RXR Come Out On Top In Red Flagged Final

2016 Formula One World Champion Nico Rosberg’s team have sealed a second event win in as many races to extend their lead at the top of the Extreme E Constructors Championship.

Semi Final 1:

Sunday’s action kicked off with the first of the two semi finals. With the top two finishers out of X44, RXR, and Abt Cupra progressing to the final, it was sure to be an entertaining watch.

RXR lined up on the inside, with X44 alongside. Abt Cupra took to the outside grid slot. As the lights went green, there was a lot of initial wheel-spin. Ekstrom in the Abt Cupra was the quickest off the line though, and took an early lead into the first breaking zone. Just behind him X44’s Loeb and RXR’s Kristoffersson were battling it out for second place. Loeb narrowed ahead but Kristoffersson attempted a huge switchback move and took the position. All three cars ran nose to tail all the way through the lap but nobody was able to get by. As they came into the switch zone, Abt Cupra lead RXR, who lead X44.

However, more issues for Jutta Kleinschmidt in the switch-over saw Abt fall to the back of the pack and RXR take the lead. Gutierrez pushed Taylor the whole way but just could not find a way through, and, despite Jutta’s best efforts, she was not able to reclaim a position. RXR crossed the line just two seconds ahead of X44, who were themselves just one second ahead of Abt Cupra. Some incredible misfortune meant Abt Cupra finished the weekend in 5th position, as RXR and X44 progressed to the final.

Molly Taylor (AUS)/Johan Kristoffersson (SWE), Rosberg X Racing | Credit: Extreme E

Semi Final 2:

The second of the two semi finals was just as exciting as the first, arguably more so as Veloce, JBXE, and Xite Energy battled it out for the remaining two places in the final.

This time round, Veloce started on the inside with Jamie Chawick taking their start. JBXE’s Kevin Hansen, and Xite Energy’s Oliver Bennett lined up alongside her. When the lights went out it was Hansen who took the lead, using his hyper drive to extend the gap to the cars behind. As all the cars reached the first turn, JBXE lead with Veloce some way back in second. From there, Hansen continued to extend his lead as Chadwick and Bennett fought over second place the entire lap. For the most part Chadwick was able to keep Bennett behind, but an issue with the pit limiter meant Xite Energy took second in the final few corners before the switch. As all the cars came into the switch zone, JBXE held a significant lead with Xite Energy just edging out Veloce.

Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky took over for JBXE and continued to extend the gap to finish a whopping thirty seconds ahead of her closest rival. Behind her, however, Christine GZ and Stephane Sarrazin continued an enthralling battle. They followed closely the entire lap but Sarrazin spotted a gap and went for it, causing a tight squeeze through a narrow gate. He pushed his way through and, despite a late wobble with the pit limiter, managed to take the final spot in the final. Xite Energy’s weekend ended there, with them finishing 6th overall.

Shoot-out:

The race for positions seven to nine was hotly contested between the teams who had issues in Saturday qualifying.

Andretti United lined up on the inside this time with Acciona Sainz sandwiching the two American outfits. As the lights went out, Timmy Hansen for Andretti United took an early lead, but the experienced Carlos Sainz dived down the inside into the first braking zone and took the position. From there he built out a bit of a gap as Hansen and Price went nose to tail. Several times it looked like the Chip Ganassi car might get past Hansen but she was unable to and the teams entered the switch zone with Sainz leading Andretti, who lead Chip Ganassi.

But then came the Kyle Leduc show as he battled to make up the lost positions. He showed much of his qualifying pace and quickly closed in on the two leaders. Waiting for the bumpy section he had been so fast in all weekend, Leduc followed close behind Munnings and then put his foot to the floor. He screamed past Munnings before taking Sanz for a lead he would not lose. Munnings too closed in on Sanz but was ultimately unable to pass her. Chip Ganassi crossed the line first, followed by Acciona Sainz and Andretti United respectively.

Sara Price (USA)/Kyle Leduc (USA), Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing | Credit: Extreme E

Final:

The last race of the weekend welcomed two new teams to the final. JBXE and Veloce were taking part in their first final, with RXR and X44 both returning following their success at the Desert X Prix.

RXR started on the inside with X44 alongside. JBXE took the outside grid slot with Veloce taking the space next to them. As the lights went out Veloce’s Sarrazin got squeezed by X44 and JBXE and the Frenchman was forced to lift to avoid a collision.

This wasn’t the only close call of the opening lap though, as X44’s Gutierrez made contact with RXR’s Taylor. It appeared that Rosberg and Hamilton were wanting to renew their old rivalry. It would be short lived, however, as X44 were forced to retire due to damage from the collision. JBXE also stopped as the suspension broke going over a bump on the beach. As the remaining two teams reached the switch zone, race director Scott Elkins brought out the red flag.

Drivers swapped and cars repositioned on the starting grid, the final lap was to be a straight shoot-out between RXR and Veloce. The lights went out and Kristofferson immediately dominated bringing the RXR car home winners of the Ocean X Prix. Chawick suffered no issues and finished the race in second place. JBXE rounded out the podium despite not finishing the race, as Mikaela got round slightly more of the lap than X44.

