Closed Circuit: Mahindra Racing in Hong Kong
Mahindra Racing took points with both drivers in the first race of the season, though a tough debut race for rookie Felix Rosenqvist meant he would only finish fifteenth. Returning driver Nick Heidfeld repeated the result of the opening race in 2015 to take third place and Mahindra’s first podium of the season.
It was a mixed qualifying session for the Mahindra team. Though neither driver ran into the same trouble with the changed chicane as other drivers did, the times were still not as good as they had been hoping.
In the race, Heidfeld was able to make up from his poor starting position, climbing to sixth on the opening lap. The mid-race car swap ran without a hitch, and he climbed up to third in his second car, but the German was running low on energy in the closing stages of the race, hitting zero just after the chequered flag.
Rosenqvist moved in the opposite direction to his team mate, though. Sixth on the grid put him right in the mix on the opening lap, and he sustained damage that lead to an early car swap. Still, the rookie was able to manage his energy well, making it to the end of the race. As he made his way back up through the field, Rosenqvist set the fastest lap of the race. His fifteenth place finish may have been outside, the points, but the Swedish driver took a point for the fastest lap.
Team mate comparison: qualifying
- Nick Heidfeld
- Felix Rosenqvist
Team mate comparison: race
- Nick Heidfeld
- Felix Rosenqvist
Dilbagh Gill: “Thanks to the whole team for a job well done. I am really pleased with the start of our Formula E season in Hong Kong because it reflected the pace that we have worked hard on over the summer with pre-season testing in the new M3Electro. While qualifying could have gone better for Mahindra Racing, Nick drove a fantastic race. He did a very aggressive start and immediately gained six positions before managing his car’s energy and adapting the strategy to move up the field. It’s disappointing for Felix but he showed encouraging potential and recovered from his mistake very strongly. We demanded he set the fastest lap and his persistence paid off. We know we have the package to fight for podiums and this good start gives us something to build on.”
A relatively disappointing qualifying started Heidfeld’s season. The German was up in the first qualifying group and, though he managed third in the group, it wasn’t a quick time, and he would spend the rest of the session watching his time drop slowly down the order. Heidfeld would eventually qualify outside the top ten in P11.
It was all to do in the race, but Heidfeld managed the chaotic race start well to climb up to sixth in the opening lap, gaining positions with a move around the outside of turn one whilst the those around him got into drama.
During the safety car period, Heidfeld came into the pits. A quick stop took him even higher through the field, taking him up to third, but now it was a race against the battery power, as the amount of usable energy in his M3Electro got tighter and tighter as the race drew to a close.
Heidfeld was able to make it across the line before his usable energy hit zero, putting him on the podium for the first race of the season, his first time since the opening race of last season.
Best time in FP1: 1:03.954.
Best time in FP2: 1:03.044.
Best time in qualifying: 1:03.848.
Best time in the race: 1:05.085.
Pit stop time and difference to minimum pit stop time: 43.0s (difference: 1.0s).
“I’m very happy to be back on the podium in this Formula E season’s opening race. It’s something you don’t expect when you start 10th on the grid! It is a nice result for the team considering all the hard work over the last couple of months. The pace of the car pre-season was encouraging but you never truly know where you stand until the full race. I had a great getaway from the start and gained more positions in turn one by going around the outside. There was an issue with the energy and lap data, but good communication with the team enabled me to do everything manually. We also made a good call on pit strategy during the safety car and I was able to overtake during the car swap. After that I was third position, with Nico Prost catching quickly from behind, but toward the end of the race I was able to pull away which is really promising considering they are one of the strongest contenders. Let’s hope we can now complete a considerate step forward in the championship.”
Out in the third qualifying group, Rosenqvist was quick to show the pace of the new Mahindra car. The Swedish driver’s time was enough to put him third when he crossed the line, only for fellow group three qualifier Nelson Piquet to bump him down to fourth. The rookie would eventually qualify sixth.
The race would be a little harder though. Rosenqvist found himself right in the middle of the pack all jostling for position at the opening corner. Contact sent the rookie into a spin and the damage to his car meant he would have to pit early. Pitting not even a third of the way into the race meant the second stint was going to be one of energy management if Rosenqvist was going to make it to the chequered flag.
You wouldn’t notice that, looking at the rookie’s climb through the field, though. Pitting put Rosenqvist in seventeenth, but he managed to climb his way up to fourteenth by the thirty second lap. He may have been aided by retirements ahead of him, but that didn’t explain the fastest lap that Rosenqvist managed to set in his second car. Rosenqvist would cross the line fifteenth, though, with Loic Duval taking fourteenth in the closing stages of the race.
Best time in FP1: 1:03.912.
Best time in FP2: 1:02.825.
Best time in qualifying: 1:03.332.
Best time in the race: 1:02.947.
“I had a good start, then in turn one there was a big pile up on the inside and I couldn’t really get out. It felt like I was really competitive during the race but at one point I risked too much. While I am not 100% up to speed with data and energy management in Formula E, I think what’s really promising is that I can drive efficiently, but also be very quick. There’s still more to work on but the speed is there. Even one race gives me a lot of experience and if you’re in tight situation, it’s important to be calm and focus on energy management, then wait for the next opportunity to overtake. The M3Electro package is strong, and I have been driving well, so the only target in the end was to go for fastest lap. It was tough and I had a couple of attempts, but in the end I got it. It looks really promising for the rest of the season, the car feels really good and I think the team has done an amazing job.”
Bethonie Waring | e-racing.net
Image courtesy of FIA Formula E Media