Ad Diriyah ePrix: The tale of two different races

Season 6 of Formula E kicked off again this weekend and the double header certainly did not disappoint, treating fans to two action-packed races in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s capital. Ultimately, it would be BMW’s Alexander Sims who walked away from the weekend as the championship leader. The British driver snatched his second pole away in the opening race ahead of tough competition from Mercedes duo Nyck de Vries and Stoffel Vandoorne, with a time of 1.14.563, allowing him to claim the crucial three points as de Vries’s final sector fell just short and he fell to P3 as his teammate Vandoorne snatched away a front row position. Venturi’s Mortara solidified Mercedes’ strong start to their debut season as he bagged P4 for the customer team ahead of Sam Bird and Jerome D’Ambrosio who both made costly mistakes on their flying laps.

Sims made a clean getaway from the chasing Mercedes at the start of race one and held the lead, whilst further down the field, Bird became locked in a battle with Mortara and D’Ambrosio as the trio fought to chase down the two Mercedes ahead. Bird finally managed to slip past de Vries with fifteen minutes left on the clock and that set the wheels in motion. As Vandoorne was trying to protect his position from a chasing Bird, he managed to take the lead from Sims who dropped back to P3. Bird continued to pressure Vandoorne who was yet to use his attack mode and took the lead with ten minutes remaining. The Envision Virgin driver was pressured a little later in the dying moments of the race by a safety car brought out by Daniel Abt’s accident but he held firm to scoop his ninth win of his Formula E career, with Lotterer and Vandoorne rounding off the podium and taking Porsche’s and Mercedes’ first podiums respectively as poleman Sims slipped to eighth.

Credit: Courtesy of Formula E

Sims however, was determined to not make the same mistakes again, and took pole position once more in the second qualifying session, taking the record of most consecutive poles – three – along the way. The BMW driver fought off stiff competition from Buemi and di Grassi to take the three points for the second time that weekend as D’Ambrosio tapped the wall on his fast lap and Da Costa struggled in the early stages compromising his lap. It was not the start that DS Techeetah wanted, with reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne having a weekend to forget as he was forced out of race one and into the pits, and was hit with a grid penalty prior to the second race, leaving him at the back of the pack.

Sims again had a strong start holding off previous champions Buemi and di Grassi for the lead as Da Costa sensed the opportunity to snatch P3 away from di Grassi, eager to hand Techeetah their first win of the season. However, as he chased down Buemi, he made contact with the Nissan driver, forcing spinning off the track for which he picked up a drive through penalty. Bird also made gains as he and Evans began a duel that would last until a slight contact sent the Envision Virgin driver into the wall and out of the race, leaving Evans also with a time penalty for causing the collision. Virgin’s luck did not improve when Robin Frijns sent his car into the wall, leaving the championship contenders with no points in the second race, a marked disappointment from the first.

As one of two safety cars was sent out in order for Frijns’ car to be recovered, on the restart, Max Gunther slipped past di Grassi and into P3, a manouvre that cost him dearly as despite claiming P2, the position was stripped away a few hours after the race and the German was served with a time penalty. Da Costa peeled into the pits to serve his penalty as his former team seemed set for a 1-2 finish. Di Grassi passed Vandoorne for the final podium position in the closing stages of the race, but it was to no avail as Sims clinched his first ever Formula E win. After penalties were applied, Di Grassi was promoted to P2 and Vandoorne joining him in P3 for his second podium finish of the season. However, his teammate de Vries was handed a time penalty for overtaking during the safety car, an unfortunate end to a stunning drive up into the points whilst NIO’s Oliver Turvey had his points cruelly snatched away and was disqualified from the race due to energy overconsumption.

Formula E will return in Santiago on January 18th.

Legendary Races Week: 2014 Beijing ePrix 2014

The proposal for a city-based electric car championship was initially conceived by Jean Todt, and presented before politicians Alejandro Agag, the eventual CEO of the sport, and Antonio Tajani in Paris on the 3rd March 2011. However, it would be over another three years before the series would actually come into fruition. The first Formula E race was held on 13th September 2014 in Beijing, the capital city of China. Twenty cars, all of the same specification lined up on the grid, all run by different teams, with some household names such as Renault and Audi amongst the mix. Many of the drivers involved too were familiar to people in motorsport – with the likes of Sebastien Buemi, Jaimi Alguersuari and Nick Heidfeld all participating in the inaugural race.