Another strong weekend for Rosberg X Racing saw them top the Ocean X Prix, while Andretti’s qualifying problems saw them languish at the foot of the table. The final weekend standings:

  1. RXR
  2. Veloce
  3. JBXE
  4. X44
  5. Abt Cupra
  6. Xite Energy
  7. Chip Ganassi
  8. Acciona Sainz
  9. Andretti United

RXR’s win saw them extend their lead at the top of the championship to 14 points over X44. Meanwhile a crucial 5 points were awarded to Chip Ganassi, as Kyle Leduc set the fastest time of the weekend through the super sector. The current championship standings:

  1. RXR 71 Points
  2. X44 57 Points  
  3. JBXE 44 Points 
  4. Andretti 37 Points 
  5. Xite 37 Points
  6. Sainz 36 Points 
  7. Abt Cupra 35 Points 
  8. Veloce 31 Points 
  9. Chip Ganassi 30 Points

An incredible weekend of racing saw the middle of the championship fight become closer than ever, whilst bringing issues relating to ocean health to the fore. All eyes now turn to August as Extreme E continues on the glaciers of Greenland. You’d be crazy to miss it.

X44 Top Thrilling Qualifying

image courtesy of ExtremeE -Andrew Ferraro

Reigning Formula One World Champion, Lewis Hamilton’s team, X44 ended an enthralling Qualifying Saturday on top of the time sheets, showing strong pace going into tomorrow’s semi final.

Qualifying 1:

Following little running in the first round, Veloce’s Jamie Chadwick started off qualifying for the second round of the inaugural season of Extreme E. After steady laps from her and her teammate Stephane Sarrazin, the team set a benchmark time of 11:37.599.

Image courtesy of ExtremeE – Sam Bloxham

Acciona Sainz got off to a strong start in their run, but the car unfortunately ground to a halt part way round Laia Sanz’s lap and they were unable to finish. Andretti United’s car also came to a stop but, after a lengthy delay, they were able to get moving again, finishing with a time of 14:39.659.

Image courtesy of ExtremeESam Bloxham

Next was the turn of championship leaders and Desert X Prix race winners Rosberg X Racing. Some of the pace from the last round appeared to be missing though as, despite being on provisional pole, they set a beatable time of 11:02.310.

Abt Cupra followed RXR and their drivers put in a strong performance. Jutta Kleinschmidt, who was standing in for the ill Claudia Hurtgen, was particularly impressive, as the 58 year old rounded off their run to put them top of the table with a 10:58.122. Unfortunately for them though, during the changeover, Jutta entered the switch zone before the car had been put into neutral, and the team promptly received a 15 second time penalty.

Then came Lewis Hamilton’s X44, whose drivers put in a superb perormance which saw them leap to provisional pole with a 10:47.289. American racing team Chip Ganassi also had a strong showing with Leduc putting in a phenomenal performance. They ended Q1 just 4 seconds down on X44, with a time of 10:51.528.

JBXE and Xite Energy then rounded off an intriguing first qualifying session with times of 11:13.405, and 11:52.806 respectively.

The standings after Q1:

  1. X44 10:47.289
  2. Chip Ganassi +4.239
  3. RXR +15.021
  4. Abt Cupra +25.833
  5. JBXE +26.116
  6. Veloce +50.310
  7. Xite Energy +1:05.517
  8. Andretti United +3:52.376
  9. Acciona Sainz DNF

Qualifying 2:

Going into Q2 the teams switched around their starting driver, which meant Stephane Sarrazin kicked off the final qualifying session of the Ocean X Prix for Veloce. The team had a relatively uneventful run and saw them post a combined time of 23:05.370.

Andretti United went into this session attempting to claw back as much of their lost time as possible. Unfortunately for the american outfit, they were unable to do so and were left with a 25:57.068. Their only chance of progressing to the semi finals would come from other teams running into problems.

Rosberg X Racing’s Molly Taylor got some serious air time in her final lap but some excellent car control prevented her from spinning out. They achieved a combined time of 22:12.438, putting them in a temporary pole position. Abt Cupra almost dislodged them straight away but ended up just 8 seconds behind with a 22:20.813.

X44 were the early pace setters in Q1, and another flying run from both of their drivers saw them jump up to the top of the time sheets with a 21:44.856. Close competitors Chip Ganassi got off to a tremendous start in their final qualifying run and were even a few seconds up on X44’s time. But then disaster struck. Just as Leduc entered the tree section, his car ground to a halt. After some desperate button pressing the car got going again, but it would be impossible to claw back the several minutes of time he had lost. Teammate Sara Price brought the car home, finishing with a 25:41.815.

With three teams having issues, remaining teams JBXE and Xite Energy just needed to have uneventful runs and see the cars home. Both teams did exactly that and finished with total times of 22:25.426 and 23:36.461 respectively.

Acciona Sainz rounded off the session after just managing to fix the issues they had had in Q1. With them not setting a time in that session, all they could do in Q2 was attempt to set the fastest time through the super sector. Both drivers pushed hard but ultimately neither were able to claim it from Chip Ganassi’s Kyle Leduc.

