The start to the fourth season of FIA Formula E season in Hong Kong was full of drama, action and anticipation. To start with, fans were treated to a double header in the opening round of the season — a race on Saturday, followed by the second one on Saturday.
In the first ePrix of the season, Sam Bird of DS Virgin Racing emerged triumphant after overtaking Jean-Eric Vergne for the lead on lap 20/43. Bird managed his victory despite an eventful race — during his mandatory car swap, Bird drove into his team after misjudging his pit entry. It was dangerous, but didn’t lead to much delay to his pit-stop time.
The unsafe act, however, saw him being slapped with a drive through penalty, one that couldn’t stop him from clinching his sixth Formula E win. Bird won the ePrix 12 seconds of the field and is now equal with Lucas di Grassi on number of Formula E wins (also the second highest for any driver).
Vergne started his fourth season campaign by scoring pole position for the first race. In fact, he clinched his pole in dramatic fashion — by spinning across the finish line, moments after setting the fastest time.
Nick Heidfeld scored a podium for Mahindra Racing — his eighth third-place finish overall. And like his Formula 1 career, Heidfeld still remains the highest podium scorer in Formula E who is yet to score a win. It was a good race overall, with Nelson Piquet Jr engineering a rally-style overtake on Felix Rosenqvist for fifth place. Basically, there was ample on-track action for the fans to savour.
Rosenqvist upped his form from Saturday to Sunday by clinching a Super Pole ahead of his rivals. The Swedish driver’s exploits did induce social media chatter within fans wondering why he hadn’t gotten his break in Formula 1 yet. Given the announcement of the other Swede Marcus Ericsson’s unpopular extension with the Sauber F1 Team for 2018, maybe the fans weren’t too far off in their opinions.
An exuberant victory, quickly followed by an unexpected disqualification — Round 2 of Formula E’s first ePrix of the season was anything but predictable. What should have been a dream weekend for Audi’s Daniel Abt went horribly wrong. He was denied his first-ever win — that too on the day of his 25th birthday — when following post-racing scrutineering, the FIA’s technical stewards said the barcodes on the MGU and inverter did not match those on the FE04’s ‘Technical Passport’. Had Abt not been disqualified, this race would have been Audi's first-ever victory in Formula E after becoming a full factory-backed works team.
Race 2 seemed like a race that no one wanted to win. Pole-sitter Rosenqvist spun while in the lead, gifting the lead to Edoarda Mortara who also spun after leading for many laps, eventually gifting the lead to Audi Sport’s Abt.
However, Abt’s disqualification meant that Rosenqvist of Mahindra Racing was gifted his first-ever Formula ePrix. Rosenqvist, also clinched pole position and fastest lap for Race 2, the first-ever hat-trick in the history of Formula E. Mortara finished second, while Mitch Evans inherited third, scoring Jaguar’s first podium in Formula E.
For Indian Formula E fans, the opening two races brought much cheer as the Indian-owned Mahindra Racing team left Hong Kong as the team leading the Constructors’ Championship table by three points. Among the drivers, Bird leads with 35 points, Vergne is second with 33, followed by Rosenqvist at 29.
For us, the biggest disappointment was Neel Jani (debuting with Dragon), who we had high expectations from but finished 18th and last in both races. This was not an ideal debut, but we wonder if the lack of practice time and sessions are a worry for debutants. Dragon Racing is the only team to have not scored a point in the opening rounds.
The performance of past champions Di Grassi and Sebastien Buemi was lacking with the former scoring no points and the latter just a solitary point through the entire weekend. Likewise for the three time Teams’ Champions Renault e.dams — they scored the second lowest of all teams in Hong Kong, a mere seven points. They will have to dig deep and bounce back to regain top billing in the championship.
Nico Rosberg and Formula E
The 2016 Formula 1 Champion, Nico Rosberg, was present in Hong Kong for the ePrix, and while he ruled out possibility of racing in the series, he did cite interest in the future of the series. There was speculation whether Rosberg would take up a role with the series or with one of the participating teams. With Mercedes joining the grid in the 2018-19 season, could Rosberg be appointed their Team Principal? He’s already learning the ropes via managing his father Keke Robserg’s GT team and their expansion this season.
The French tyre manufacturer, also the official tyre supplier for Formula E, announced that they would be extending their association with the all-electric series till the 2020-21 season. Given the high road relevance of the tyres raced in the series, this is a win-win for the series and for Michelin.
The biggest draw of the opening rounds was the uncertainty of form and of knowing which team driver would come out on top and that’s exactly what the Hong Kong ePrix delivered. There are 40 days now to the next race, so here’s the countdown to the Marrakesh ePrix.
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Updated Date: Dec 04, 2017 20:06:08 IST