Nico Prost of Renault e.dams snatched pole position, ahead of the Audi Sport Abt cars of Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt, taking three valuable points for the coveted position. It was a sign of things to come – of the dominance that Renault would hold over the championship for the next three years, and the fierce rivalry between themselves and the Audi Sport Abt team. Prost held off pressure from the two chasing Abt cars at the start to keep hold of his lead, whilst Nick Heidfeld managed to get an excellent start off the line, picking off Franck Montagny and Karun Chandhok to place himself directly behind the leading trio. Contact on the opening lap lead to a broken suspension for Bruno Senna who found himself out of contention whilst Jarno Trulli was forced to stop after battery issues. The technical problems faced by the drivers and their teams were to be expected in a newly-fangled championship in which much of the technology had not been subjected to true racing conditions.

Credit: LAT/Formula E

Senna’s stricken car brought out the safety car on the second lap, where it remained for three laps before racing resumed. Montagny was immediately aggressive on the restart, forcing his way through on Alguersuari in the exit of turn 19 for P6. The Spaniard also fell victim to teammate Sam Bird, who monopolised on the opportunity to snatch away P7. Montagny continued to push as he disposed of Chandhok in the final corner on lap 10 before moving onto Heidfeld as the race approached half distance. However, Heidfeld held firm as the two cars entered the pitlane to jump into their second cars. The car-swap pitstop is another indicator of how far the battery technology Formula E has come within the last few years, with the Gen 2 cars lasting a maximum of 45 minutes without the need for a second car.

As the pitstops were completed, Prost continued to lead as Heidfeld got the jump on the two Audi Abt cars ahead of him slotting himself into P2, with Montagny beating Abt into P4. Heidfeld began to be pressured by Di Grassi almost immediately, allowing Prost to pull a gap of around 3.5 seconds, extending to just under 4 seconds on lap 16. However, within the next three laps, Heidfeld began to gain vital ground on the race leader, slashing Prost’s advantage to just under a second. The German continued to apply pressure on Prost until the final lap. Heidfeld swung to the right as they approached the final corner at turn 20, only for Prost to turn into the Venturi at the last moment, sending Heidfeld careering off the track and into the barriers. Prost sheepishly pulled over, allowing di Grassi to take the lead of the race and win the first ever Formula E race. It was almost apt in a way – di Grassi was sought out by Agag to become the official test driver for the first Formula E car and was heavily involved in aspects of its development. He was joined on the podium by Montagny and  Bird after Abt was penalised for exceeding the maximum amount of permitted energy, demoting him from the final podium position.

Credit: LAT/Formula E

However, as Heidfeld crawled out from underneath his stricken car, he probably never thought that he could have been the one to make history, his mind no doubt was clouded with anger towards Prost for ending his race. Looking back on the race now, and the strong position that Formula E finds itself in, with arguably the largest number of manufacturers in any single-seater motorsport series and the highest pedigree of drivers now pushing for careers within the championship, it showcases how far the series has come in a few short years – both in terms of technical development and public opinion.

Formula E is becoming a well-known brand, a far cry from the days where it was written off as a graveyard series for ex-F1 drivers – it now flourishes, bringing the concept of sustainable energy into the heart of cities with competition for seats in the series fierce and manufacturing giants such as Mercedes, Porsche and Audi actively creating programmes to race in the series. But every legend has to start somewhere – and for Formula E, it was in Beijing, where twenty cars lined up on the grid, not knowing that in a few short years, they would help to forge the beginnings of a new championship that grows from strength to strength. It is for this reason, that the Beijing ePrix will be remembered as a legendary race and for sparking the beginning of a new, exciting motorsport series that would continue to divide opinion.

Jean Eric Bern!: Vergne claims victory in Switzerland

Jean-Eric Vergne cemented his status at the top of the championship yesterday by claiming a dominant third victory on the streets of Switzerland. Starting from pole position, the reigning French champion looked unbothered in the penultimate round of Formula E, managing to hold off an aggressive Mitch Evans to seal the win and extend his lead to 32 points over his nearest rival,  Techeetah teammate Andre Lotterer, with Evans and hometown hero Sebastien Buemi taking the last two podium positions.

Qualifying was again crucial as the drivers had limited track time yesterday in shakedown with the circuit nestled in the streets of Bern still being built. Di Grassi was the first man out on track, hoping to consolidate his second placed position in the Driver’s Championship, but it was Techeetah’s Vergne who impressed to scoop the top spot in the first group, ahead of his teammate Lotterer and Robin Frijns by three tenths. However, Vergne’s lead was soon eroded by Mitch Evans, winner of the previous ePrix held in Switzerland whilst Sebastien Buemi and Daniel Abt slotted into P3 and P4 respectively at the halfway mark. Edo Mortara, another local, on the other hand struggled and could only scrape into P14 in his Venturi whilst Pascal Wehrlein continued his excellent qualifying form by snatching P3, the rookie’s fifth appearance in superpole seemed inevitable. The final group could not challenge Evans’ lightning-quick time, bar Maxi Gunther who took P5, an excellent showing for the rookie hoping to impress ahead of the new season. Evans took the spoils in the initial stages, followed by Vergne, Wehrlein, Buemi, Gunther and Bird.