The final qualifying positions:

  1. X44 21:44.856
  2. RXR +27.580
  3. Abt Cupra +35.950
  4. JBXE +40.570
  5. Veloce +1:20.510
  6. Xite Energy +1:51.600
  7. Chip Ganassi +3:56.960
  8. Andretti United +4:12.210
  9. Acciona Sainz +1 Lap

Following an exciting Saturday the gap at the top of the team standings has closed slightly with RXR just 4 points ahead of X44. The current standings:

  1. RXR 46 Points
  2. X44 42 Points  
  3. Andretti 33 Points
  4. Sainz 30 Points 
  5. Xite 27 Points
  6. JBXE 26 Points 
  7. Abt Cupra 23 Points 
  8. Chip Ganassi 17 Points  
  9. Veloce 12 Points

All eyes now turn to Sunday where we will see the teams face off to determine the final finishing positions. In Semi Final 1, the first two finishers of X44, RXR, and Abt Cupra will progress to the final, where they will be joined by the top two finishers of Semi Final 2 (which consists of JBXE, Veloce, and Xite Energy). The shoot-out will be contested by Chip Ganassi, Andretti United, and Acciona Sainz as they vie for positions seven to nine.

It’s certain to be an exciting final day as the nine teams battle it out to be crowned rulers of the Ocean X Prix.

Extreme E: Ocean X Prix Preview

After a long wait, the inaugural season of Extreme E resumes with the Ocean X Prix; aiming to highlight issues relating to ocean health.

Lac Rose Circuit

Picture courtesy of Extreme E

Following its successful debut in AlUla, Saudi Arabia, the exciting, new, electric rally series heads to the home of off-road racing, with the teams set to take on sections of the world renowned Dakar Rally. Based around Lac Rose, Dakar, the teams and drivers will race along the Senegalese coastline before turning onto a more technical section in among the sand dunes. Along the way the racers will have to contend with surface changes as well as lots of elevation changes. This is sure to be a true test of the drivers skills.

Format Changes

Coming into this weekend there are a couple of format changes to be aware of. Qualifying will continue to take place over two sessions, with the times being added up to give a team’s final qualifying time. The quickest three teams will then face off in the first of two semi finals, with the top two finishers of that race advancing to the final. The fourth to sixth fastest qualifiers will also race against each other in the second of the two semi finals, but with the top two finishers also now advancing to the final. This means we will now see a four car final, as opposed to the three car final we witnessed in AlUla. The slowest three qualifiers will still compete for positions seventh to ninth in the shoot-out.

The Ocean X Prix also sees the introduction of the super sector. An extra five points is now available to the team whose driver is the quickest through a specific section of the track. This means that everyone still has a chance of gaining points for their respective teams, regardless of where they qualify.

Dakar, Senegal Circuit Map
Picture Courtesy of Extreme E

Championship Battle:

Just nine points separate the top four teams in the championship standings with the title fight beginning to heat up. After a dominant win in AlUla, Rosberg X Racing head the table with thirty five points, closely followed by X44, Andretti United, and Acciona Sainz with thirty, twenty eight, and twenty six points respectively. Veloce foot the table with just four points following a crash in shakedown that saw them miss most of the rest of the weekend.

Driver Line-up Alterations:

2009 Formula One World Champion and JBXE team owner Jenson Button has stepped aside from his racing duties this weekend in order to focus on his team management role. Stepping in to replace him is Kevin Hansen, rally cross driver and brother of Andretti United driver, Timmy Hansen. Kevin is no stranger to Extreme E, helping to develop and test the Odyssey 21 in its early stages of development. He is also a good friend of teammate Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, with the pair having raced together in local rally championships when they were younger.

With a revised format, a title battle on a knife edge, and racing around the famous Dakar Rally, you’d be crazy to miss this weekend’s Extreme E action.

Scott Dixon Snatches Indianapolis 500 Pole from Colton Herta. Will Power and de Silvestro Narrowly Qualify.

Scott Dixon keeps his remarkable momentum going with a fourth pole position at the Indianapolis 500. His four-lap average of 231.685 mph topped the Fast Nine Shootout and will start on the front-row alongside Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta and Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay.

Colton Herta initially set a blistering four-lap average of 231.655 mph to take provisional pole, but Dixon had other ideas. Dixon was the last to run, and when he landed a 232.757 on his opening lap it was clear that Ganassi’s six-time IndyCar champion had the potential to earn his fourth pole. His drop-off was around 1.1mph across the four laps, so his final margin over Herta was only 0.03mph – after 10 miles of flat-out driving around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – but the job was done.

The next closest threat came from Rinus VeeKay, one of two drivers for Ed Carpenter Racing in the Fast Nine Shootout in what was a remarkable day for the team. Despite a small wiggle coming out of Turn 1 on his fourth lap, the Dutchman’s 231.511 was enough to start ahead of teammate Ed Carpenter (231.504 mph). They made up the only Chevrolet cars in an afternoon that was dominated by Honda.

Tony Kanaan (231.032 mph) starts ahead of his Spanish teammate Alex Palou (231.032 mph) to round out the second-row. For the Brazilian to out-qualify two of his full-time counterparts is nothing short of sensational.

The third-row will be shared between Ryan Hunter-Reay (230.499 mph), Helio Castroneves (230.355 mph), and Marcus Ericsson (230.318 mph). Meyer Shank Racing will be incredibly happy with Castroneves’s performance to pip the final Chip Ganassi driver in the session.

This afternoon also saw the final-row shootout for those who failed to make the Top 30 in yesterday’s qualifying. Will Power, Simona de Silvestro, Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball, and RC Enerson were all at risk of not qualifying for this year’s Indianapolis 500.

de Silvestro qualifies for the Indy 500. Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens.

