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Formula E nearly turned a profit during the pandemic

Formula E nearly turned a profit during the pandemic


Canceling races and performing without fans didn’t make as big a dent as it might have seemed

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Photo by Sean O’Kane / The Verge

All-electric racing series Formula E very nearly turned its first profit during the 2019–2020 season, its sixth, despite canceling nine of the 14 races originally scheduled in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Six of those races were eventually made up at a single track in Berlin, Germany, which — along with other internal changes — ultimately helped bring the series’s total costs down.

All told, Formula E lost just €38,514 before taxes during its sixth season, down from a €10.6 million loss in season five (about $45,700 and $11.6 million, respectively), according to a new filing with the UK’s Companies House Registry. That’s despite the series bringing in less money — revenue dropped to €143 million down from €161.5 million in season five ($169.6 million and $177.6 million, respectively), thanks to lost ticket sales and other moneymaking sponsorship agreements tied to the canceled races.

It was the first time ever that Formula E generated less revenue than in the prior season — in fact, through season four, the series had nearly doubled the amount of revenue it generated each year, as it locked down bigger deals with race sponsors and host countries like Saudi Arabia. But while the pandemic caused millions of people around the world to lose their jobs, Formula E actually increased the number of people it employed during season six to 97, up from 89 in season five.

It’s a remarkable testament to the success of the young series, which was widely teased when it launched in 2014 but now features more manufacturers than any other motorsport in the world. Automakers like Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Nissan, and Jaguar have flocked to the series because of its relative low cost (especially when compared to something like Formula One) and because it’s an attractive way to promote their electrification efforts. In fact, despite BMW and Audi announcing that they will leave Formula E at the end of the seventh season, Formula E will still feature more automakers than other racing series.

Formula E said in the filing that it expects to be able to generate increasing amounts of revenue now that it has protocols in place to deal with the pandemic and is back to putting on races in front of fans. (The series just put on two races in New York City this past weekend, and is slated to wrap up season seven in August.) Though, if it struggles to do that, the series has built out a bit more of a safety net. According to the filing, Formula E dramatically increased its cash buffer in season six, ending the 2020 fiscal year with nearly €83 million in the bank, up from just €8.3 million in season five ($98.4 million and $9.8 million, respectively).