The only permanent circuit of the FIA Formula E Championship awaits this Saturday, April 1, as the series moves to the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez for the Mexico City ePrix.
|2016-17 FIA Formula E Championship – Mexico City ePrix|
|Date||01 April 2017||Lap Length||2.092km|
|Free Practice Session 1||Sat 08:00-08:45||Free Practice Session 2||Sat 10:30-11:00|
|Qualifying Group 1||Sat 12:00-12:06||Qualifying Group 2||Sat 12:10-12:16|
|Qualifying Group 3||Sat 12:20-12:26||Qualifying Group 4||Sat 12:30-12:36|
|Super Pole||Sat 12:45-13:00||Race (44 laps)||Sat 16:04-17:00|
Session times quoted in Central Standard Time (GMT -06:00)
Despite being a purpose-built racing facility, the Formula E layout has been specifically created for the series and has been slightly revised from the inaugural event last season. In a bid to promote passing – notably difficult during last year’s ePrix – the right-left Turn 1-2 chicane complex has been replaced by a single, tighter right hand first turn leading into what is now Turn 2, the first sweeping right hand section of the oval course.
The rest of the course remains effectively unchanged from its original Formula E design, however a wall of TecPro barriers has been added inside the final chicane (located mid-way around the famous Peraltada corner). This revision has been made to deter drivers from short-cutting the corner in a bid to gain an advantage, and was seen several times during last year’s race.
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Last year’s winner in Mexico City was Jérôme d’Ambrosio and the Faraday Future Dragon Racing driver is happy to be back, even with the circuit changes.
“The track itself is quite interesting,” he explains. “It’s a good one, it’s a challenging one, the infield is quite technical and then those chicanes, Turn 1 and the last chicane are going to be very different from last year. Turn 1 because of the shape, the last chicane because you just can’t cut as much you use to. Overall, I think it’s a great track. There will be more overtaking with the changes to the layout. And it is very special with the infield stadium, so yeah it is great being here.”
As previously announced, a change has been made to the Techeetah driver line up ahead of Mexico City, with Esteban Gutiérrez beginning his Formula E career at his home event.
While this is the only planned driver change for the ePrix itself, three drivers missed Friday afternoon’s shakedown session: Stéphane Sarrazin, José María López and championship leader Sébastien Buemi were at Monza for Toyota’s World Endurance Championship launch and series prologue, and all three are scheduled to arrive in Mexico City on Friday night (local time).
For the shakedown, Venturi substituted former GP2 Series race winner Tom Dillmann for Sarrazin, while DS Virgin Racing employed the services of fellow GP2 Series race-winner Alex Lynn in place of López. Renault e.Dams took a different strategy, with Buemi’s team mate Nicolas Prost shaking down all four of the team’s cars during the session. While the teams and drivers involved are playing down the likelihood of any problems from missing the session, any additional track time for drivers – especially on an updated circuit – is a benefit that would rarely get passed up.
While he might be leading the championship, the lack of pre-event track time in Mexico has occurred at the best possible time for Buemi. So dominant has the Swiss driver been in winning all three ePrix so far this season, he will still be leading the championship at the end of the ePrix regardless of the result.
It is highly likely that Buemi will once again be at the front this Saturday given both his form and the Spark-Renault Z.E. 16 being the current car of choice. Prost, who sits third in the championship standings following three consecutive fourth places, finished third in this race last season and is also likely to be challenging for the podium again.
The emerging challenger to the Renault e.Dams team is Techeetah, unsurprisingly as the new Chinese-owned team is a Renault customer using the same specification car as the factory team. The team clearly has started to gel – Jean-Éric Vergne scoring their first podium with second place in Buenos Aires – and the addition of Gutiérrez will only aid their growth. It may be too much to expect the Mexican to be at the front in his first-ever ePrix (despite the local support he’ll receive at the sold-out event), but Vergne should challenge again this weekend.
Lucas di Grassi currently sits second in the championship – as does his ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport team – and the Brazilian was actually first across the line in last year’s Mexico City race, only to be excluded after the event when his car was found to be below the minimum permitted weight. Underweight car or not, it was clear last year that di Grassi and the ABT team found a competitive set up for the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, and this will likely provide a solid baseline for a competitive 2017 ePrix.
The other team likely to challenge in Mexico is Faraday Future Dragon Racing. D’Ambrosio and Loïc Duval last year benefited from di Grassi’s exclusion to finish first and fourth respectively (sandwiching the Renault e.Dams cars), and should once again be near the front this week.
The 2017 Mexico City ePrix begins with Practice 1 at 08:00 local time (UTC -06:00), with Practice 2 following at 10:30. Qualifying is scheduled for 12:00, ahead of the race start at 16:00.
Images via FIA Formula E Championship