Formula E’s Alberto Longo sees bright future ahead for all-electric series

Exclusive Formula E’s Alberto Longo sees bright future ahead for all-electric series
Formula E’s popularity continues to rise year on year, and Formula E’s Alberto Longo pointed out that this was just the beginning. (fiaformulae.com)
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Updated 26 July 2022

Formula E’s Alberto Longo sees bright future ahead for all-electric series

Formula E’s Alberto Longo sees bright future ahead for all-electric series
  • Co-founder, chief championship officer tells Arab News about return of fans to Formula E, why Season 8 has been most exciting yet, what Gen3 car will bring in 2023

RIYADH: Formula E’s Season 8 is nearing its finish line, with only two race weekends remaining. As the 11 teams descend on London for rounds 13 and 14 on Saturday and Sunday, there is a case to be made for the current campaign being the most exciting since the all-electric, single-seater series launched in 2014.

For Alberto Longo, co-founder and chief championship officer of Formula E, the season has been a triumph after the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic over the last two years.

He told Arab News: “I think it has been fantastic the way that we have received fans back into Formula E. That I would say is the highlight, I think motorsport without fans is not motorsport. It was encouraging to see people in Diriyah, people in Mexico, a lot of people came to watch our races, which is fantastic.”

Longo believes the new sporting formats introduced to Formula E have resulted in dramatic title races for the drivers and the teams.

“I think we have another very competitive season in which we have four or five drivers that could actually win the championship.

“The sporting format, and especially the qualifying format, has demonstrated that we chose the right option. We had so many options on which way to go, I think we did take the right decision there.

“It is very entertaining from the minute they go out of the garages,” he said.

With two race events of the season remaining — London, on July 30 and 31, and Seoul, from Aug. 13 to 14 — Stoffel Vandoorne of Mercedes-EQ leads the drivers’ championship with 155 points, followed by Edoardo Mortara of ROKiT Venturi on 144. Mitch Evans of Jaguar Racing is third on 139 points, and Jean-Eric Vergne of DS Techeetah fourth with 128.

Mercedes-EQ lead the team standings on 238 points with ROKiT Venturi and DS Techeetah both on 228.

Despite both titles hanging in the balance, attention is already turning to what promises to be a landmark Season 9, which will kick off in Mexico City after four years (2018, 2019, 2021, and 2022) of Saudi Arabia hosting the opener with the Diriyah E-Prix.

Longo noted that putting the race calendar together was similar to puzzle solving.

“The decision behind (opening in Mexico) was basically because we are introducing for the first time ever the Gen3 car. The Gen3 preparations didn’t allow us to start in December. We needed to shuffle the whole calendar and squeeze it and put it into seven months.

“Basically, we are racing in the biggest cities in the world. There are only certain weekends that we can use those cities,” he added.

Pre-season testing will take place between Dec. 11 and 14, and Mexico City’s opening race will be on Jan. 14. Saudi Arabia’s double-header of night races will remain a fixture of the season, taking place on Jan. 27 and 28.

Longo said: “For sure Saudi wanted to have the weekend that they were racing at. And that for me was my priority. I always call our friends from Saudi first and they wanted that date.

“I basically keep on shaping the calendar based on the two or three races that are always fixed in it. And one of them obviously is Saudi. The other one is Monaco; it has to be on a specific day.

“I think going to Mexico in the first round is good because we will start with a lot of people watching the race, with a crowd of 50,000 people there. And then we go to the fantastic venue of Diriyah with two night races. I think it’s a very, very strong start to the season,” he added.

After the introduction of the Jakarta E-Prix in Indonesia this year, Season 9 will see yet another new venue in Asia: The Indian city of Hyderabad.

“We’re a global championship, so we intend to be on every single continent. And we have done that almost from year one in the championship, and that’s something that we’re very proud of. Asia is a key market for us, as you can imagine,” Longo said.

However, the introduction of China, which has been on the cards for some time, will have to wait.

“Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we still are not very confident that we can actually do the race there. There are still a lot of travel restrictions to China. Unfortunately, there are no major events happening there at the moment,” he added.

The Gen3 car was unveiled before the Monaco E-Prix at the end of April and Longo is excited at what it will bring to the championship.

He said: “You can expect a nimbler car, a more racing car, obviously quicker. The technology has allowed us to make a lighter car. Mixed together, all that has created a beast, I just love that car. It’s going to be much quicker, and it’s going to allow way more overtaking.

“It’s a car that is capable of producing or generating 40 percent of the total energy that it uses during the race. It’s a unique piece of technology.”

Formula E’s popularity continues to rise year on year, and Longo pointed out that this was just the beginning.

“Let me give just one figure: 13 million live viewers in Indonesia. There are not many sports events in the world that can do that. Only one single country, we managed 13 million people watching Formula E. That’s outstanding. For me as the co-founder of the championship, I feel so proud.

“There is a lot more to do, don’t get me wrong. I think we are just like 5 percent there. We still have to grow 95 percent, and there is a lot of work to do. But you obviously have to feel very proud of what has been done,” Longo added.

An indication of Formula E’s yearly progress since 2014 can be seen in the new cities introduced to the calendar as well as the addition of manufacturers, now including the likes of Maserati and McLaren.

Above all, for Longo, are those who sit behind the wheel.

He said: “Drivers are key for us; I think the level of drivers that we have in Formula E is better than any other motorsport championship. I see other championships with megastars, and we would love to have those stars as well. But I feel the quality of the 22 drivers of Formula E, I don’t see anywhere else.

“You can feel it in the races, that almost anybody can win. We have created a championship in which we give value to the driver. I think we are humanizing motorsport, because before that, whoever had the best car was the one winning. In Formula E, it doesn’t happen that way. It’s the driver who makes the difference,” he added.


Olympic skate star helps launch Mideast’s largest park in Sharjah

Olympic skate star helps launch Mideast’s largest park in Sharjah
Updated 29 November 2022

Olympic skate star helps launch Mideast’s largest park in Sharjah

Olympic skate star helps launch Mideast’s largest park in Sharjah
  • Final phase of facility at megaproject Aljada was designed by Australia’s Keegan Palmer, the sport’s first-ever gold medalist

SHARJAH: Aljada Skate Park, the largest facility of its kind in the Middle East, has opened in Sharjah.

Located in the Madar family entertainment district of the Aljada community, the facility was opened by Australia’s Keegan Palmer, the skateboarding Olympic gold medalist, who designed its third phase.

Launched by developers Arada and spread over a 90,000 square foot (8,361 square meter) area, Aljada Skate Park contains sections for every level, from beginner to professional.

The pro-level phase of the facility contains design elements inspired by famous skate parks from around the world, including Bondi Beach and Salt Lake City, where Palmer has competed. This includes a large vert wall that can also be found at the Ariake Urban Sports Park in Tokyo, where he won the gold medal in 2021.

“This is not only the largest but also the most challenging and creative skate park anywhere in the region,” said Palmer. “Aljada Skate Park is now a focal point for the growing skate community here in the UAE, and I’m very excited about the future plans that we have for this amazing facility.”

Ahmed Alkhoshaibi, group CEO of Arada, said: “Our strategy has always been to deliver world-class facilities to inspire residents and visitors to our communities, and Aljada Skate Park is no exception. We’re delighted to support this rapidly growing sport here in the UAE and will shortly be sharing our plans to put Sharjah on the map as a global destination for professional skateboarding.”

Among those who joined Palmer and Alkhoshaibi at the park’s launch on Nov. 26 were Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, vice chairman of Arada, and Sabatino Aracu, president of World Skate, the global governing body.

Over the course of the weekend, skaters from across the UAE and beyond heard Keegan talk about his Olympic and Aljada journeys, as well as the chance to learn tricks at special clinics. In addition, another of the world’s top skaters, Pedro Barros, who won silver at Tokyo in 2021, also impressed the crowd with his skills.