Photo by Alastair Staley / LAT Images

Bird set the initial pace with a decent time of 1.19.536 in the opening superpole stages, but his time was soon eclipsed by Gunther who found an additional one tenth in his Dragon. The track conditions continued to evolve as Buemi was the next driver to snatch the provisional pole away by two tenths of a second in front of a delighted home crowd. Wehrlein looked set to continue his excellent qualifying run, however, despite a brilliant first sector, the Mahindra driver locked up into turn 9 and had to settle for the provisional front row behind Buemi, beaten by just four thousandths of a second. However, it was Jev that continued his excellent form this weekend with a monster lap of a 1.18.813, three tenths clear of the other leaders. It fell to Evans to prevent Techeetah dominance, but the Kiwi just fell short of the mark, having to settle for P2 as Vergne took his first pole position of the season.

Vergne started strongly from pole, but there was chaos within the opening lap as D’Ambrosio shunted Frijns into the wall, putting the Dutchman out of the race and out of championship contention with driveshaft failure. The race was red flagged whilst Frijns’ car was extracted from the circuit and the race clock was reset. As racing got underway again, Vergne came under pressure from Evans and the Jaguar driver continued to press at the reigning champion for the remainder of the race.

Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images

On the other side of the Virgin garage, Bird fought his car through the order, first dispatching of Gunther for P5 before squeezing Wehrlein for P4 before the German rookie ground at a halt just before the attack mode zone presumably with a battery issue. Bird continued his charge, piling pressure on Buemi for P3 before the Swiss driver snatched it back a few laps later. Bird then fell victim to a hungry Lotterer, after a mistake caused him to lock up and the Techeetah driver was able to dive down the inside of the Virgin car. As the time ticked down, the top four were within seconds of one another but Vergne was able to hold off Evans’ attack to claim his third victory of the season and claim the voestalpine European race trophy. Evans had to settle for P2, with Buemi claiming the final podium position much to the delight of the Swiss crowd.

The final two rounds of the Formula E season takes place in New York on July 13th and 14th.

Another home run!: di Grassi hands Audi their consecutive second home win in Berlin

Lucas di Grassi gave Audi the bragging rights over rivals BMW and HWA by claiming his second win of the season at the team’s home race. Although it was not a mirror of last year’s dominant display with Daniel Abt and di Grassi’s 1-2, the latter swept past polesitter Sebastien Buemi and remained untroubled throughout the race to move up to second in the championship, with Buemi and current reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne claiming the remaining podium positions.

Qualifying was again crucial with group one again struggling to stay in the coveted superpole spots as the track conditions improved. Di Grassi was the quickest man in the first group whilst Andre Lotterer was hampered by the Brazilian Audi driver mistiming his lap, leaving his hopes of superpole increasingly slim. Robin Frijns also suffered with a problem with his Virgin car, coupled with a five-place penalty from the previous race to leave him dead last. HWA on the other hand, enjoyed an excellent qualifying session with Stoffel Vandoorne and Gary Paffett making their way into the top six superpole shootout. Alex Lynn also impressed to take his first appearance in superpole, but it was Nissan’s Buemi who took the spoils in the initial stages, beating out Vandoorne for the provisional top spot.

Photo by Malcolm Griffiths / FE Media

Di Grassi was the first man out on track in superpole and set the initial pace, slotting himself into P1, a position he would continue to occupy as Paffett, Lynn and Alexander Sims failed to topple the Brazilian’s time. However, it was fierce rival Buemi who continued Nissan’s impressive qualifying record to break the deadlock by four-tenths of a second. With again Vandoorne again showcased his impressive qualifying form by disposing of the Audi driver by three-tenths of a second, another excellent result for the Japanese outfit. It fell to Vandoorne and HWA to prevent the fourth Nissan pole of the season and net the coveted top spot for themselves at their home race, but Vandoorne could not match Buemi’s time, trailing the Swiss driver by three-tenths of a second. Buemi took his second pole position of the season with Vandoorne and di Grassi rounding out the top three.

Buemi managed to hold the lead in the opening stages of the race, as Vandoorne was disposed of by di Grassi for P2. Six laps later, di Grassi performed the same manoeuvre heading into turn six to snatch the lead away from the leading Nissan. It was a position that di Grassi upheld for the remainder of the race, relatively untroubled by his racing rival and spurred on by the contingent of Schaeffler and Audi fans in the grandstands. Lotterer made ground in the opening stages, fighting his way up through the order after a poor qualifying, whilst his teammate Vergne followed suit, a podium very much on his mind, carving through the field from P9. BMW’s Antonio Felix da Costa was equally spurred on to claim his second win of the season as after starting from P8, he had managed to force his way through the field to pressure Buemi for P2. Buemi conceded the spot, only to activate his attack mode and claim the position back from the BMW, leaving da Costa in P3.

