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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In spite of the heavy rain that blighted the opening round of the new season of Formula E, Antonio Felix da Costa finally ended BMW i Andretti’s trophy drought in the inaugural Ad Diriyah ePrix last weekend. After taking a dominant pole in the reduced qualifying session, he was relatively untroubled in the race and took advantage of a time penalty applied to Techeetah rival Jean-Eric Vergne to claim his second win in Formula E and the first for BMW as a full-works team.
Qualifying was a much reduced affair due to the worsening weather. The drivers were split into two groups as opposed to the usual four. NIO’s Tom Dillmann was first on track and bizarrely stayed out for twenty laps instead of the allocated three, giving him a drive through penalty mid-way through the race. As the clock ticked down, the drivers trickled out onto the track. Vergne and the Audi’s of di Grassi and Abt struggled in the tricky conditions whilst Da Costa jumped to the top of the timing screens with a 1.17.728. The conditions did not improve for the second group which included ex F1 drivers Felipe Massa and Stoffel Vandoorne. The latter managed an impressive P5 in his maiden qualifying session. Andre Lotterer looked like he may trouble the Portuguese driver but was blighted by Maxi Gunther’s Dragon stopping on track and Felix Rosenqvist going off on the final corner. With a lack of superpole due to the delayed session, Da Costa clinched the pole ahead of Dillmann, Lopez and Buemi.
At least five drivers were sent to the back of the grid for various infractions, creating a mixed grid at the beginning of the race. Da Costa held the lead despite a pit-box malfunction as Buemi dispatched of Lopez at the start. Mortara seemed to echo the opening round of last season by slamming into the wall. He managed to limp back onto the track but the damage was already done. The Techeetahs showcased that despite the change in powertrain, they still remain as quick as ever with Vergne and Lotterer making their way up the field to pick off Lopez and slot themselves into P3 and P4.
Rosenqvist’s bad luck continued as he ended up finishing his final race with Mahindra on the sidelines, crashing with 30 minutes to go. Gary Paffett’s HWA also decided to give up at turn 10, effectively ending his race. Vergne on the other hand, made his way past a struggling Buemi to snatch P2 away and begin the pursuit of Da Costa.
It didn’t take long for Vergne to force his way past da Costa’s BMW, taking the lead around the outside of turn 18. Da Costa seemed to struggle against the battling Techeetahs with Lotterer soon on his gearbox, pushing for presumably a team 1-2. Lopez and Buemi duelled over P4, but they both fell victim to an opportunistic Jerome D’Ambrosio who had managed to gain ground during their battle.
With Vergne in the lead and Lotterer advancing on da Costa, another Techeetah win seemed likely. However, their luck soon changed as both drivers were hit with drive-through penalties allowing da Costa to retake the lead. Emerging in fourth position, the reigning champion fought his way back through the field to trouble da Costa as the minutes ticked down.
Lopez sent himself out of the race after missing the attack mode activation zone twice. With eight minutes to go, the safety car was brought out. As the race restarted, many of the drivers activated their second mandatory attack mode in an attempt to climb up the standings. Vergne was able to dispatch D’Ambrosio whilst using up the last of his attack mode, whilst his teammate Lotterer snatched P5 from Buemi. Da Costa was able to hold on from a prowling Vergne with help from his fanboost to clinch the win, his first in over three seasons and his first with BMW i Andretti, ahead of Vergne and D’Ambrosio.
The second round of the Formula E season will return on January 12th in Marrakesh.
Susie Wolff said that she has had a warm welcome into the Formula E paddock, stating that it ‘already feels like a family’. Speaking to the new Venturi team principal at Formula E testing in October, she discussed the process she went through in order to prepare for her new role.
”I made the decision to work for Gildo [Pastor, Venturi’s CEO and founder] quite early and was in a couple of races undercover as a fan which gave me the chance to see it from the outside. In New York, I was part of the team and observing them in action to give me the perfect springboard to get ready for season 5. It’s great to be here, I’ve had a nice welcome. It’s a big challenge with the new Gen 2 cars. It’s been fantastic so far and I feel very much at home and the challenge is one I am ready for.”
As with many individuals involved in other motorsports, Wolff admitted that she was cynical of the sport initially but has grown to understand what Formula E truly promotes.