On Saturday, skaters were able to show their skills and compete to win prizes during the Skate & Chill event hosted by California shoe brand Vans. The organizers gave away prizes for the best tricks performed over six sections of Aljada Skate Park, with visitors also treated to a festival atmosphere along with giveaways, a DJ, food and the opportunity to customize the brand’s shoes.

Special guests from the Gabriel Can Foundation, which aims to teach children diagnosed with autism to skate, were given a warm welcome with an hour-long event designed for them.

Spread over a 24 million square foot (2.2 million square meter) area and with 25,000 homes, Aljada is Sharjah’s largest-ever project. Since opening in early 2020, the Madar at Aljada entertainment district has welcomed over three million visitors.

The first phase of Madar contains the Aljada Discovery Center, the Zad food truck district, a free-to-enter drive-in cinema, a children’s adventure playground, an indoor events space, and an outdoor amphitheater. Scheduled to open next year, the second phase of Madar will contain a Wellfit gym — Sharjah’s largest fitness space — and a BOUNCE trampoline park.


Chelsea draws trip to Manchester City in FA Cup third round

Chelsea draws trip to Manchester City in FA Cup third round
Updated 29 November 2022

Chelsea draws trip to Manchester City in FA Cup third round

Chelsea draws trip to Manchester City in FA Cup third round
  • Chelsea will head to Manchester when the big guns enter the competition over the weekend of Jan. 6-9

LONDON: To reach a fourth consecutive FA Cup final, Chelsea will have to go through Manchester City in the third round.
Chelsea will head to Manchester when the big guns enter the competition over the weekend of Jan. 6-9.
The Blues have made it to Wembley in each of the last three years, but have ultimately gone down to Arsenal, Leicester and Liverpool respectively.
Liverpool, which beat Chelsea on penalties last season to lift the trophy for the eighth time, launches its defense at Anfield against English Premier League struggler Wolverhampton.
Erik ten Hag will get his first taste of world football’s oldest club competition when Manchester United hosts Everton. West Ham makes the short trip to Brentford, and Southampton travels to Crystal Palace.
Premier League leader Arsenal and high-flying Newcastle drew away games at League One sides Oxford and Sheffield Wednesday.
Tottenham hosts League One’s Portsmouth, and Brighton travels to Middlesbrough in FA Cup winner Michael Carrick’s first taste of the competition as Boro boss. Championship rivals Cardiff host Leeds, and Burnley go to Bournemouth.
Nottingham Forest and Fulham both face second-tier opposition on the road in the shape of Blackpool and Hull respectively.
Aston Villa welcome fourth-tier Stevenage, and Leicester face either fifth-tier Dagenham & Redbridge or League Two’s Gillingham.


New look for Formula E season 9 as Gen3 era set to begin

New look for Formula E season 9 as Gen3 era set to begin
Updated 29 November 2022

New look for Formula E season 9 as Gen3 era set to begin

New look for Formula E season 9 as Gen3 era set to begin
  • World’s best electric race car arrives for pre-season testing in Valencia next month
  • India, South Africa and Brazil to host races for the first time, as Maserati and McLaren debut in Mexico City on Jan. 14

LONDON: Formula E has unveiled a fresh new look ahead of season nine of the ABB FIA World Championship, with the debut of the Gen3 car accompanied by new races, cities, teams and sporting formats.

The Gen3 — the fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient electric race car ever built — will make its competitive debut in round one in Mexico City on Jan. 14, following pre-season testing next month in Valencia.

The championship will continue with three new cities hosting Formula E races for the first time: Hyderabad, India (round four on Feb. 11); Cape Town, South Africa (round five on Feb. 25) and Sao Paulo, Brazil (round six on March 25).

McLaren and Maserati are new to the Formula E grid next season. They will join some of the biggest names in motorsport including Jaguar, Porsche and Nissan among the 11 teams and 22 drivers competing for world titles.