Photo by Sam Bloxham / LAT Images

As the time ticked down, Vergne began to pressure da Costa for the final podium position, with Abt and Vandoorne battling behind. Vergne eventually got the job done into turn 10, snatching P3 away as Lynn’s Jaguar forced the racing to neutralise when his car stopped on the start-finish straight with what appeared to be a hydraulics issue. It was a shame for the Jaguar driver who had been running in the points when his car stopped, bringing out the full course yellow. Another driver to be hit with bad luck was Lotterer who after storming up the standings, was forced to retire his Techeetah due to an overheating battery issue, ending his home race moments before the end.

Buemi held off a hungry Vergne in the closing stages of the race to keep hold of P2, his first podium since last season’s Marrakesh ePrix, whilst di Grassi held firm under pressure and sailed to victory, sealing a home win for Audi for the second consecutive year. The win also catapulted the Brazilian up the standings, but it was not enough to disturb current championship leader Vergne whose P3 finish allowed him to extend his lead at the top of the standings.

Formula E will return for the inaugural Bern ePrix on May 23rd.

First for Frijns! Dutchman scoops maiden win in rainy Paris

Robin Frijns scored his first ever win in Formula E, becoming the eighth different winner this season and keeping the winning streak intact as he triumphed in adverse weather conditions at the Paris ePrix this weekend. Frijns, the first Dutchman to win a race in the series, started from P3 but took advantage of the failures of both Nissans and fought off an attacking Lotterer and damage to his front wing from contact with Sebastien Buemi to claim his first well-deserved win of the series and subsequently took the championship lead.

Qualifying proved critical due to the significantly narrowed streets that make up the Paris circuit. The first group again struggled to extract performance on track with previous race winner Mitch Evans languishing at the bottom of the timing screens due to a scrappy lap. The second group did not fare much better with hometown hero Jean-Eric Vergne only managing to grasp P5 and Sam Bird scrapping into P8. BMW’s heartache continued as Antonio Felix da Costa could only manage P9. However, it was Envision Racing’s Frijns who managed to snatch the top spot with a super-aggressive lap that left him as the man to beat.

Group three benefited from improving track conditions as Oliver Rowland soon claimed the top spot by one-tenth of a second with teammate Buemi, Pascal Wehrlein and Felipe Massa all slotting themselves into superpole contention. The final group failed to threaten the top six drivers, with Dragon’s Jose Maria Lopez the only promise only to run wide at turn 3, ruining his lap, leaving Rowland, Wehrlein, Buemi, Frijns, D’Ambrosio, and Massa to snatch the pole away.

Credit: LAT/Formula E

Massa took to the track first in superpole, earning himself an impressive time of 1.01.217. D’Ambrosio followed, but struggled and had to settle behind the Brazilian after a scrappy lap left him adrift by a hundredth of a second. Frijns continued his impressive run of form with another aggressive lap, slotting himself into P1 before he was disposed by Buemi on his run.

However, as the time ticked down, it once again became a battle of the rookies as Wehrlein again showed his impressive form, moving into the coveted top spot by a margin of four tenths. Only Rowland could challenge the Mahindra man, but fell short and had to settle for another front row start, leaving Wehrlein to claim his second pole of the season. However, celebrations were short-lived as both Wehrlein and D’Ambrosio were demoted to the back of the grid after failing scrutineering due to tyre pressures, leaving Rowland to inherit the top spot.

Due to rain showers just before the start, the race began under safety car due to the adverse track conditions causing unfair disadvantages. Rowland held the lead as racing commenced and Lotterer began to pile pressure on Maxi Gunther for P5, eager to move up the standings. However, Rowland’s luck soon ran out as the Nissan rookie locked up, sending him flying into the barriers at turn 10 as his teammate Buemi moved into the lead.

With Frijns moving into P2, he began to pressure Buemi for the lead of the race, forcing the two to make contact as Buemi attempted to activate his attack mode. Frijns expressed concern over his front wing which had become dislodged during the incident but was told to continue as Lotterer soon disposed of Gunther for P4, as the German rookie too armed himself with attack mode and immediately began to chase after Massa.

Credit: LAT/Formula E

Like his teammate before him, Buemi locked up two laps later on turn 8 allowing Frijns to force his way past and into the lead of the race as the heavens opened over the circuit. Rain battered the course as Lotterer forced his way past Massa and began hunting down Frijns for the lead. However, he was hindered by a series of full course yellows as the drivers struggled in the difficult conditions including a nasty shunt for BMW’s Alex Sims and Jaguar’s Alex Lynn, who was taken out by Edo Mortara in the dying stages of the race. Massa held P3 for much of the race, only to spin out losing his podium spot with Daniel Abt able to capitalise on the Brazilian’s mistake. As the rain continued, Frijns held firm from Lotterer’s attack and claimed victory at the first wet race in Formula E history.