“I have to be completely honest that I was a cynic early on. I’m coming in now when it’s all up and running and I really admire what the sport has been able to achieve. You only need to walk up the pitlane to see the number of manufacturers that they have here and it’s a real testament to what Formula E has achieved. It’s great to be a part of this exciting platform that has so much potential.”
Formula E has had a number of female drivers fill their seats in its infancy, but over the past two seasons, the female contingent has certainly dwindled.When asked about her position as the first female principal in Formula E, Wolff said that she hoped to use the opportunity to promote further involvement of women in the sport.
“There were a couple of female drivers in this championship who I rate very highly and I am a great believer that I am here to do a job. I am not here because I am a woman and my gender doesn’t impact the way I can do the job. I think one thing that can always be seen as a positive is that if other women see me in this position, it will aspire them to realise that there is opportunities in this sport. I feel I can make a difference at Venturi. As women, there’s enough of us out there who are talented enough to make a difference and it’s about making sure we get those opportunities.”
Wolff commented on the driver line up of Edoardo Mortara and Felipe Massa as a major strength in this season’s campaign.
”We’re in a lucky position at Venturi that we have one of the strongest line ups in the paddock. Edo is a driver I’ve rated highly. His character alongside Felipe, I knew would be a good fit, I knew those two together would be a strong pairing that would be able to drive this team forward. The combination of the two is exactly what this team needed to move forward.”
She also discussed the team’s aspirations ahead of the new season.
”I have a three year plan envisioned for the team. We can’t turn over a performance overnight but in season 5, we want to be fighting for points and I would love to get some podiums. I would like to be consistently fighting at the front of the grid.”
Formula E is set to kick off for a fifth season this week with the brand new Gen 2 car waiting in the wings to take the electric series into the next phase of development. Season 4 was certainly as interesting as the preceding seasons, with another new champion in the form of Jean-Eric Vergne and Audi finally overturning Renault to become the top dog of the manufacturer’s battle. But what can we expect from season 5? The series has a new car that is able to last the entire race distance, different circuits in brand-new locations and the arrival of BMW permanently into the sport and HWA, a precursor to the Mercedes outfit expected in season 6. Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler
Audi arguably had the most energy-efficient powertrain last season and despite a few minor issues with reliability, they fought back to finally claim the manufacturer’s title, one which had proven elusive in the first few seasons. Audi are certainly looking to start the new season on a high. They have continued to develop the powertrain and for the first time, will provide customer engines to British outfit Virgin Racing. Audi have chosen to retain their line up of the past four seasons, a wise decision on their part. The solid partnership of season 3 champion Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt will work in their favour as the pair are familiar with the team and how the sport has developed since its infancy. Both drivers have proven over the course of their time in the German outfit that they are capable of producing results. Abt, in particularly, enjoyed a successful previous season, finally picking up his first win in Mexico City and finishing a respectable fifth in the championship. Di Grassi too had an insurgence towards the latter end of the season which enabled him to join in the championship duel between Vergne and Sam Bird. Allan McNish delivered everything he was supposed to in his and Audi’s first year in the electric series – the title they so longed for. He also managed to placate his two drivers throughout the course of the season, showcasing that he is able to make tough decisions if necessary and will surely take forward his experience into the new season. Expect Audi to be favourites to snatch the title once again. DS Techeetah
The Chinese outfit came close to the coveted manufacturers title last year, impressive considering their customer team status. However, this season, they have chosen to partner with DS Automobiles, who have a proven track record in Formula E after working with Virgin since the series debut. By moving away from their customer status, the team will be afforded more testing time and more development of their own powertrain – something that held them back to an extent last year. They have chosen to retain champion Jean-Eric Vergne and Andre Lotterer as their line-up which is no surprise. Vergne had an incredible season, showered with many moments of mastery such as taking pole backwards in the first round at Hong Kong to dominating the streets of his home eprix at Paris. Lotterer too has begun to bed in and become more acquainted with the style of driving in Formula E and has been rewarded with a string of podiums. It still remains to be seen if Techeetah will continue where they left off, but it’s certain that they won’t be quiet next season. Envision Virgin Racing
Virgin had a stellar season – they almost handed Sam Bird his first ever Formula E championship title last year. The car too had zero reliability issues, certainly on Bird’s side of the garage which will be a comfort to new partner Techeetah. However, after Alex Lynn’s strong start in the British team at the latter end of season 3 in which the Brit took pole in his first ever qualifying session, he struggled immensely within the car with a string of retirements and placed no higher than sixth. It was to nobody’s surprise that Virgin announced once again that Bird would lead the charge for his fifth season in the sport. However, change is on the horizon as Virgin are to be Audi’s first customer team and with such an arrangement, comes the arrival of Robin Frijns. Forced out from Andretti due to his Audi commitments last season, the Dutchman will provide a worthy teammate for Bird – one who knows the sport and will be warmly welcomed back to settle unfinished business. The Audi customer status has not limited Virgin’s testing hours with Bird and Frijns revealing that the supplier gave up some of their testing time to the British outfit. Lack of testing time did not hinder Techeetah last year from almost walking away the team title, and the team will have arguably the best powertrain on the grid. The British team will certainly be one to upset the party. Mahindra Racing
Mahindra’s pre-season was shaping up to be as dull as the latter half of their last season. After a strong start in Marrakesh with Felix Rosenqvist claiming the top step, the Indian team seemed to tail off and even their prized asset Rosenqvist struggled to impress. They suffered a double blow early in pre-season with Nick Heidfeld is stepping down into a development role and losing Rosenqvist to Indycar. However, the Indian outfit seized Jerome D’Ambrosio’s frustrations at an uncompetitive Dragon team and swooped in for the electric racing stalwart.
