concept of Formula One fashion. PUMA will apply a unique and energetic approach to its licensed product collection with Red Bull Racing that will result in innovative, eye-catching designs in lifestyle and replica ranges, as well as race and teamwear.
The strong synergy between these two brands presents an exciting opportunity to activate global marketing initiatives as Red Bull Racing delivers F1 power to PUMA in support of their mission to become the fastest sport brand in the world. The team will be part of PUMA’s elite partnership portfolio, joining the likes of Usain Bolt, Arsenal Football Club and the Italian National Football team.
Red Bull Racing’s history with PUMA goes all the way back to its first years in F1 and this new agreement revitalizes a highly successful relationship enjoyed by the two between 2007 and 2010.
Commenting on the reinvigoration of the partnership between the team and PUMA;
Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing Team Principal said: “We are looking forward to working with PUMA once again. This new partnership fits in with a global partnership that already exists between Red Bull and PUMA, involving athletes in other disciplines, the Wings For Life charity and various other Red Bull projects. The licensed collection that will launch in 2016 is looking fantastic; I’m sure the fans are going to love it.”
Björn Gulden, Chief Executive Officer for PUMA added: “PUMA and Red Bull have a great brand synergy, and this new partnership with Red Bull Racing is another big statement for PUMA. There is huge potential within the wider Red Bull organisation to build upon this partnership and explore new territory, and there is an enthusiasm amongst both companies to do so. Red Bull Racing is a great team with massive appeal, and this is another positive step in our desire to become the Fastest Sport Brand in the World.”

Formula One: Opinion – Formula Finances

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As teams prepare for the final qualifying session of the season, what started as murmurs around teams requesting advances on 2015 prize money from Formula One Management (FOM) is heading towards a deafening crescendo with Manor Marussia, Sahara Force India, and  the Sauber F1 team reportedly making requesting support.

The distribution model under which teams are allocated and receive prize funds was established a number of years ago. The model has not changed. The distribution model splits prize fund payments to the team through the season following the season in which the funding was earned. Once a paying position is achieved (i.e. higher than 10th place in the WCC) the team are assured payment for multiple seasons.  Payments are only made in season.

It is the payment structure teams appear to struggle with. Since requests have been lodged it should be assumed the teams in question have insufficient funding or credit rating in place to sustain team plans from December to March.  The Force India F1 Team found themselves in a similar situation in the lead up to the 2015 season, commenting that ‘close season’ is the most expensive period for a team and the only period when they as not getting paid through prize funds or commercial agreements.

Formula One Teams are companies in their own right; they are independent of Formula One. They are masters of their own destiny. They develop their own commercial agreements, agree to the terms of funding distribution models, and should be empowered to budget accordingly. Teams find themselves in a predicament of funding shortfalls in the ‘off season’ because they have made decisions to spend money they, in reality, did not have. A complaint Bernie Ecclestone has often publically voiced.

If a team is not capable of planning capital expenditure over a rolling 12 month period do they really deserve to represent the pinnacle of motorsport?

Perhaps it is cynical to view Formula One teams in this regard, to suggest they should operate as first and foremost as a business, perhaps it would diminish from the racing spirt, but would a more calculated approach to racing really be such a bad thing? To achieve a level of sustained security as to which teams are on the grid and what their position is within the sport may make investment a more attractive proposition.

Looking back to early part of 2015, the financial challenges faced by the Force India team were clear for all to see, the team failed to attend the majority of pre-season testing stating the car they would begin the season with was essentially the 2014 challenger updated to comply with 2015 safety regulations. This hybrid 2014/2015 car was the result of severe budget restrictions limiting payments to 3rd party suppliers. Working to a limited budget the team used this car for the first 8 races of the year, developing the 2015 challenger once prize funding and sponsorship revenue came back to the team. Through these first 8 races, the team amassed 31 points, an average of 3.8 points per race. Once the team were able to introduce the 2015 challenger they achieved a further 89 points over 10 races, (average 8.9 per race) the culmination of these 2 vehicles have left  Force India with 120 points heading into Abu Dhabi, with 5th place in the constructors championship assured.

