Formula E: Electric Car or political race?


THE world watched the starting of Formula E, Season 8, electric car race in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia on Friday.

This may trigger our memory of when Sebastian Vettel won the Formula One (F1) Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit in 2017.

Night race in Diriyah (read the calendar from FIA Formula E.com).

Perhaps learning from Malaysia, Indonesia is thinking of holding a similar event on June 4, in the form of Formula E.

The article originally published in the New Straits Times, Malaysia, on 29 January 2022.

Last month, after getting the approval from the Formula E Operations and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, it was decided that the venue will be in Ancol, Jakarta, for three consecutive years.

Although not as prestigious as F1, Formula E will be perceived as a huge distinction for Indonesia.

Contested by twelve teams with two drivers each, the sport features electric-powered race cars similar in style to the hybrid-drive cars of F1.

Read news in Bahasa Indonesia (Kompas).

Formula E, which was supposed to be held in June 2020, has been postponed to June 2022.

Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan had said the safety of the people — due to the pandemic — was not worthy to be sacrificed for the sake of economic benefits.

The famous National Monument, or Monas, was chosen as the venue for the race. The Monas is a 132m obelisk in Merdeka Square, Jakarta. It was constructed during the time of former president Sukarno — the father of Megawati Soekarnoputri, the fifth president (2001-2004) who has been leading the strongest Indonesian party (Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, PDI-P) since 1999.

5 minutes video on the 2022 Diriyah E-Prix Round 1 (Race Highlights ):

Certain parties seemed to try everything to nullify the event, which will uplift — at least in their eyes — Baswedan’s standing.

Most of rejection came from members of Megawati’s PDI-P, whose daughter, Puan Maharani, is the head of Indonesian House of Representative.

Read (in Bahasa Indonesia): Posisi Pebalap, Hasil Diriyah E-Prix I (click di sini).

The party of current President Joko Widodo, who won the 2019 election by 55.5 per cent of the votes, PDI-P remains the largest party in Parliament.

If Monas is not going to be used, the safer plan is that Baswedan must choose a venue under his provincial government sole control (not under the rule of the central government), such as the north Jakarta seaside district of Ancol, not far from Kampung Akuarium and Jakarta International Stadium, two of Baswedan’s achievements in developing the capital city.

If this event is successfully held, then the world will see an extraordinary achievement for Jakarta.

It is Baswedan’s “biggest gambit” during his final year in office, wrote The Jakarta Post last year.

Certain parties do not wish this event be perceived as a great triumph by the governor, including a Jakarta’s local legislative PDI-P member.

They have been raising objections from all directions.

Not long after that, a report about the Jakarta Formula E committee was brought to the Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), claiming that Formula E would bring financial loss to the government.

“A nonsensical accusation,” some may say, since the event has yet to take place.

But Gilbert Simanjuntak from Jakarta PDI-P criticised Baswedan’s team who came to KPK, calling it a “lobbying attempt”.

The total cost of organising Formula E is 560 billion rupiah, which has been paid since 2019, using the regional revenue and expenditure budget.

There’s a high chance that Jakarta could obtain between 480 and 590 billion rupiah from ticket sales with additional positive impact of reviving Indonesia’s economy.

That is due to the presence of crowds, while local and international television channels will also gain advertisement benefits.

Will this accomplishment by Baswedan raise his prestige when he later runs for the 2024 presidential election or regain another governorship via Jakarta regional election (which will also run in 2024)?

Baswedan, however, has not shown his intention to step up as the president candidate.

It is also not clear whether he will also come forward as the next Jakarta governor candidate in the 2024 Jakarta election.

Nevertheless, people, especially the youth, are now wondering what will happen on June 4, as promoted by the ABB Formula E World Championship website in its calendar for Season 8 of 16 races in 12 worldwide locations.

Many might expect more spectators for the event, compared with Season 6 (2019), when 400 million watched it live in more than 100 countries.

Since the fee has been paid and preparation is underway, let the race begin, allowing young fans to be excited observing the Formula E.

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