New York City GP idea: How Formula E could provide F1 with a valuable lesson

Elizabeth Blackstock
Formula E in New York City

A race in New York? Formula E managed it, but F1 hasn't...yet.

Formula 1’s desire to grow its profile in the United States means a New York City GP could well appear on the map in future. The biggest problem? Logistics.

Between 2017 and 2022, fellow FIA series Formula E hosted a race on the Brooklyn Street Circuit in Red Hook, and while the event found success during its time, FE bosses faced countless struggles to keep the race going.

If F1 is truly prepared to make a NYC Grand Prix happen one day, it’ll need to look to its electric counterpart to understand just what needs to be done.

Public Space Isn’t So Public

In the United States, hosting a street race is no easy feat; the concept of “public space” really doesn’t exist here.

Alberto Longo, FE’s co-founder and chief championship officer, noted in Autoweek that, in order to race in Miami, the series had to gain approval from five different owners just to use a single parking lot.

The streets themselves only required negotiating with local politicians – but to close the sidewalks attached to those streets, FE had to negotiate with countless different stakeholders who all had some level of ownership of that space.

While F1 may have a much more robust track record and a bigger profile to ease negotiations, there are still countless parties that will have to approve the track even if it were to be held on recreational property.

Public Space Isn’t Big Enough

The relative size of an ePrix compared to a grand prix also presents significant logistical problems should F1 be interested in coming to New York City.

While NYC Mayor Eric Adams intends for F1 to utilize Randalls and Wards Islands in order to sequester the action, the sport still requires a significant amount of infrastructure that isn’t present in FE.

Thanks to the confined nature of street circuits, FE has learned to operate out of tents and small local buildings; generally, this is not a problem, as the teams don’t require the same permanent buildings needed by F1.

FE could easily work a race from a shipping container parking lot, but F1 is going to require far more space.

Local Shutdowns

That introduces issues regarding local shutdowns.

Yes, Randalls and Wards Islands are isolated from the goings-on of, say, Wall Street, but there will likely still be fierce opposition to any form of motorsport that intends to shut down recreational park space in order to host a racing event.

Randalls and Wards Islands have hosted events like Lollapalooza, Warped Tour, and even Cirque du Soleil, but motorsport always comes with detractors regarding noise, construction, environmental damage and extended closures of public space.

Where’s The Innovation?

A significant reason Formula E was able to succeed in New York City was thanks to its promise to showcase sustainable innovations in sustainable propulsion.

NYC intends to ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles beginning in 2035 and allowing Formula E to showcase the thrill of EVs was a significant factor in the Red Hook neighbourhood consenting to host an event.

Formula 1’s hybrid powertrains and biofuel may not be compelling enough to convince various local parties to sign off on a grand prix event, even with the incoming power unit regulations in 2026. recommends

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Primarily, that comes down to one main critique that has stymied East Coast street races for years: noise.

While Mayor Adams intends for the F1 race to be sequestered on a small island in the city, that island still features parks and green space that locals may wish to use in peace during a race weekend.

And no amount of hybrid engine promises can outweigh the fact that F1’s vehicles will still be noisy examples of an increasingly maligned technology.

Read next: Exclusive: How Andretti’s FE assault helped spark F1 bid into life

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