Felix Rosenqvist has won for the second time in the first three races of the 2017/18 FIA Formula E Championship with victory in a closely-fought Marrakesh E-Prix. The Mahindra driver started the race from third but eventually overcame pole-man Sebastien Buemi in the closing stages to secure the win and take the lead in the championship standings for the first time in his Formula E career.
Buemi made a strong getaway in his Renault e.dams machine, leading second-placed starter Sam Bird in the DS Virgin Racing car with Rosenqvist third. The top trio was undoubtedly the class of the field, pulling out a healthy margin to the chasing pack, although Bird was struggling with a car issue in the first half of the race and was passed by the Mahindra on lap 16.
Reigning champion Lucas di Grassi was also having technical difficulties and endured a difficult day despite showing strong pace. After getting into the super-pole shootout, he began experiencing issues with his Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler car which meant that, despite starting the race well, he would eventually be forced to retire with the issues from qualifying appearing to recur.
As the top three broke away and Di Grassi dropped out of the running, Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s Nelson Piquet Jr had another strong showing to finish fourth for the second time this year. He had dropped behind Lopez in the early laps but got past during the mid-race car swaps and stayed there for the remainder of the laps
With the front three having broken away there was intense racing further back from fifth to tenth place. The TECHEETAH of Jean-Eric Vergne would take the chequered flag in fifth to continue his consistent run of strong scores, while Lopez ended up an impressive sixth on his Dragon debut.
The battle for seventh was perhaps the most heated of all, with several drivers clashing in the latter stages in a bid to make a pass stick. Ultimately a robust defence from winner Rosenqvist’s team-mate Heidfeld netted him the position, while the two Venturi cars made contact with each other and then the Mahindra, resulting in Edoardo Mortara dropping back with damage and Maro Engel receiving a penalty for causing the collision that put him down to 12th.
This late drama meant that Tom Blomqvist was able to impress on his Formula E debut for Andretti in eighth, while Alex Lynn and Daniel Abt completed the top ten for DS Virgin Racing and Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler respectively.
This third round of the 2017/18 FIA Formula E Championship has left an intriguing championship order, with Rosenqvist leading Bird by four points ahead of Vergne, Piquet Jr and Mortara. The next round takes place for the first time in Santiago de Chile on 3 February.
Felix Rosenqvist, Mahindra Racing, said: “At one point of the day I was going to be settling somewhere in the middle of the mid-field after free practice as we were struggling a lot. We then made some analysis and in qualifying we found out how to work the tyres properly, so that was a really good comeback before the race. Before the race, Spark told me I had to change my battery thirty-minutes before jumping in the car before the grid, so I was praying that my second car would be ready. Big thanks to the Mahindra guys. I think I was a little bit lucky with Lucas dropping out of the race quite early on, and obviously Sam had a problem with his car on the main straight as well. I tried to keep calm and look at my energy, because this race wasn’t really about the temperature but more about energy, and when the moment was right I went for it – super happy!”
Sebastien Buemi, Renault e.dams, said: “I had an issue with the water pump and it wouldn’t start so we had to switch cars, so the car I started with was supposed to be the second one. Because of this we didn’t get FANBOOST sorted properly, so I think Felix had a bit more pace in the second stint, not much, but then I was overtaken at the end and I thought I would leave it to the last minute to use FANBOOST, but it didn’t work. I was annoyed, I didn’t properly move over to the inside and he managed to pass me, otherwise I would’ve closed the door a bit better, so I don’t know what happened. He had a little more pace and he deserved the win, so I don’t really think second is bad, but a big disappointment when you lead for most of the race.”
Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing, said: “We’ve had an issue since Hong Kong which you wouldn’t have noticed from the outside. We had tried to address it but it came back, and it came back big time in the race. We actually noticed it a lot in FP2, during a 200kW lap attempt – I noticed some difficulties with the rear of the car and I came in early from my run. We thought ‘do we change it, do we not’, and anyway we said no, let’s not change the component and unfortunately it’s come to bite us a little bit in the race. But still, third place is strong points and it’s a third place with a big issue! I didn’t think I was going to finish the race in the first car, I thought I was going to be pulling over and retiring so actually we were quite relieved with the full course yellow came and saved my bacon a little bit.”
2017/18 FIA Formula E Championship Round 3 – Marrakesh
1 – Felix Rosenqvist, Mahindra Racing, 48:04.751s (25)
2 – Sebastien Buemi, Renault e.dams, +0.945s (21)
3 – Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing, +5.762s (15)
4 – Nelson Piquet Jr, Panasonic Jaguar Racing, +6.554s (13)
5 – Jean-Eric Vergne, TECHEETAH, +12.238s (10)
6 – Jose Maria Lopez, DRAGON, +16.491s (8)
7 – Nick Heidfeld, Mahindra Racing, +28.381s (6)
8 – Tom Blomqvist, Andretti Formula E, +32.380s (4)
9 – Alex Lynn, DS Virgin Racing, +33.520s (2)
10 – Daniel Abt, ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport, +40.951s (1)
11 – Mitch Evans, Panasonic Jaguar Racing, +46.278s
12 – Maro Engel, Venturi Formula E Team, +46.915s
13 – Nico Prost, Renault e.dams, +53.099s
14 – Antonio Felix da Costa, Andretti Formula E, +1:01.116s
15 – Jerome D’Ambrosio, DRAGON, +1:13.805s
16 – Luca Filippi, NIO Formula E Team, +1 Lap
17 – Edoardo Mortara, Venturi Formula E Team, +3 Laps
DNF – Oliver Turvey, NIO Formula E Team, 17 Laps
DNF – Andre Lotterer, TECHEETAH, 14 Laps
DNF – Lucas di Grassi, ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport, 7 Laps
Felix Rosenqvist, Mahindra Racing – 54
Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing – 50
Jean-Eric Vergne, TECHEETAH – 43
Nelson Piquet Jr, Panasonic Jaguar Racing – 25
Edoardo Mortara, Venturi Formula E – 24
Mahindra Racing – 75
DS Virgin Racing – 58
TECHEETAH – 43
Panasonic Jaguar Racing – 40
Venturi Formula E Team – 30
Renault e.dams – 28
Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler – 12
Andretti Formula E – 12
NIO Formula E Team – 9
DRAGON – 8
eom/FIA press release