It was Karam, Power, and de Silvestro who eventually qualified for the final-row in what was a significant milestone in the history of The Brickyard. de Silvestro and Paretta Autosport become the first female driver and all female-led team to qualify for ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Motorsport’.

Team Owner Beth Paretta was full of elation and had this to say on their achievement: “This is just the beginning!”

Consequentially, that means both Kimball and Enerson fail to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.

Some other shock performances in Saturday qualifying came from Penske’s Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud. Newgarden made multiple qualifying attempts but was forced to settle with a 230.071 mph four-lap average, good enough only for 21st. Likewise, Simon Pagenaud closed the day in 26th after setting an average of 229.778 mph in what was a difficult day for Chevrolet-powered teams.

Defending Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato will start from 15th. The last to win the 500′ after starting outside the Top 10 was Alexander Rossi in 2016. Incidentally, Rossi just missed out on the Fast Nine Shootout and starts 10th.

With the grid now set, teams have two more practice sessions before the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500, which will take place next Sunday 30 May at  17:00 (BST.)

FULL CLASSIFICATION:

  1. Dixon
  2. Herta
  3. VeeKay
  4. Carpenter
  5. Kanaan
  6. Palou
  7. Hunter-reay
  8. Castroneves
  9. Ericsson
  10. Rossi
  11. Jones
  12. O’Ward
  13. Fittipaldi
  14. Rosenqvist
  15. Sato
  16. Hinchcliffe
  17. McLaughlin
  18. Rahal
  19. Daly
  20. Harvey
  21. Newgarden
  22. Hildebrand
  23. Ferrucci
  24. Montoya
  25. Andretti
  26. Pagenayd
  27. Bourdais
  28.  Wilson
  29. Chilton
  30. Kellet
  31. Karam
  32. Power
  33. de Silvestro

The Greatest Spectacle in Racing: The Indianapolis 500 Preview

It’s here. The ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ is just around the corner as the eyes of the world descend on Indianapolis. A race that is etched into motorsport folklore with unbridled, full-throttle, commitment, and speed. We are, of course, talking about the Indy 500!

May is an incredible month of racing with the Monaco GP on May 23 before Indy 500 on May 30, although the latter is more like a two-week event as practice and qualifying start the week before the intense 500-mile, 200-lap race.

In fact, qualifying is set to take place across both Saturday and Sunday, beginning with the general shootout with the ‘Fast Six’ on the final day.

We also return to some form of normality, with the Indy 500 returning to its rightful place at the end of May – following last year’s postponed event that took place in the middle of August. Unlike last year, we will also have spectators with 135,000 in attendance, a whopping 40% capacity!

DRIVERS! DRIVERS EVERYWHERE!

This season truly has been one to remember. The 2021 campaign has had five race winners in five races with three of those being first-time winners in Alex Palou, Patricio O’Ward, and Rinus VeeKay.

Current championship leader Scott Dixon and Colton Herta won the other two races and the six-time champion will indeed be pushing for his second Indy 500 win having last achieved it in 2008.

The last seven winners are all present this year including Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Juan Pablo Montoya, and defending 500′ winner Takuma Sato. Both Sato and Montoya head into this race seeking an incredible third win which would put them tied fourth on the all-time winners list alongside the likes of Bobby Unser and Dario Franchetti.

Three-time winner Helio Castroneves also returns to the Brickyard. A win would put him tied first on the all-time list alongside A.J.Foyt, Al Unser Jr, and Rick Mears.

While the veterans of the sport all bring swathes of experience to the event, it’s the younger drivers who will certainly share the spotlight.

Rinus VeeKay won last time out at the IMS in a spectacular display of racecraft, cutting his way through the field to beat pole-sitter, Romain Grosjean, to the chequered flag. Last year, the Dutchman qualified inside the ‘Fast Six’ on his first attempt at the Brickyard, setting one of the fastest speeds ever seen at the 500′ in the process.

Scott Dixon followed by Alex Palou. 500 Practice. Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens.

Alongside him in last year’s Fast Six’ was Alex Palou, who likely caught the attention of his current outfit Chip Ganassi with his performance that weekend. Heading into this weekend second in the championship, Palou has an incredible opportunity to capitalise on the double points on offer.

Graham Rahal was one of the fastest in the pre-season test at the Brickyard and showed a similar pace in this week’s practice. The American driver has shown some incredible pace this year putting in two top-five finishes at the double-header in Texas.

There really are contenders everywhere you look. With Patricio O’Ward. Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden, Jack Harvey, Conor Daly, and Scott McLaughlin also looking incredibly sharp coming into qualifying.

FRESH FACES

As ever, we welcome a host of fresh faces to the 500′. Among these are rookies Pietro Fittipaldi and RC Enerson and veterans Pablo Montoya, Tony Kanaan, Santino Ferucci, Stefan Wilson, Ed Carpenter, and JR Hildebrand.

Marco Andretti returns with Andretti. He was last year’s pole-sitter and will be looking to repeat that feat this weekend.

Simona De Silvestro. Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens.

Simona De Silvestro also makes her Indy 500 comeback with the all-female Paretta Autosport outfit. This marks De Silvestro’s first run since the 2015 edition of the race.  The Swiss driver has made hints that she could make further IndyCar outings with Paretta in the future.

