By Sarah Peddie
The second round of the Formula E season gets underway tomorrow afternoon in Morocco’s Red City. Marrakesh will host the all-electric series again for the third year in a row. In the past two years we have seen two different winners at this circuit, Sebastien Buemi won in 2016 and Felix Rosenqvist conquered the streets last year.
At the last round in Saudi Arabia it was the first time the Gen2 car raced around a track. With the new cars this meant that the drivers could go the full distance without switching into their second car halfway through the race. New features like ‘Attack Mode’ was introduced and tested out for the first time. The race format also changed with the race lasting 45 minutes plus one lap.
With adding rain into the mix for qualifying the first ePrix of the 2018/19 of the season was action packed to say the least. Antonio Felix da Costa qualified on pole position and went on to take the race victory in his BMW i Andretti Motorsport Gen2 car. Jean-Eric Vergne came second place in the DS Techeetah team and Jerome D’ambrosio completed the podium places in the Mahindra car.
Formula E journalist Hazel Southwell looked back on the race in Saudi Arabia and said: “We know some teams didn’t cope as well with their setup in Riyadh, which was why there were so many penalties for technical infringements. That’s to be expected, without free practice and with brand new cars, however – it may be that the teams who didn’t experience issues are more likely running with a standardised setup that might cause them more trouble in trying to adapt to changing Formula E tracks.
“Equally, Ad Diriyah was quite flat-out, due to the safety car period but that won’t be the case in many circuits – so we currently don’t really know the efficiency differences between the cars or how they can management them against the requirements of Attack Mode.”
This weekend, the race will be held at the Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan. All events will take place on the Saturday including Practice, Qualifying and the Race. 22 drivers will battle it out on the track for the top three spots on the podium.
Felix Rosenqvist won on the streets of Marrakesh last year in the Mahindra with a move on Sebastien Buemi in the last remaining laps. This meant that the Swede won his second consecutive race in a row. With Rosenqvist not competing in the series this year, we might have another different winner.
Hazel then gave her thoughts ahead of tomorrow’s ePrix and said: “The season still hasn’t shaken out, in terms of pecking order or what to expect from races. While we know some teams are more likely to be front runners than others, reliability and setup aren’t really proven (as Ad Diriyah was such a disrupted day) and we haven’t yet run a race at a representative temperature, which is hugely important for battery and regeneration management.
“Marrakesh will be interesting, firstly as the first direct comparison between Gen1 and Gen2 and secondly because this is a race that’s heavy on the throttle, with unusually large runoffs and long straights for a Formula E circuit so we’re unlikely to see safety cars, guaranteed to see drivers facing energy management. In addition, the temperature across the track changes enormously both within a lap (some areas are shaded by buildings) and from free practice until the race.”
With the first race of the season being so close between different teams, Hazel states what teams we should look out for tomorrow: “You can bet that Techeetah, BMW and the Audi-driven cars will be strong, so long as they can put together an error-free day and not succumb to mistakes. But the rest of the field we don’t have an immediate read on – Nissan, NIO and the Venturi cars could come massively forward with a clean day and Dragon were really strong at Ad Diriyah testing. So as is often the case in Formula E: at this point, we probably know most of what we don’t know. But don’t rule out another Saharan snowstorm or a sudden HWA breakthrough.”
Qualifying starts tomorrow at 11am with the race starting at 3pm UK time later on the same day.