His attachment to the team was no surprise as he had tested the car in pre-season. A driver with a wealth of experience in the sport, it is an excellent career move for the Belgian to move away from the struggling American outfit. Pascal Wehrlein, now free of the ties of Mercedes, will fill the second seat. He has tested the car and uniting both experience and new blood has worked for Mahindra in the past. We could see a revival of their good fortune in the past few seasons – certainly if they provide D’Ambrosio with the car he deserves. Nissan e.dams
Renault are gone but Nissan will fill the void left by the sport’s first ever constructor champions. After choosing to focus solely on their Formula One programme, the French team has handed over the reins to the Japanese outfit. They had a season to forget last year, with even the reliable Buemi failing to score a single win. He came close in Marrakesh but the Renault of season 4 seemed to lack the bite of previous seasons. Misery was added to the French outfit in that their customer team Techeetah scored four wins through eventual champion Jean-Eric Vergne. However, Nissan are looking forward. They have retained Buemi – a smart move as they are new to Formula E and how it operates. The Swiss is a proven winner and capable of extracting everything he can from the machinery. They were dealt a further blow when they lost their rookie driver Alexander Albon to Formula One, just one day into their pre-season testing. However, the Japanese team recently announced the arrival of Oliver Rowland. The British driver is no stranger to the sport, having filled in for Nick Heidfeld at Mahindra when the German was ruled out with a hand injury. Rowland also has a proven track record in junior categories, and as talent such as Mitch Evans and Felix Rosenqvist have proven, Rowland could be a diamond in the rough. However, one question remains unanswered. Have Nissan let Audi and Techeetah take the upper hand in terms of development? Only time will tell. Panasonic Jaguar
Jaguar have gone from strength to strength this year with Mitch Evans taking the team’s first ever pole and even claimed a podium in the early stages of the season. The Kiwi driver finished a respectable seventh in the championship and showcased some excellent drives, particularly in Hong Kong and Punta del Este. Jaguar are a far cry from the team of two seasons ago and development of their powertrain coupled with retaining their strong driver line up has only aided them in their success. It is expected that Jaguar will continue to grow stronger going into season 5 – as the British outfit have chosen to retain previous champion Piquet and Evans. This is crucial as both drivers know the car and how the team operate, so they were able to focus purely on race data and the configurations for the car during testing. The car’s reliability is still a cause for concern, certainly on Piquet’s side of the garage, but it is certain that this will improve. Jaguar are viewed as dark horses, and it would be foolish to write them off this season. It’s certain that they will be looking to improve on last year’s results.