Both Romain Grosjean and Jimmie Johnson will not be taking part this weekend with both set to return at the Detriot GP.

HONDA VS CHEVY?

So far in practice, there doesn’t seem to be an overall advantage in what is set to be an incredibly competitive battle. Will Power with Penske Chevrolet topped Tuesday practice while Scott Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Honda topped Wednesday.

Honda, and Chevy have three wins apiece in six attempts. While the only oval comparison we can make this year at Texas was slightly skewed due to qualifying being canceled with the championship standings used to set the grid for the race. Both races were one by an Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet and Chip Ganassi Honda.

This race truly could be anyones for the taking.

YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THIS.

Thursday, May 20
5-11pm (BST): Indy 500 Practice

Friday, May 21
5-11:00pm (BST): Indy 500 Practice

Saturday, May 22
6-7:00pm (BST): Indy 500 Qualifying

Sunday, May 23
6-7.30pm (BST): Last Chance Qualifying
7.30-9.30pm (BST): Fast Nine Qualifying

Friday, May 28                                                                                                                                       3-5:00pm (BST): Final indy 500 Practice

Sunday, May 30                                                                                                                      4:30/4:45 (BST): Indy 500 Race Start

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alejandro Agag: “This is the biggest experiment in motorsport”.

When the new FIA Extreme E (XE) World Championship begins in the desert sands of the Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia this weekend, it won’t just be simply the start of another racing series but a revolutionary concept whose on-track glammer is matched only by its lofty off-track ambitions.

Cast your minds back to January 2019, during the official announcement on the cold, rainy and wintery deck of RMS St. Helena. The motorsport world gathered in anticipation for what was to come. A new championship.

Alejandro Agag, CEO of both Formula E and Extreme E unveiled his dream, an off-road electric SUV racing series that would travel the world to draw attention to climate change through environmentally friendly racing.

The series will take place in five remote locations affected by climate change, where all the equipment and cars are transported by a ‘floating paddock’ cargo ship, which will also serve as a laboratory for scientists to conduct research and enact conservation projects.

The St Helena logistics ship. Courtesy of Colin McMaster.

Each team features a male and female driver who must take turns throughout each race, and competitors can earn a boost by performing big jumps and winning online fan votes.

Throw in a strong driver line-up including F1 champion Jenson Button , multiple-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb and W Series champion Jamie Chadwick.

Sounds good doesn’t it?

Courtesy of Extreme E

Something that fascinates me is the incredible mixture of young and established names in motorsport with the likes of Carlos Sainz Snr, Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi involved in the series in some way. These personalities and brands are essential to providing Extreme E with a credibility amongst hardcore motorsport fans.

One the other hand you have Veloce Racing, a tech firm and esports squad taking its first step into real-world motorsport. Younger audiences will be familiar with their esports exploits but will inevitably follow with intrigue their transition into the physical world.

It carries the same energy as when ‘new money’ from the Industrial Revolution joined the ranks of the traditional aristocratic and landed gentry of Britain in the 18th century. We are seeing a blurring of the lines of what a traditional race team can look like.

Whether you are a racing ‘super-fan’, an environmentalist or a travel connoisseur, Extreme E has something for everyone.

Alejandro Agag, CEO, Extreme E, with all the drivers lined up in the background. Courtesy of Steven Tee.

But do not just take it from me, take it from the man who set up the whole series. During the official press conference Alejandro Agag spoke about his thoughts on the season opener:

“It would have been impossible to organise this race without our hosts and the teams” said Alejandro on the Friday morning before the opening qualifying session. “it’s an incredibly happy day for me. Many people did not think this was going to happen, that is true, this is quite out of the box.”

“This is the biggest experiment in motorsport”.

On the future of Extreme E Alejandro was keen to highlight that set it apart from the Formula E championship: “They are very different. Which one will be bigger? Who knows? They can both become very big, of course, I am keen on both.”

“In terms of manufacturers in season one (Formula E) we had Mahindra, Audi had support with Abt, Renault had support with DAMS. However, already here we have two in season one. We have Cupra, Hummer and Lotus which may become a full partner in the future.”

Importantly, as we have seen with Formula E manufacturers tend to come and go. This has left Alejandro with a philosophy which favours independent teams over manufacturers. With a strong independent line-up including teams owned by Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Veloce, Nico Rosberg, Carlos Sainz Snr and many others, there is certainly a freshness and originality to this grid.

“There are very significant manufacturers who are interested in Extreme E. But you have to build championships independently of manufacturers because when they go, they go. […] Manufacturers are not necessary.”

On which team are the favourites going into the inaugural season, Alejandro was coy, suggesting a competitive title battle:

“Ganassi was looking strong, even though they had a technical problem this morning. But outside of them it looks really open. If I had nine dollars I would put one dollar on each of the other nine teams.”

There have been some minor last-minute alterations to the format in response to reliability. A qualifying race will now be replaced by a series of time trials on Saturday that will form the grid for the semi-final, crazy race and final showdown on Sunday.

On reliability, Alejandro played down his concerns:  “I’m not too concerned. “

“(During testing) 18 out of 20 cars broke down. Here this morning two out of nine broke. I hope no car breaks tomorrow but that’s part of racing. I have to say if seven out of nine cars broke this morning I would be concerned.”