But what if they had taken a different route? Had the team stuck with hybrid 2014/15 challenger for the entire season and for the sake of argument maintained their points scoring ratio of 3.8 per race they would be heading into Abu Dhabi with 70 points battling with Lotus and Toro Rosso for the 5th they have already secured. Had the introduced the non-budget constrained 2015 challenger from Melbourne and assuming a the afore mentioned average of 8.9 points per race they could have been looking at a total point’s tally of 160 points, but still be in 5th place with an outside chance of achieving 4th against Red Bull Racing.

This simplistic maths ignores the variable points tally other teams would have been able to achieve had Force India’s performances differed from those actually seen, but the point is in both scenarios the possible outcomes in terms of constructor championship performance  do not differ greatly if at all.

The very fact that Force India are again requesting  early payment of prize funds ahead of the 2016 season suggests the team went the wrong way, the desire to race, to compete, overtook the business rationale, perhaps this is what racing is all about, but is it sustainable? Force India over achieved through apparently over spending and are now reliant on external influences to assure 2016 plans.  This is not a criticism of any specific team, rather an observation of the culture of racing.

Across business the way in which a Formula One Pit Crew services a car in under 3 seconds is often cited as the epitome of teamwork, individuals working together towards a common goal. These lessons in teamwork have changed the business world. Perhaps the world of business can give something back to Formula One, and teach teams that a budget is something you work within, not something you take to Bernie when the numbers turn red.

Formula One: Sauber F1 team announce Premium Partnership with CNBC for 2016

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The Sauber F1 Team have announced CNBC as a Premium Partner for the 2016 FIA Formula One Championship. CNBC is the leading global broadcaster of live business and financial news and information. This is the first time the Sauber F1 Team has partnered with an international broadcaster.

CNBC and the Sauber F1 Team will use the global Formula One media platform to maximise their potentials, as well as to reach a broader audience around the globe. The CNBC branding will appear on the rear wing end plates of the Sauber C35, on the drivers’ overalls of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr, as well as on the team’s clothing.

To launch the partnership with CNBC, the logo will be visible on the rear wing end plates of the Sauber C34-Ferrari during the 2015 Formula One season finale at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend.

Monisha Kaltenborn, Team Principal of the Sauber F1 Team:
“CNBC and the Sauber F1 Team have many common values such as accuracy, speed and credibility. Both companies maintain these values on a global level. It applies to both of us that we face a tough competition in our field with the objective being perfection. These similarities build a strong basis for a solid partnership.”

KC Sullivan, President and Managing Director of CNBC International:
“This partnership joins two organisations with strong heritage and exceptional ambition. Working with the Sauber F1 Team, CNBC is joining a family of professionals and corporate partners committed to the standards of excellence and performance that elite sports demand.”

Formula E: Mexico City to Round 5 of the 2015/16 Formula E Championship

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Mexico City has today been confirmed as the host city for round five of the 2015-2016 FIA Formula E Championship, subject to approval from the FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting in December. The Mexico City ePrix will take place on March 12, 2016. The track is approximately 2.14km in length and subject to FIA track homologation. It will use part of the historic Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez with seating for around 40,000 of the world’s most passionate fans.

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Mexico has a rich racing culture hosting major international races and now Formula E with the help of DHL, the championship’s Official Logistics Partner.Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag said: “We are delighted to be taking Formula E to Mexico City. This is one of the world’s great cities, with a rich heritage and passion for motorsport. I’m confident the fans will create an amazing atmosphere and make the Mexico City ePrix one of the most memorable races of the season.”

Alejandro Soberon, President and CEO of CIE said: “For OCESA it is an honour to open the doors to Formula E to the just newly-renovated Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez track. A circuit that is positioning itself day-by-day as the temple of motorsport.”

Miguel Angel Mancera, Major of Mexico City added: “Staging events such as Formula E is helping to make Mexico City one of the ‘sports capitals’ of the world. After the success of the Formula 1

Grand Prix, the addition of the Formula E race shows that the Hermanos Rodriguez racetrack is the perfect place for all kinds of racing events and is a key part of the work that the Mexico City government has undertaken to enhance our tourist attractions.”

Salvador Duran said: “Formula E is a great championship that produces fantastic races among top-line drivers and I am sure the Mexican fans are going to love the races. The sound of the cars will be totally new to them, but I know that once they see the quality of the action they are going to be hooked.”

Tickets for the race will go on sale on December 7 with prices starting at 350 Mexican Pesos (approx. 19 Euros).