Agag column: Why FE is in a real growth phase
It was a great moment for us to ‘officially’ welcome Nico Rosberg to Formula E in Berlin, and for him to drive the new ‘Gen2’ car.
I remember being in Vienna at the FIA prize-giving ceremony, on the night he announced his retirement from Formula 1, and introducing myself to his wife at the end of dinner. I said: “Hi I’m Alejandro Agag from Formula E and I would like to talk to your husband”. She just replied: “Don’t even think about it. He’s not getting in a race car again.”
So, it was a great moment to have him there with us in Berlin – both as an investor and as a supporter.
Obviously there has been some speculation that he will be involved in the new Mercedes Formula E outfit, but I haven’t heard anything pointing to that – although that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen.
Being in Berlin was a good reminder of our roots as a championship. This is the only city that we have raced in every season. But we’re always looking to the future too and trying to develop the championship, and this is why we will be racing in Saudi Arabia at the start of season five.
The race in the district of Ad Diriyah in Riyadh is very important to us. We believe that sport can inspire communities and we want to be part of the positive change that’s happening in the country.
For the first time in June, women will be able to drive in Saudi Arabia and this will be an historic moment. Furthermore, we have received complete assurances – in fact it is the request of the organisers – that women participate at the event and women will be at the race as spectators and supporters. All the women who travel with the championship will also be allowed to come and work.
We see that as a great element of change in a country that didn’t have those rights in the past and we’re happy to be part of that. We see that Formula E can be a force for good and in this case – a very specific place and country – we think that we can make a contribution by going there.
So, I am really happy with our decision. I understand that there is a debate around it and it’s perfectly understandable.
I think sport has to be above politics and you shouldn’t mix them. When a sport receives a boycott because of politics, like the Olympics or the football World Cup, we should be above that.
I think fans, once they see the race, will see a great event, because the track in Ad Diriyah is spectacular. And the fans who don’t like the decision to go there – and I am sure there are some – well, they have their personal political views, which I completely respect.
Before Riyadh, of course, we have another new round, in Zurich, which will be the first race in Switzerland since circuit racing was banned in 1955.
We owe a lot to Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of TAG Heuer, for this, because they were one of the founding partners of Formula E. Having Julius Baer, TAG and ABB - our title partner - all headquartered in Switzerland counts a lot and this is another great symbol of how Formula E is changing things: in a country where racing was banned, now there is going to be racing.
It’s good for motorsport in general that we open up new countries – especially a country like Switzerland, which has so much potential and so many companies there that can support motorsport. And one of our leading drivers, Sebastien Buemi, is from Switzerland, so I think it’s a perfect place for us to race.
There was some good momentum behind the event in Switzerland, so we just waited. They wanted to do it and some members of parliament had the initiative of pushing forward with a change in the law to permit racing and especially electric racing – and now it has happened.
There’s a lot of excitement already ahead of the event – they’re expecting a large turnout.
The championship is in a real growth phase at the moment. We have major new manufacturers coming into the sport, new races and some big-name drivers being attracted.
Nico won’t be racing, but it’s very exciting that Felipe Massa will join the championship in season five.
These things don’t happen overnight – Nico, Felipe, Zurich – everything is a result of a lot of work and preparation. I’ve been talking to Felipe for three years and he’s a great driver, a great guy – a personal friend, I am glad to say.
We pushed a lot for him to come, but at the end of the day it’s the teams who make the decisions – I cannot impose a driver on them – I can just hope that they will do it.
I’ve had a few messages from some other F1 drivers recently… but for us, where drivers come from is not so important. It's more the quality of the drivers and how they fit into the our ecosystem. Felipe will be great for Formula E.
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