Zurich ePrix: Di Grassi wins as penalties shrink Vergne’s title lead

Lucas di Grassi ended his season four win drought by rising from fifth to first in Sunday’s Zurich ePrix, while title challenger Sam Bird finished second to slash Jean-Éric Vergne’s championship lead by almost half.

Lucas di Grassi, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler / Courtesy of ABB FIA Formula E

The race began in mixed-up fashion, with Techeetah’s Andre Lotterer starting well from second to threaten maiden polesitter Mitch Evans off the line. But although Evans managed to defend from Lotterer and drop him back into pressure from third-placed Bird, the Jaguar driver was unable to pull clear of the cars behind as he struggled with rising battery temperatures.

This brought di Grassi right onto the back of the podium pack, once the Audi driver dispatched with Jérôme d’Ambrosio for fourth place. By lap 13 di Grassi had passed Bird at the hairpin—taking advantage of the Briton’s battle with Lotterer ahead to close in on the pair—and three laps later did what Bird was unable to and took second from Lotterer.

With Evans’ battery issues continuing out in front, di Grassi was quickly onto the gearbox of the Jaguar—and on lap 18 the outgoing champion made his move on the run to Turn 1, and breezed past into first place.

Once in the lead di Grassi continued to build a gap to those behind him, and at the end of lap 39 crossed the finish line 7.5s ahead to take his first and Audi’s third win of the 2017–18 season.

Jean-Éric Vergne, Techeetah / Courtesy of ABB FIA Formula E

But while last season’s champion enjoyed his best Formula E weekend since last year’s Montreal finale, current championship leader Vergne suffered huge losses at the Zurich ePrix.

Coming into the weekend with a mathematical chance of clinching the title, Vergne qualified near the back of the grid in 17th while his only remaining rival Bird was set to start from the second row.

Vergne made good progress in the early stages and before the halfway stage had already got his Techeetah up into the lower points. But on lap 17 Vergne came together with Felix Rosenqvist while taking eighth, sending the Mahindra driver into the wall at Turn 1 and triggering a full course yellow to remove the debris.

Felix Rosenqvist, Mahindra Racing / Courtesy of ABB FIA Formula E

This proved to be the defining moment of the race, as shortly after the halfway pitstops it was announced that Vergne—along with Lotterer, Evans and Sébastien Buemi—had been given a drive-through penalty for speeding under the full course yellow.

These penalties drastically altered the order. With fewer than ten laps remaining, Lotterer, Evans and Buemi dropped from second, third and fourth respectively, while Vergne was once more put outside the points after his trip through the pitlane.

Worse still for Vergne, the penalties for those in front meant that Bird was elevated to second place, where the DS Virgin driver finished to add another 18 points to his championship challenge.

Jérôme d’Ambrosio, Dragon Racing / Courtesy of ABB FIA Formula E

D’Ambrosio completed the podium in third, his and Dragon’s first podium since the 2016 London ePrix, while Lotterer held on for fourth.

Buemi recovered from his penalty to take fifth, one place higher than he started, after using his FanBoost to pass Evans in the closing stages—Evans lost a further place to Nick Heidfeld before the end, and finished behind the German in seventh. António Félix da Costa and Oliver Turvey were promoted into the lower points by the penalties ahead and a retirement for Nico Prost, and finished eighth and ninth respectively.

Meanwhile, Vergne fought his way back into tenth place to take the final point of the day. The Frenchman had been set to add another point with the fastest lap, until his Techeetah teammate Lotterer take that honour away in the final stages.

Vergne’s low finish and Bird’s podium mean the gap at the top of the standings is now down from 40 to 23 points with only the double header in New York—which Bird dominated last season—left to go.

Audi fly high as Mahindra hit trouble: Mexico City ePrix Race Report

Mexico City hosted its third ePrix at the famous Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City last weekend.

After the surprises in the inaugural race last year featuring a sublime energy-saving drive from last year’s champion Lucas Di Grassi and a duel between Jérôme D’Ambrosio and Jean-Éric Vergne, it was set to be another thrilling event on the motorsport calendar.

Di Grassi, still without points at this stage, had the misfortune of ending up in group 1 of qualifying. However, this did not deter the current champion as he lit up the timing screens purple, sending his Audi into the top spot, followed by Maro Engel’s Venturi and D’Ambrosio’s Dragon.

Though, this elation did not last long as group 2 – a formidable line up of Felix Rosenqvist, Sébastien Buemi, Sam Bird, Nelson Piquet and championship leader Vergne took to the track.

Rosenqvist wasted no time on his flying lap, snatching away P1 before an insurgent Buemi bit back and took the top spot away from the Swede, with Piquet and Bird slotting themselves into superpole contention.

Within group 3, António Félix Da Costa had a stormer, putting his Andretti into third position, with last year’s polesitter Oliver Turvey also impressing, depriving Vergne of a shot of superpole.

Group 4 also held promise with the likes of dark horses such as Mitch Evans and Daniel Abt and the best track conditions. However, a series of messy laps left everyone in mid-table positions and out of the superpole positions, leaving Buemi, Rosenqvist, Da Costa, Turvey and Alex Lynn to fight for the pole.

Lynn set the bar in superpole initially despite a looming penalty, with a respectable time of a 1.02.014. Turvey followed, slotting in behind Lynn after a scrappy lap. Da Costa had another excellent run, managing to place himself on provisional pole, much to the delight of his Andretti team.

