Jakarta is almost inconceivably big. The largest city in Southeast Asia, it lies on the northwest coast of Java, the world’s most populated island. The city – or Special Capital Region – covers 664.01km2 (256.38 sq mi), and is home to more than 11 million people, while the city’s urban area stretches out across 3,540km2 (1,367 sq mi) and has a staggering 34.5 million inhabitants, making it the second-largest urban area in the world after Tokyo.
It might be one of the modern world’s most remarkable cities, but Jakarta is also one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Southeast Asia. Established in the fourth century as Sunda Kelapa, an important trading port for the Sunda Kingdom, these beginnings can still be found in the north of modern-day Jakarta.
It’s difficult to overstate Jakarta’s global importance. As an Alpha World City, Jakarta is recognised as a connective hub for world finance and law and is the seat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, along with the home of the Bank of Indonesia and the Indonesia Stock Exchange.
Past and present
Jakarta is a city swirling with cultural and architectural echoes, reflecting Malay, Javanese, Dutch, Arabic and Chinese influences. While plenty of the city’s colonial past can still be found in Jakarta Old Town, the post-independence architectural boom saw many colonial buildings demolished, to make way for a modern vision led by trained architect and Indonesia’s first President, Sukarno.
Jakarta's National Monument
It’s one of the world’s fastest-growing tourist hotspots, thanks to its melting pot background, with famous landmarks such as the Istiqlal Mosque (the largest in Southeast Asia), Jakarta Cathedral and the Jakarta History Museum, housed in the former city hall of Batavia, the capital of what was the Dutch East Indies.
The city’s most famous landmark is undoubtedly the National Monument, a 132m-tall obelisk in the centre of Merdeka Square. The monument, topped with a flame covered in gold foil, symbolises Indonesia’s struggle for and ultimate gaining of independence.
Jakarta faces huge challenges from climate change and flooding. The city is sinking up to 17cm every year, which, alongside rising sea levels due to climate change, makes Jakarta a climate emergency. There’s no more vital a time for Formula E and other environmentally-focussed initiatives to join the city’s fight for a greener future.
Jakarta's sustainability drive
Like in any rapidly-developing mega-city, air pollution and fossil fuel usage are major issues for Jakarta, but times are changing.
In September 2019, the government set a goal of 10,051 e-buses by 2030, with over 50 per cent fleet electrification by 2025 and full electrification by 2030. There’s also currently a ‘three to one’ rule, where cars with less than three passengers are banned during rush hour. Millions of electric two-wheelers are planned for the city by 2025, with more than a dozen manufacturers so far setting up electric vehicle facilities in Indonesia. A range of green fiscal policies are being put in place, including potential taxes and an already established low-cost green car programme.
In 2016, officials in Jakarta committed to reducing the city’s water and energy consumption by 30 per cent, and incorporating 30 per cent energy from renewable sources by 2030. New coal-fired power projects are banned from 2023, and solar power initiatives are proving promising, with solar panels installed on almost 100 schools.
While the track in Jakarta is a new world for the drivers, Asia is among the championship’s most visited continents. Formula E has raced on the continent 16 times since 2014, and the first ever Formula E race took place in Beijing, while the 50th was held in Hong Kong.
Before this season, the championship had seen races in five Asian locations – along with Hong Kong and Beijing, the series has wowed crowds in Malaysia’s Purtajaya, Diriyah in Saudi Arabia and Sanya on the South China Sea.
Two drivers with particularly good memories of racing in Asia are Lucas di Grassi and Sam Bird: di Grassi has been on the podium eight times on the continent, while Bird has won a quarter of all Formula E’s races across the five locations. They’ll both be hoping to add Jakarta to their trophy collections.
The 2.37km Jakarta International E-Prix circuit sits in the Ancol area of the city, on the coast of Jakarta Bay and the Java Sea. Unusually for Formula E, the JIEC is a purpose-built track designed to create a lasting legacy in the city and reignite the area after the pandemic. The circuit will be available for use by both the Ancol Beach resort as well as other national and international motorsport events. It's also intended to be a focal point for the country's EV drive, with the aim of going all-EV by 2050 set firm in policy.
The clockwise track is inspired by the Kuda Lumping (or Flat Horse in English), a traditional Javanese dance that portrays troops riding horses made from woven bamboo and decorated with paints and fabrics. Erratic dancing gives way to a dancer in a flowing, trance-like state, displaying extraordinary physical strength and endurance.
We saw this more than reflected in the racing last year, with a fast and flowing circuit highlighted by a flat-out sequence from Turn 4 to Turn 13. Turn 11’s banking and Turn 16’s ATTACK MODE loop giving drivers extra room to push themselves and their cars to the absolute limit.