Vergne victorious in Sanya: Reigning champion kickstarts claim to reclaim his title

Jean-Eric Vergne finally ended his pointless run and the miserable start to his championship defence by claiming victory in a dominant display in the inaugural Sanya ePrix this weekend. Starting from the front row, the reigning champion pounced on Nissan’s Oliver Rowland on lap 19 and held firm against the rookie’s attack to clinch his first win since last season. The race also saw another change in the standings at the top of the table as championship leader Sam Bird was forced out of the race in the early stages, allowing Antonio Felix da Costa to clinch the coveted position as we approach the halfway point in the season.

BMW’s da Costa continued his dominant form in qualifying, initially claiming the top spot whilst his championship competitors struggled with Bird slowest in the first group, seventh tenths off the pace and di Grassi also half a second down on da Costa’s time. Jaguar’s headache continued with Evans tagged the wall and collected part of the sponsorship on his 200kw lap, leaving him at the lower end of the table whilst teammate Nelson Piquet Jr also struggled. Vergne finally managed to slot himself into the coveted superpole positions just behind da Costa and Audi’s Daniel Abt but it was Nissan that impressed in the initial session with both Sebastien Buemi and Rowland both managing to get into superpole, with Buemi snatching the top spot from da Costa by two tenths of a second. The Nissan drivers were joined in superpole by da Costa, Sims, Vergne and Abt.

Andrew Ferraro/LAT Images

Nissan’s dominance continued into superpole with Rowland taking his maiden pole position for the team, edging just ahead of Vergne by just over a second with the reigning champion having to settle for the front row. Da Costa looked promising but a messy mistake in the final corner proved costly and the Portuguese driver had to settle for third. Abt snatched P4 ahead of Sims and Buemi, with the former failing to set a lap time after suspected gear issues, whilst the latter made a mistake into turn 3, forcing him to abort his lap 25 seconds off the pace.

Rowland started well, managing to keep Vergne at bay in the opening stages as Abt began to pressure da Costa for P3 almost immediately. Bird’s misery continued after a clash with HWA’s Stoffel Vandoorne ruled him out of the race in the early stages, whilst Dragon also suffered with a double retirement as Felipe Nasr and Jose Maria Lopez found themselves out of contention after issues with their cars. Vergne continued to pressure Rowland, finally forcing the Nissan rookie into a mistake on lap 19 to take the lead. With his thoughts surely on his last victory in New York last season, Vergne began to put away from Rowland and the chasing pack.

Sam Bloxham/ LAT Images

Vergne continued to lead as a red flag forced a suspension of the race after Sims crashed out with just ten minutes left on the clock. His mood was dampened as the race resumed with the news that he was under investigation for incorrect full course yellow procedures but continued to keep Rowland behind as the clock ticked down. Drama continued in the closing stages as Buemi collided with Envision Virgin’s Robin Frijns, sending the Dutchman into the back of di Grassi, sending both drivers out of the points and saddling Buemi with a late penalty for causing a collision. Despite this, Vergne continued to hold the lead from Rowland and was informed that he had received a reprimand. Vergne’s victory was his first since last season and the first for the DS-Techeetah partnership, made even more special by the fact that it is the team’s home ePrix. Rowland claimed a respectable P2 ahead of Antonio Felix da Costa in P3, who claimed the championship leader position.

Formula E will return on 13th April in Rome.

Hysteria in Hong Kong!: Mortara triumphant as Bird hit with penalty

Edoardo Mortara scooped Venturi’s first ever win in the team’s history at the Hong Kong ePrix this weekend. The Swiss driver benefited from a late post-race penalty imposed on Envision Racing’s Sam Bird who won the race, but was given a five second time penalty after contact with Andre Lotterer which forced the Techeetah driver out of the race.

Qualifying was blighted by the everchanging conditions of the Hong Kong climate, with Mahindra miscalculating the correct window in which to set a lap which left both Jerome D’Ambrosio and Pascal languishing at the bottom of the timing screens. Audi’s Lucas di Grassi was the first driver to make an impact, snatching P1 from under Sam Bird and Antonio Felix da Costa’s noses in the worsening weather.

Mortara showcased his experience on street circuits by claiming P1, followed closely by Lotterer who made a mistake in his final sector. Jean Eric Vergne’s misery continued as he repeated history by sliding over the final line backwards, but could only manage P6 and suffered cosmetic damage to his Techeetah. His lap was later cancelled due to the incident.