Venturi benefited last year from Edo Mortara’s extensive Macau knowledge which allowed him to navigate the tight streets and take the team’s only podium. However, with Mortara tied to a DTM drive with Mercedes for the majority of the season, they missed out on crucial opportunities to gain points and for him to have a solid standing in the championship. At times, his inexperience showed – for example, when he lost the lead in Hong Kong with three laps to go, after becoming overly-confident in the win. However, he showcased that the talent and speed were there. Equally, his teammate Maro Engel quietly scooped up a number of points paying positions, including a fourth place in Paris. The Monegasque team seem rejuvenated, however, as we approach season 4. They have become a customer team to HWA, Mercedes’ early entry into FE. Retaining Mortara will have its advantages as he wasn’t able to fulfil his full potential within his debut season and he can commit fully to the programme as Mercedes have ceased their DTM programme. The biggest change to the team, however, comes in the form of ex F1 star Felipe Massa and Susie Wolff coming into the team as driver and team principal respectively. Massa will surely lend a hand in ensuring that interest in the sport remains high whilst showcasing that retirement is the last thing on his mind, whilst Wolff certainly props up the Mercedes link but will enter into the team to provide new and innovative ideas to ensure their success. Venturi will be one to watch. HWA Racelab
As a new team and Mercedes’ precursor into Formula E, it’s unsure as to how the German outfit will fare in their maiden season. Will they do as Jaguar did in their first season? It certainly would not be a surprise if this were the case – the team enter the series just as the car has developed past the initial spec. However, having Venturi powertrains ensures that they don’t walk into Formula E completely blind. They also possess an excellent line-up in ex-McLaren man Stoffel Vandoorne, who could use a boost of self-esteem and an opportunity to get out of Fernando Alonso’s shadow, and seasoned DTM driver Gary Paffett who came close to claiming the title last year. NIO
Once again, a season to forget for the British based outfit. Retaining the reliable Oliver Turvey was their bright light in season 4, with the British born driver consistently finishing in the points. However, Luca Filippi wasn’t as strong and lagged behind Turvey for the entire season. It’s no surprise that Filippi has been quietly released by the team as they fight to find a replacement to the Piquet shaped hole from two seasons ago. Retaining their key asset Turvey was a must for the British team, and he will be expected to continue his reliability into the new season. He is joined this season by season regular Tom Dillmann, previously a driver of Venturi. He has also has a solid record of points scoring within his sporadic involvement in Formula E, with a personal best of P4 in New York last year. If NIO can deliver an excellent and reliable car, NIO could potentially have a solid season, particularly with two drivers who are able to score points consistently. GEOX Dragon
Dragon are a team in trouble. After looking bright for the first two seasons, the shine wore off and even a few podiums from the talented Jerome D’Ambrosio couldn’t stop the decline. The loss of Porsche WEC driver Neel Jani early in the season was a major blow as he certainly could have delivered within the car, given the chance. Their misfortune seemed to continue as they lost their star asset D’Ambrosio to Mahindra after lack of success. It is certainly a shame for the American outfit as the experienced Belgian driver was always able to extract more out of the machinery than most could, but on the other hand, it would be excellent to see D’Ambrosio in a competitive car once more. Lopez on the other hand, is to be retained and this is a good choice. Despite some of his inexperience, he was given a second chance by the American team after a torrid team in his maiden season at Virgin and managed to deliver some decent results. If reliability was improved, it’s certain that Lopez could achieve more. Partnering the Argentinian is rookie driver, Maximilian Gunther. Before participating in the rookie test in Marrakesh, he had previous experience in junior categories, finishing in third place in Formula 3 last year, and also contested Macau, which will be good practise for the street circuits. It still remains to be seen what will happen at Dragon this year, but if they can be competitive, it’s certain that they could cause an upset like they have in the past. BMW i Andretti
If there were an award for the team with the worst luck last year, Andretti would take top honours. A revolving door policy on their second driver and lack of development from BMW hurt the team last season, resulting in them picking up the unfortunate honour of being the only outfit not to achieve a podium. Tom Blomqvist never seemed to have a chance to prove himself, forced out in the first round to satisfy sponsors, and eventually left quietly after six rounds. However, even seasoned Formula E driver Stephane Sarrazin failed to get results. This season, now fully under BMW control, they retain Antonio Felix Da Costa for the third season, an excellent choice who knows the car and how the team operate. The Portuguese driver certainly could be seen as one of the German teams assets, having been in the electric series since its inception. They also welcome Alexander Sims, who lost out to the seat last year. Having being the development driver in season 3 and having an avid interest in electric cars, he has some knowledge of the series and of the car. He also performed well at last year’s testing in the season 4 car. BMW’s involvement and retaining the driver lineup throughout the season will be crucial for BMW Andretti’s success going into season 5.
The first round of season 5 of Formula E begins on December 15th in Riyadh.