Following the first race of Formula E’s second generation era and first visit to Saudi Arabia last month, the series returns to a well-known venue for the third running of the Marrakesh ePrix in Morocco.
|Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan|
|Location||Marrakech, Morocco||Circuit Length||2.990 km / 1.86 mi|
|Opened||2009||First Formula E Event||2016|
|Direction||Anticlockwise||Lap Record||1:20.115, Felix Rosenqvist (2018)|
The Circuit Moulay El Hassan will provide the first direct year to year comparison between the new and old-generation of Formula E cars, with the 2.99-kilometre, 12-turn track layout remaining wholly unchanged from the 2018 running of the event.
The key addition to the circuit for 2019 is the Attack Mode activation zone to suit the new car, positioned in a manner forcing drivers to take a wide line through Turn 3 to reach it. As always, the number of times and duration which Attack Mode can be activated will be announced one hour prior to race start, but the lessons learned from the mode’s first event last time out in Riyadh will no doubt see more passing attempts and smarter use of the system by drivers this weekend.
Turns 7 and 11 – both tight corners at the end of long straights – are ideal locations for a possible passing move, although each is followed by corners that may allow a passed car to re-take the position. The hairpin at Turn 10 has also seen passing in previous Marrakesh ePrix, and will likely do so again in 2019.
The Form Guide
Past success in Marrakesh is less likely to be a factor this year. Not only does the new generation car reduce the relevance of last year’s results, but last season’s race winner – Felix Rosenqvist – has moved on to IndyCar for 2019. While the Swede drove one final race in Saudi Arabia, it was as a substitute in car 94 for full-season driver Pascal Wehrlein due to the German still being under contract to Mercedes-Benz until the conclusion of the 2018 calendar year. Now able to race for Mahindra after the New Year, Wehrlein will make his Formula E debut in Marrakesh, and steps in to what appears to be a competitive car after teammate Jérôme d’Ambrosio finished third in Saudi Arabia.
Looking back further to the first year of Formula E in Morocco, Sébastien Buemi was victorious for e.Dams in their former Renault guise. Now racing as Nissan e.Dams, Buemi finished sixth in round one directly ahead of debuting teammate Oliver Rowland, suggesting the team have a solid base to build on this season, and will likely be towards the front again in Marrakesh.
Saudi Arabia showed the DS Techeetah team to be clearly the fastest of the field, with reigning champion Jean-Éric Vergne and teammate André Lotterer driving through the field to the front in the race after a rain-affected qualifying session, only for the pair to be penalised for a breach of the energy regeneration regulations. Vergne still managed to finish the race in second place, with Lotterer in fifth, and understandably the team are considered favourites to be at the front of the field again in Marrakesh.
Despite their clear pace advantage in the opening race, Vergne has played down the magnitude of DS Techeetah’s speed margin ahead of the season’s second ePrix.
“Saudi [Arabia] went well,” he said. “We’re very confident with the car but, then again, I don’t think the speed we had was real in comparison to the other teams. Some drivers just didn’t know where to place their wheels. I mean André and I don’t have a car that’s one second faster than anyone else! The day after [in testing], everyone was matching our speed.”
The other stand-out performance in the opening round was that of race-winner António Félix da Costa and the BMW i Andretti team. Having experienced somewhat of a performance lull over the past two seasons, the Andretti crew were fast throughout their entire first event as a factory team with BMW, culminating with da Costa’s victory. Marrakesh should show if the pace is genuine to launch a full-season championship challenge. Similarly, the team’s second car, driven by Alexander Sims, only finished 18th last time out and both driver and team will be aiming to match da Costa’s performance in Morocco.
|2018-19 FIA Formula E Championship – Marrakesh ePrix|
|Date||12 January 2019||Free Practice Session 1||Sat 08:15-09:00|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 10:15-10:45||Preliminary Qualifying||Sat 12:00-12:45|
|‘Super Pole’||Sat 12:45-13:05||Race (45 min + 1 lap)||Sat 16:00-17:00|
Session times quoted in Western European Time (GMT +0:00)
Images via ABB FIA Formula E Championship
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