Times soon began to tumble as the session approached the halfway stage with Oliver Rowland and Felipe Massa slotting themselves into the top six. However, it was HWA that impressed in the storm with Stoffel Vandoorne taking provisional pole by over half a second from teammate Gary Paffett who managed to snatch his debut in superpole. They were joined in superpole by Rowland, Mortara, Lotterer and di Grassi.

Photo by Sam Bloxham/ LAT Images

The weather continued to wreck havoc on superpole as di Grassi set a time of 1.14.177, only to be displaced by Lotterer a few moments later by a difference of 1.3 seconds. Mortara thrived in the difficult conditions, claiming P1 with a time of 1.12.310, half a second up on Lotterer. However, after the session ended, he was hit with a three place grid penalty for ignoring red flag conditions and dropped out of contention. Times continued to tumble as the track conditions became more favourable with Rowland disposing of Mortara by two tenths of a second. The two HWAs remained and Paffett locked up into turn one, forcing him into P4 behind Lotterer, but Vandoorne impressed once again, claiming his first ever pole position for HWA with a 1.11.580.

Rowland wasted no time at the start of the race, snatching P1 away from Vandoorne in the opening lap who was then passed by Bird, dropping the HWA rookie down to P3. Mahindra’s terrible luck continued as Felipe Nasr tagged the wall into turn two, collecting both Wehrlein and D’Ambrosio along the way, sending both cars out of the race with suspension damage. The race was red flagged in order to collect all three cars stranded in a precarious position with Rowland still leading the race.

Photo by Steven Tee / LAT Images

As the race got underway once more, most of the drivers armed themselves with their first attack mode as Lotterer pounced on Vandoorne immediately for P3. Out of turn one, Rowland slowed and dropped down the order, losing the lead at the expense of Bird. Lotterer began to press Bird for the top spot, finally forcing the Brit into a mistake to snatch the race lead away. However, Bird continued to fight back and kept the pressure on the German who began to struggle with energy consumption in the latter stages trying to keep Bird behind. Whilst one Techeetah dominated, reigning champion Vergne’s bad luck continued as he cut the chicane at turn one, earning a penalty.

Rowland continued to carve his way back through the field muscling his way past Daniel Abt for P9, whilst Alex Sims tagged the wall, forcing him out of the race. Bird continued to press Lotterer, and attempted a move into turn two, passing the German for a moment, before Lotterer reclaimed the lead. The battle at the front as Vandoorne’s car stopped on track, whilst Buemi was forced out of the race with damage.

As the race restarted with over ten minutes left on the clock, Bird continued to pile the pressure on Lotterer for the lead with Mortara holding di Grassi for P3 as Rowland’s hard work on climbing up the order was undone when he made contact with the wall, and stopped on track, bringing out a third safety car. With two minutes remaining, the race was restarted and the battle at the front came to a head as Bird made contact with the back of Lotterer’s car, causing a puncture which subsequently ended the German’s race. A subdued Bird claimed P1 but celebrations were muted after the announcement that there was an investigation of the incident between himself and Lotterer. After the race, Bird was handed a five second time penalty which dropped the Brit down to P6 and Mortara inherited the win, his and Venturi’s first win in the series. Di Grassi moved up to P2 and Envision Racing’s Robin Frijns inherited third.

Formula E will continue in Sanya on March 23rd.

ThePitCrewOnline Exclusive: Susie Wolff for International Women’s Day 2019

Ask any motorsport fan to name a successful woman within the sport, and usually, Susie Wolff will be amongst the names they provide. The first woman to take part in an F1 weekend in 22 years, Susie is now the team principal of the Venturi Formula E who scored their first podium of the seasion in the Mexican ePrix a few weeks ago, as well as the co-founder of the Dare to Be Different initiative, a non-profit organisation committed to change viewpoints and inspiring young girls and women to participate within the motorsport industry.

Sarah Jarvis: You’ve had time to become much more comfortable within your new role as team principal. Was the transition period as challenging as you thought it would be?
Susie Wolff: Yes, it’s definitely been challenging with plenty of changes and improvements to make, but to be honest I’ve relished the opportunity to get stuck in. We’ve made really great progress after a difficult start to the season. In motorsport, ultimately all that matters is performance and, with our first podium of the season in Mexico, I think we’ve demonstrated that we’re on the right track.

SJ: The FE in-season test featured nine female drivers competing in cars as part of the FIA Women into Motorsports Initiative. Did that feel like a significant step forward in promoting the movement of women into motorsport?
SW: Yes, I do feel like it was a significant step forward. I also think it clearly demonstrated Formula E’s commitments both to the promotion of women in the sport and also their desire for diversity within the series. The all female in-season test also served as a fantastic reminder of the female talent out there – that’s an incredibly positive thing in my book.

