Formula E makes its fourth trip to Morocco this Saturday February 29, for the 2020 Marrakesh ePrix.
Despite not originally having a place on the season six calendar, the African event was re-included in the schedule when the Hong Kong ePrix was cancelled due to civil unrest. Once again, the Circuit Moulay El Hassan hosts the ePrix, which will be the fifth race of the 2019/20 championship.
|Circuit International Automobile Moulay el Hassan|
|Location||Marrakesh, Morocco||Circuit Length||2.971 km / 1.846 mi|
|Opened||2009||First Formula E Event||2016|
|Direction||Anticlockwise||Lap Record||1:20.296 – Lucas di Grassi (2019)|
The 2.971-kilometre, 12-corner circuit runs anticlockwise, partly comprised of a permanent track facility and partly street circuit. The start/finish straight runs along Route de l’Ourika, turning left at Turn 1 – a wide hairpin – onto the permanent section of race circuit. Turn 2 sweeps to the right and leads to Turn 3, another wide, left-hand hairpin. A short straight follows before Turns 4 and 5 – a left/right chicane – before the circuit kicks right through Turn 6 and back on to the temporary section.
Route de l’Ourika (running in the opposite direction to the front straight) then forms a 450-metre straight, running down to a key passing opportunity at Turn 7. The tight, almost ninety-degree corner has been the scene of numerous incidents in the past three events in Marrakesh, most notably when BMW i Andretti teammates António Félix da Costa and Alexander Sims collided while battling for the lead last year.
A short straight cuts through to Turn 8, another ninety-degree left-hander leading on to Avenue du 7ème Art, a constant radius right-hand sweeper which forms Turn 9. This curve is abruptly halted by the left-hand hairpin at Turn 10 – another significant passing opportunity – which is followed by Avenue Mohammed VI, the longest straight on the circuit. Turn 11 is a near ninety-degree left-hand corner onto a cut through back to Route de l’Ourika, while Turn 12 is a right-hand turn which opens up on exit and brings the cars back on to the front straight.
The Form Guide
Despite Formula E’s reputation for close races and often mixed results, the Marrakesh event has been surprisingly consistent with its podium results.
Only three teams have graced the podium across the three previous events in Morocco: Renault e.Dams (who won the inaugural event with Sébastien Buemi), Mahindra (winners of the second and third events with Felix Rosenqvist and Jérôme d’Ambrosio, respectively), and Virgin Racing (who despite never winning the event, have had Sam Bird on the podium every year, along with Robin Frijns last season).
The same three teams have also locked out all three pole positions: Mahindra (Rosenqvist) in 2016/17, Renault e.Dams (Buemi) in 2017/18 and Virgin (Bird) last season. This history would suggest that these three teams (with e.Dams now in their Nissan guise) will challenge at the front again in 2020, however, only Virgin has tasted victory so far this season, and only Bird along with Bumei’s teammate Oliver Rowland currently sit in the top ten of the championship standings – so a new team joining the party in Morocco this year is quite likely and the past victors will need a change in form to repeat their success.
In all reality, BMW i Andretti should already have their name on the Marrakesh ePrix trophy. The squad dominated last year’s event and looked set for a 1-2 finish before and error from da Costa while Sims was attempting a pass on his teammate took both cars off track – and in da Costa’s case, out of the race – and allowed d’Ambrosio, Frijns and Bird through to the podium. Given the BMW squad’s form so far this season – it currently leads the Teams’ standings, with its drivers (Sims and Maximilian Günther) having won a race each – this, along with last year’s pace bodes well for their return to Marrakesh.
Also looking to consolidate a run of impressive form is Jaguar’s Mitch Evans. The Kiwi won two weeks ago in Mexico City, taking the lead of the Drivers’ Championship battle in the process. Despite admitting he’s not looking at the championship at this stage of the season, he – along with the entire Jaguar squad – will want to maintain their position at the top.
Also likely to challenge at this event at DS Techeetah – reigning series champion Jean-Éric Vergne started on the front row last year, only to spin in front of the field at Turn 1. An impressive drive back through the field to fifth in the final results was pinned down by genuine pace, something the Frenchman and new teammate da Costa will be hoping to build on when they return to the circuit.
Both Mercedes and Porsche should also not be discounted, having shown strong pace so far this season – Mercedes have briefly led both championships, while Porsche scored their first Formula E pole position with André Lotterer last time out in Mexico.
|2019-20 ABB FIA Formula E Championship – Marrakesh City E-Prix|
|Date||28-29 February 2020||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 16:45-17:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 09:00-09:30||Group Qualifying Sessions||Sat 11:00-11:46|
|‘Super Pole’||Sat 11:45-12:05||Race (45 minutes + 1 lap)||Sat 15:00|
Session times quoted in Western European Summer Time (GMT +01:00)
Reigning champion Vergne misses Friday Practice
Having been caught out by the late sunrise time in Marrakesh last season (Practice 1 began before the dawn), series organisers made the decision to run opening practice on Friday afternoon, after the usual shakedown session.
The session was topped by da Costa with a 1:17.863 lap, ahead of Evans (+0.103) and Günther (+0.199). The biggest news from the session, however, was the absence of Vergne for medical reasons. The Frenchman’s place in the session was taken by DS Techeetah test and reserve driver James Rossiter who ended the session in 20th position, 1.950 seconds away from teammate da Costa’s time.
Rossiter, who had been set to drive for the team in Sunday’s rookie test was granted an E licence to substitute in for today’s practice session – and in doing so has been made ineligible to drive again on Sunday. The squad are yet to confirm who – if anyone – will take Briton’s seat in the subsequent test.
A statement released by Vergne and DS Techeetah after the session provided more details on Vergne’s condition, and confirmed his intention to return for Saturday’s running at the event: “Following my headaches and high fevers we took the decision to test me for a range of things, including coronavirus; hence my absence today. I am very happy to announce that I have been cleared and am already feeling much better! See you tomorrow at the track!”
On-track running at the Marrakesh ePrix will resume on Saturday morning with Practice 2 for 30 minutes from 09:00 local time (GMT +1). Qualifying and Super Pole will commence at 11:00, with the race set for its usual 45 minutes-plus-one-lap duration from 15:03.
Images via ABB FIA Formula E Championship
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