Sporting regulation updates include a return to racing over laps; rookie drivers taking a seat for teams in FP1 sessions; and a plan to introduce a 30-second 4 kilowatt-hours “Attack Charge” boost at select races, made possible through the development of the most advanced EV battery in the world today.


Swiss loss sets up enticing rematch with Serbia 

Swiss loss sets up enticing rematch with Serbia 
Updated 29 November 2022

Swiss loss sets up enticing rematch with Serbia 

Swiss loss sets up enticing rematch with Serbia 
  • Group G game between Switzerland and Serbia has been one to keep an eye on
  • It's not just because of the talented players on both teams, but because of the political tensions they brought on the field

DOHA: Switzerland’s loss made their upcoming World Cup rematch all the more enticing, and with a lot more on the line.

Ever since the match schedule was made in April, the Group G game between Switzerland and Serbia has been one to keep an eye on. Not just because of the talented players on both teams, but because of the political tensions they brought on the field when they met at the last World Cup.

Four years ago in Russia, Switzerland captain Granit Xhaka celebrated his goal against Serbia by making a double-headed eagle with his hands — thumbs representing the heads of the two eagles, fingers fanned to look like feathers. The figure is considered to be an Albanian nationalist symbol.

Xherdan Shaqiri added another goal in the final minute of the game, and did the same thing with his hands as the Swiss won 2-1 in the second of the three group matches.

Xhaka and Shaqiri both have ethnic Albanian heritage and family ties to Kosovo. They were teenagers growing up in Switzerland when Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, something the Serbs still don’t recognize 14 years later.

Both players were fined by FIFA during the tournament, and the government of Albania opened a bank account for people to contribute toward paying the 10,000 Swiss franc ($10,500) penalties.

On Friday, only one of the two teams will be able to advance to the round of 16 in Qatar. Brazil, who beat the Swiss 1-0 on Monday and defeated Serbia 2-0 last Thursday, have already assured themselves of a spot in the knockout round.

The Swiss likely need only a draw at Stadium 974, and Shaqiri should be available to play after sitting out the match against Brazil with a muscle injury.

Xhaka, now 30 and a mature leader for his country, brushed aside the controversial match from four years ago.

“(There’s) nothing in the history behind these two games,” the Arsenal midfielder said. “We are Switzerland, they are Serbia, that’s it. We are here to play football — them, us as well.”

Still, the Serbian delegation at this year’s World Cup has already made the politics of Kosovo an issue.

Serbia’s locker room ahead of their opening game against Brazil displayed a national flag with territory that included Kosovo and the slogan “No Surrender.” FIFA opened a disciplinary case against the Serbian soccer federation on Saturday.

The Kosovo Soccer Federation formally complained to FIFA after a photograph circulated and the country’s sports minister, Hajjrulla Ceku, described the image as using the World Cup to promote “hateful, xenophobic and genocidal messages.”

The Swiss advanced to the round of 16 in 2018 after a draw with Costa Rica in their final group match, while the Serbs were eliminated after losing to Brazil. This time, the teams go head-to-head in their final group game.

“Of course, the history is the history,” said Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer, who also played against Serbia four years ago in Kaliningrad. “But in this moment it will be the game that is important.

“We know this game already,” Sommer added. “We had it in Russia.”


Juventus board of directors and president Agnelli resign

Juventus board of directors and president Agnelli resign
Updated 29 November 2022

Juventus board of directors and president Agnelli resign

Juventus board of directors and president Agnelli resign
  • The stunning move follows a preliminary investigation by the Turin Public Prosecutor’s Office into fraudulent accounting

TURIN, Italy: Juventus’ board of directors and president Andrea Agnelli resigned en masse on Monday.

The stunning move follows a preliminary investigation by the Turin Public Prosecutor’s Office into fraudulent accounting, of alleged hidden payments to players.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Juventus said 23 players agreed to reduce their salary for four months to help the club through the crisis. But its claimed the players gave up only one month’s salary.

A shareholders meeting rescheduled for Dec. 27 was postponed again to Jan. 18 to choose a new board.