Image credit: Sam Bloxham

SJ: With your increased involvement in Formula E, there is an intensity of D2BD initiatives at these events. How important are these events to display at such a vastly popular sport? Are they changing the opinions and viewpoints of young girls?
SW: The D2BD events are really important and now that we have the official collaboration with the FIA’s Girls On Track initiative, we’re widening our reach even further to a bigger, global audience. Having our launch event in Mexico at the ePrix was a major milestone for the initiative, it also clearly demonstrated Formula E’s commitment to the promotion of grassroots activity for young women. The launch was met with great enthusiasm, not just from the motorsport community but also the local fans who came and participated in the activity, there’s simply no substitute for hands on experience. One of the major additional benefits of teaming up with Formula E in this way is that we have the benefit of some incredible city centre race locations, this goes a long way towards helping raise awareness and generate interest in the activity.

SJ: Is it imperative to gradually add more racing events to the D2BD calendar for exposure? Are there certain avenues such as F1 and MotoGP that you want to pursue further?
SW: Now that we are a joint venture with the FIA, we’re not focused on volume of events or trying to be the biggest. What we want to do is foster strong and lasting relationships with the ASNs (the local motorsport authorities) to ensure that the activation is strategic, meaningful and leaves a lasting impression on the young ladies who participate. The impact we have from an inspiration and education perspective is the most important thing to me.

SJ: With the introduction of the W Series aimed strictly at a female demographic, do you feel it is a positive step towards better representation of women in motorsport?

SW: Any championship that gives the opportunity to young women to compete is a positive thing. In my view though to become a truly world class professional driver and earn a living in motorsport, you need to compete with the best in the world regardless of gender. Ultimately, motorsport isn’t segregated so I think in the long term, we need to really focus our efforts on bringing more female talent in to the sport across the board so that the best can rise to the top.

SJ: What advice would you give any young girls or women wanting to break into motorsport, whether it be driving or engineering?
SW: My advice would be the same whichever field they were looking at: believe in yourself. Find out what it is that you feel passionate about and go for it. Don’t be scared to stand up for yourself and be seen and heard. Work hard, push yourself and never, ever lose the belief in your abilities. Use initiatives like Dare to be Different to connect and widen your network. We have an incredible line-up of ambassadors who provide mentoring and education to the next generation. But above all else, don’t wait for doors to open for you, knock them down.

For more information on the Dare to be Different initiative: https://www.daretobedifferent.org/

Madness in Mexico! Di Grassi clinches win in last minute thriller

Lucas di Grassi kickstarted Audi’s campaign to reclaim the constructor’s title by snatching victory in an action-packed Mexico City ePrix on Saturday. Despite leading for the majority of the race, there was heartache for Mahindra once more as rookie Pascal Wehrlein was literally pipped at the post after a sprint to the finish line.

Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images

Antonio Felix da Costa took first blood in qualifying as his championship rivals struggled in the unfavourable early track conditions. Championship leader Sam Bird was forced out of qualifying early, stopping at the side of the track with mechanical issues before he had even set a lap. Virgin Racing’s nightmare continued as Robin Frijns was handed a three place grid penalty for blocking Jerome D’Ambrosio in the confusion. Wehrlein showcased his improving form, snatching P1 away from da Costa. The track conditions continued to improve, allowing stalwart di Grassi to join the fight. Massa also put in an impressive lap to claim his debut in superpole. However, it was Nissan rookie Oliver Rowland who took bragging rights, taking the coveted P1 slot from di Grassi and Wehrlein in the last few seconds, cementing his place in superpole alongside Sebastien Buemi, Massa and da Costa.

Superpole certainly showcased the rise of the rookies as Da Costa set the bar with a time of 59.819, a feat that Buemi could not challenge. Continuing on from his superb qualifying form in Santiago, di Grassi put in an impressive lap to snatch the top spot. It fell to the three rookies remaining to oust di Grassi from pole. Massa and Rowland both fell short, slotting into P3 and P4 respectively. Wehrlein, however, managed to continue his electric form and claimed the three points and Mahindra’s second pole at the circuit in the last two years.

Photo by Zak Mauger / LAT Images

Wehrlein started strongly from pole as Rowland managed to sneak into P2, leapfrogging Brazilian compatriots Massa and di Grassi in the opening stages. However, as the race heated up, Nelson Piquet tangled with Jean-Eric Vergne in a nasty accident which left the Jaguar driver in the wall at turn 13 and subsequently out of the race. BMW’s Alexander Sims suffered a repeat of Marrakesh as he was tagged by a out-of-control Piquet going into the final corner. Due to the damage, the race was immediately red flagged with just nine minutes on the clock. Whilst in the pits, Vergne and Sims were able to repair the damage caused by Piquet’s accident.