However, two men stood in the way of his first official pole, two men who excel in qualifying and in claiming pole positions. Rosenqvist went first and pulled out a stellar lap, shaving two tenths off Da Costa’s time. Buemi was the last man standing, the only one capable of toppling a dominant Mahindra. However, a lap ridden with mistakes left him adrift in a lowly fifth and Rosenqvist picked up the three points and the bragging rights for starting on pole, followed by Da Costa, Lynn, Turvey and Buemi.

Da Costa’s elation at being on the front row did not last, however. He was given a penalty before the start for a underweight car, dropping him back to fourth, whilst Lynn took his grid penalty from the previous race for mechanical alterations on his car.

The race started with relative calmness as Rosenqvist held P1 and began to pull away from the chasing Turvey. Evans made quick work of André Lotterer’s Techeetah for P8 and Vergne swept past Da Costa, eager to keep his championship lead strong. Struggling Audi looked better in this race – Di Grassi despite his position and a ten second time penalty looming carved his way through the field in the early stages as Abt hunted down Buemi for P3.

However, the curse of Mexico struck once again as Rosenqvist’s car slowed to a stop, putting the leader of the race dead last and allowing Turvey to take the lead. Rosenqvist was able to get his Mahindra going again before it stopped again and he crawled to the pits to take his other car. Mahindra’s bad luck continued as Nick Heidfeld’s car also suffered mechanical problems, stopping mid race.

Audi, however, seemed invigorated. Spurred on by their recent troubles, Abt jumped Turvey in the pits, leading the NIO driver to fight against a charging Vergne and Buemi. Buemi used his fanboost to get past Vergne, eager to capture his first win of this season as he proceeded to hunt down Turvey, but the British driver proved a harder nut to crack.

Evans give way to Piquet in order to utilise the Brazilian’s drive and lower energy consumption. Piquet was able to edge past Vergne as he fought to collect his first podium since the inaugural season in which he became champion.

Di Grassi claimed fastest lap whilst out of the points paying position and set about clawing through the field to capture P10 and capture his first points of the season. As Di Grassi closed in on P10, Buemi and Piquet gave chase to Turvey as Abt continued to pull away.

Piquet forced Turvey to lock up into turn one but failed to get past his ex-teammate. Di Grassi managed to clinch P9, his first points since his disastrous title defence began as Abt finally claimed his first win of Formula E, followed by an impressive Turvey and Buemi.

Formula E Pre-Season Testing Report: Day Two

The second day of Formula E testing kicked off once more under the sunshine of the Ricardo Tormo circuit. It was another opportunity for drivers and teams to gain valuable information from their cars.

Despite the controversy and problems that the drivers encountered yesterday with the built in chicane on the main straight, an additional chicane has been added just before the start-finish line, which distorted the times to an extent. Techeetah’s Jean-Éric Vergne locked up twice on the exit of the new chicane and many of the drivers seemed uncomfortable with the new addition to the track.

Two new drivers made their debut this morning as Andretti elected to run Alexander Sims, who participated yesterday, and DTM driver Tom Blomqvist in place of António Félix da Costa. Blomqvist had a troubled run, running into problems with his car, but Sims had another consistent session. Venturi’s new development driver Michaël Benyahia was out on track this morning as he fought to impress the Monégasque team.

2017/2018 FIA Formula E Championship.
Official Test – Valencia, Spain
Tuesday 3 October 2017.
Alexander Sims (GBR), Andretti Formula E, Andretti ATEC-03
Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _J6I9478

Renault made their mark early in the day on a cool track as Prost immediately began to turn the timing screens purple. However, Audi Abt Schaeffler found some momentum with Daniel Abt taking the top spot at the end of the first hour.

Audi continued to look strong and consistent on the circuit but Renault e.Dams began to fight back, improving on a warmer track. Buemi and Prost occupied the top two positions as the session ticked over the two hour mark.

Oliver Turvey had another solid run, showcasing the NIO car has been through significant development over the winter period. He took the top spot from Buemi, only for the e.Dams driver to snatch it back moments later with a blistering time of a 1.21.890. It was a position that he would retain for the rest of the session, giving indications of what Renault e.Dams could be capable of in season 4. Felix Rosenqvist had a productive session, finishing in P2 and Sam Bird rounded out the top three.

2017/2018 FIA Formula E Championship.
Official Test – Valencia, Spain
Tuesday 3 October 2017.
Sebastien Buemi (SUI), Renault e.Dams, Renault Z.E 17
Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _W6I0626

Renault continued their dominant form into the afternoon as Prost immediately turned the sectors purple with a 1.23.544. They pushed hard, consistently taking the top spots in a duel with Mahindra’s Rosenqvist and Techeetah’s Vergne.

Rosenqvist had a strong run this afternoon, putting himself into P2 in the early stages of the session before pulling together a monster lap of a 1.22.747.

Venturi’s James Rossiter brought out a red flag an hour from the end of the session after hitting the new temporary chicane installed at the beginning of the straight. The barriers were once more retooled, but many drivers were still unhappy with the set up. Buemi again went down to the site of the crash, documenting the damage.

Audi struggled in the opening stages of the afternoon session but Di Grassi soon found some pace, snatching P1 away when the session restarted following Rossiter’s incident. However, it was Buemi who whitewashed the session, taking the top position back moments later. The race ended with Buemi in P1 with Di Grassi in second and a solid effort from Nelson Piquet Jr placed him in P3.

