Felix Rosenqvist has taken victory in the Marrakesh ePrix, coming out on top in a battle with Sébastien Buemi to not only claim the Moroccan event, but also take the championship lead.
Having qualified third on the grid behind Buemi and Sam Bird, Rosenqvist held position from the start, remaining calm behind Bird through the opening phases of the race.
On Lap 16, as the car swap pit stop cycle approached. Bird briefly slowed which allowed the Swede through into second, at the same time increasing Buemi’s advantage in front. With a full-course caution called the following lap, the vast majority of the field pitted, with the top three resuming racing in the same order.
While Buemi briefly extended his lead to around 1.8 seconds, Rosenqvist closed down the gap and with five laps to go he dived down the inside of the Swiss driver into Turn 7, taking the lead and going on to win by 0.945 seconds.
Having taken his first career Formula E pole position in Marrakesh last season, Rosenqvist was forced to follow Buemi and Bird home in that race. To be able to reverse the result this season is the culmination of a learning process attests the Swede.
“It feels great to come back here and win the race. I was learning race craft in the beginning and losing here was our biggest lesson of the year – we realised we had a lot of work to do and a lot of things to improve,” he said.
“I think I finally feel like a settled Formula E driver now – I don’t feel like a rookie anymore, which is a real change.”
Post-race, Buemi was rather disappointed with how he approached the late-race battle with Rosenqvist, feeling he could have better defended into the corner where the pass was made.
“It was not a good move from my side, I could have done much better,” he fumed.
“If I had protected that corner, it would have been more difficult for him to pass. I’m a bit disappointed with that.”
Not helping matters for Buemi was his inability to use FanBoost, despite winning the bonus in the fan vote. With FanBoost only able to be used by the recipient drivers after their pit stops – in their second cars – teams will generally only configure each driver’s second car to use the feature.
Renault e.Dams discovered a water pump issue on the car intended to be used first by Buemi at the absolute last minute, so the decision was made to swap to the second car for the race start. This gave the team time to repair the water pump in the garage as the start of the race unfolded, but the FanBoost capability was not programmed into the car before the pit stop. This wasn’t realised until Buemi went to use FanBoost during the battle with Rosenqvist and the car did not respond, forcing the Swiss to fight on without the advantage.
Battling gearbox issues late in the race Bird just held on for third, beating Nelson Piquet Jr by 0.792 seconds, with the Brazilian setting the fastest lap of the race in his charge from seventh on the grid.
Jean-Éric Vergne finished in fifth place, a further six seconds back from the top four, with José María López taking sixth place. While it may have been a drop from his fourth place qualification, it was still a strong return to the series for the Argentinian and an even stronger bounce-back for Dragon Racing – the only team to have not scored a point last time out in Hong Kong.
Nick Heidfeld took seventh in the second Mahindra, surviving a hit with Maro Engel on the final lap to make it over the line with damage. The incident, seemingly prompted by contact between Engel and his Venturi teammate Edoardo Mortara, would drop Engel to twelfth as he limped to the finish.
Tom Blomqvist scored points for Andretti in his Formula E debut, while Alex Lynn claimed ninth position. Daniel Abt recovered to tenth place following a drive through penalty for spinning Lynn in the first corner of the race.
Jaguar’s Mitch Evans ended the day in eleventh, losing places after being caught out by the mid-race caution period. Evans had swapped cars the lap before the yellow flag, and with the rest of the field pitting under caution, several drivers moved ahead of the Kiwi.
There were several other tales of woe at the back of the field. Nicolas Prost was spun by André Lotterer at Turn 7, leaving the Frenchman to finish 13th while the German would retire. It capped a bad afternoon for Lotterer, who was excluded from qualifying for missing the weighbridge.
Oliver Turvey only completed 17 laps of the race following his original NIO car being pushed off the grid with an issue, leaving the Briton only able to run until the energy ran out in his second car.
The biggest casualty of the race was reigning champion Lucas di Grassi. The Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler driver’s torrid start to his title defense continued, retiring after just seven laps with technical issues. Having qualified fifth and run in the top four early in the race, di Grassi felt he had the pace for a podium result, if not challenging for the victory.
“I think I would have had the same pace as Felix in this race – I don’t see any reason why not,” the Brazilian said. “As a worst-case scenario, a third place would have been easy to achieve, if not a win.”
Still yet to score a point after three races, di Grassi currently sits in 19th place on the championship ladder.
Victory in Marrakesh moves Rosenqvist to the top of the Drivers’ Championship standings on 54 points, four points ahead of Bird. It is the first time a Mahindra driver has led the championship, the Swede joining di Grassi, Prost, Piquet, Buemi and Bird as the only drivers to have been at the top of the standings at any point across the 36 Formula E races completed to date.
Vergne sits third on 43 points, ahead of a tight group comprised of Piquet (25), Mortara (24), Buemi – who jumps to sixth with 22 points – and Heidfeld on 21.
Mahindra (75 points) have extended their Teams’ Championship lead over DS Virgin Racing (58), with Techeetah (43), Jaguar (40) and Venturi (30) filling the top five. On the back of Buemi’s pole position and podium finish, three-time reigning champions Renault e.Dams (28) move up to sixth position.
The Formula E field will remain in Marrakesh for Sunday’s Rookie Test Day, as 20 drivers sample the series for the first time, before heading to Chile for the inaugural Santiago ePrix on Saturday February 3.
|2017-18 ABB Formula E Marrakesh ePrix – Final Classification (33 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Felix Rosenqvist||Mahindra Racing||33||48:04.751||25|
|2.||Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.Dams||33||+ 0.945||21|
|3.||Sam Bird||DS Virgin Racing Citroën||33||+ 5.762||15|
|4.||Nelson Piquet Jr||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||33||+ 6.554||13|
|5.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Techeetah Renault||33||+ 12.238||10|
|6.||José María López||Dragon Racing Penske||33||+ 16.491||8|
|7.||Nick Heidfeld||Mahindra Racing||33||+ 28.381||6|
|8.||Tom Blomqvist||MS&AD Andretti Formula E||33||+ 32.380||4|
|9.||Alex Lynn||DS Virgin Racing Citroën||33||+ 33.520||2|
|10.||Daniel Abt||Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler||33||+ 40.951||1|
|11.||Mitch Evans||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||33||+ 46.278|
|12.||Maro Engel||Venturi Formula E Team||33||+ 46.915|
|13.||Nicolas Prost||Renault e.Dams||33||+ 53.099|
|14.||António Félix da Costa||MS&AD Andretti Formula E||33||+ 1:01.116|
|15.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Dragon Racing Penske||33||+ 1:13.805|
|16.||Luca Filippi||NIO Formula E Team||32||1 lap behind|
|17.||Edoardo Mortara||Venturi Formula E Team||30||3 laps behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Oliver Turvey||NIO Formula E Team||17||Energy|
|DNF.||André Lotterer||Techeetah Renault||14||Collision|
|DNF.||Lucas di Grassi||Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler||7||Mechanical|
Bonus Championship Points:
- Three bonus points awarded to Sébastien Buemi for claiming pole position
- One bonus point awarded to Nelson Piquet for posting the fastest race lap by a top-ten finisher.
Images via FIA Formula E Championship