As the race got underway once more, everybody armed themselves with their attack mode, forcing di Grassi to pressure Rowland for P2. However, the Brazilian could not find a way past and had to settle for P3. Da Costa picked up damage as a result of his duel with Buemi for P4, forcing the Portuguese driver to back off from his attack. Vandoorne’s bad luck continued as he was given a penalty for using his fanboost too early, whilst Lopez was hit with a double penalty for overuse of energy and pitlane violations. Vergne too had another nightmare of a race as he was tagged by Mitch Evans in the stadium section, leaving the reigning champion in a lowly P17.

Photo by Sam Bloxham / LAT Images

It was in the latter stages that the race came alive as Rowland, despite occupying P2 for the majority of the race, misjudged the corner when under pressure from di Grassi and had to concede the podium spot to the Brazilian. His luck went from bad to worse as he made contact with teammate Buemi, and Nissan’s miscalculations on energy use left both drivers dropping down the order and out of the points. Di Grassi continued to press Wehrlein for the lead, forcing the rookie to fight against the attack instead of saving his energy. Di Grassi scooped victory at the last gasp overtaking a energy-depleted Wehrlein just before the finish line to score Audi’s first win of the season ahead of da Costa and Venturi’s Edo Mortara, both promoted by Nissan’s failure to finish.

Formula E will return in Hong Kong on 10th March.

Bird’s the Word!: Sam succeeds in Santiago

Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird finally got his championship campaign underway by claiming his first win this season in a penalty-prone Santiago ePrix yesterday. Despite the temperatures soaring and making the ePrix the hottest on record, Bird managed to remain cool and claim victory after poleman Sebastien Buemi crashed out on a degrading track, holding off Pascal Wehrlein’s late challenge to send the British team to the top of the constructor’s standings.

Lucas di Grassi was the first driver to make an impact at the top of the qualifying standings, only to be superseded by Buemi moments later. Techeetah and BMW failed to make an impact as the track conditions began to improve, leaving those in the first group out of the coveted superpole positions. However, it was Mahindra’s Wehrlein took first blood in the initial part of qualifying by snatching provisional pole, ahead of Buemi, di Grassi, Bird and Abt. Stoffel Vandoorne too claimed a small victory in the shape of HWA and his first appearance in superpole, slotting in P4.

Abt was the first to take to the track in superpole and his super clean lap enabled him to set the bar at 1.08.958. Vandoorne followed, however, his lap was overshadowed by the fact that HWA failed to get the Belgian out of the pits on time, rendering his lap void. Bird struggled in the climbing temperatures to slot into P3 before di Grassi showcased a master lap around the Santiago circuit to post a time of 1.08.290. Buemi and Wehrlein had no answer to the Brazilian, claiming P2 and P3 respectively. Despite the dominant display in qualifying, di Grassi had his pole revoked after a braking infringement on his cool-down lap which sent him to the back of the grid and promoted racing rival Buemi to pole position.

Andrew Ferraro/ LAT Images

Buemi started well, holding the lead ahead of Wehrlein and Abt, who was superseded by Bird moments into the race for P3. However, the soaring temperatures proved difficult for the new Gen 2 cars with Tom Dillmann grinding to a halt a few laps in, presumably due to battery issues. Buemi was the first of the leading pack to deploy his attack mode in an effort to pull away from a charging Bird. The midfield battle too continued to heat up as Oliver Rowland and Felipe Massa duelled for the last points paying position.

Current champion Jean-Eric Vergne had a race to forget. A lowly qualifying session had placed the Frenchman in the middle of the pack and a bizarre incident between himself, his teammate Andre Lotterer and Antonio Felix da Costa left him out of the race. Da Costa’s nightmare also continued after his tangle with teammate Alexander Sims in Marrakesh as his BMW surrendered to the climbing temperatures, forcing him to retire later in the race.

Joe Portlock / LAT Images

Maxi Gunther stopped on the track, forcing the race’s first full course yellow, whilst Lopez spun after contact with di Grassi. Vandoorne’s hopes of HWA’s first points crumbled as the Belgian slowed on track just after the attack mode area, having made contact with the wall. As the full course yellow period ended, Bird and Wehrlein continued to pressure Buemi and with eleven laps from the end, the Nissan driver made contact with the wall and subsequently lost the lead. He limped back to the pits with suspension damage preventing him from participating further. Bird inherited the lead and held off a chasing Wehrlein for the remainder of the race to claim his eighth career win and the first of the season for Envision Virgin Racing. Wehrlein claimed his first Formula E podium in only his second race, followed by Daniel Abt who was promoted to P3 after Sims was given a penalty for contact with Edo Mortara.