Formula E Pre-Season Testing: Day One Report

The Ricardo Tormo circuit, situated on the outskirts of Valencia, is hosting the Formula E collective test this week in preparation for Season 4. It provides  the first opportunity for drivers to get to grips with their performance in terms of their competitors.

In the first morning session of the three day test, Mahindra set the initial pace but Jaguar also showed promise from the start. By the end of the first hour, Mitch Evans topped the leaderboard with a 1.19.776, followed by Audi Abt Schaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi who was a mere one tenth behind.

Jaguar showcased that their development throughout the winter has paid off as Evans continued to dominate throughout the session. Nelson Piquet Jr also seemed to settle into his new team, taking P6 by the end of the session. DS Virgin’s Alex Lynn in a new dark testing livery, and Evans fought for the top spoils, however, Sam Bird improved on a warmer track, taking first position with a time of 1.18.669. The Audi’s of Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt followed.

2017/2018 FIA Formula E Championship.
Official Test – Valencia, Spain
Monday 2 October 2017.
Jaguar
Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _W6I9911

DS Virgin and Audi Abt Schaeffler looked strong on this track – however, it is not indicative of the true potential of the cars when they perform on street circuits.

Regardless of this, the test has shown that all the teams have made significant development over the winter. Renault didn’t show their potential in this session as they only occupied P8 and P9 and Sébastien Buemi seemed generally unhappy with the set-up of his car.

Mahindra faded after a strong start, with Felix Rosenqvist only completing 17 laps. Techeetah also seemed to struggle getting to grips with the track, with Jean-Éric Vergne managing P11 and new driver André Lotterer P16.

Formula E has eight new drivers undertaking test duties this week. Alexander Sims made his mark in his attempt to take the second Andretti seat as the IMSA driver outperformed teammate Antonio Felix Da Costa in the morning session and made a solid start.

James Rossiter, previous test driver for Honda and Force India was the best placed of the rookies, having a excellent session which placed him in P12. The other rookies, including newly unveiled Indycar and GP2 NIO driver, Luca Filippi, had solid runs, clocking up over 20 laps a piece, good preparation for the days to come as they become familiar with the car.

2017/2018 FIA Formula E Championship.
Official Test – Valencia, Spain
Monday 2 October 2017.
Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _W6I9571

In the afternoon session, Buemi and Renault showed their hand, leaping to the top of the timing screens. Jaguar once again made a solid start with Piquet and Evans climbing the rankings.

Techeetah had a much better afternoon, with Vergne shaking off the troubles of this morning and slotting himself into P3 at the beginning of the session. However, Bird soon brought out a red flag as he crashed out on the tyre chicane just before turn one, forcing his car to be towed away as he beat a hasty retreat to the pits. Racing resumed soon after with Rosenqvist snatching the top spot with a blistering time of 1.18.779.

However, red flags continued to plague the drivers as they struggled in the rising temperatures. Lotterer stopped at turn 7 with a mechanical issue and had to be towed off the track, only to appear a short while later and climb the order. However, turn 7 seemed to pose a problem for Techeetah as Vergne also fell victim to the corner, hitting the gravel and red flagging the session once more.

As racing resumed, Audi began to gain momentum, as Di Grassi and Abt fought for the top position in the latter stages. Buemi also contested the top spot, snatching the position away from Di Grassi by a margin of only two thousandths of a second. However, it was the NIO car of Oliver Turvey who finished on top. With two minutes to go, he put in a time of 1.18.565, the fastest of the day.

2017/2018 FIA Formula E Championship.
Official Test – Valencia, Spain
Monday 2 October 2017.
Sam Bird (GBR), DS Virgin Racing, DS Virgin DSV-03
Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _J6I9240

We grabbed a few words with DS Virgin Racing’s Alex Lynn and Sam Bird on how the day went and on the upcoming season:

Q:  Congratulations on securing the drive, Alex. Just wanted to know what your thoughts on the session so far today?

Alex Lynn: Yeah, it’s very positive. We had a good day. Many laps, car went round and round so very positive. I think the lads have been working really hard in the workshop to get everything done.

Q: What are your aims for this season? Where do you want to be in terms of Formula E?

AL: I think the plan is to definitely win races and be on the podium, that’s the immediate goal and what we’d like to achieve. As a team, I think we want to learn as much as we can over the next few days and arrive in Hong Kong in a strong position.

Q: How challenging is this circuit in comparison to the street circuits you usually operate on?

Sam Bird: The circuit doesn’t represent what we will be running on but it’s unrepresentative for everybody so everybody’s in the same boat. We were very quick this morning, I think the track got a little bit quicker this evening but we were doing race running so no worries. Compared to Hong Kong, the average speeds are enormous so what we run here is not what everyone will run in Hong Kong.

Q: Do you feel the season 4 car a significant step forward?

SB: I think there are some teams that have made the jump forwards and hopefully, we can see where we come out of it. There’s certainly a lot of teams who have put a lot of effort and resources and obviously their new systems and we will have to see where we are after that.

Q: What are your opinions on the way the series is going?

SB: It’s very exciting. This series is in a very stable situation right now, loads of new manufacturers coming on board and some big names.Amazing driver line up again this season and a great calendar, just need London back on the calendar. I fully expect it to flourish.