Formula E stays in China for its first back-to-back races in Asia and will race for the first time in Sanya, a touristic beach resort in the south of the Hainan Island. With round six approaching, Esteban Garcia picks out five stories to following during this weekend’s Sanya E-Prix.
The new circuit and new challenges
Formula E returns to mainland China for the first time since the Beijing E-Prix in season two with a new location in Sanya, and of course, a new track. It will be using a 2.23-mile circuit featuring 11 turns, two long straights, and a narrow hairpin which is expected to present overtaking opportunities.
Drivers’ championship leader Sam Bird believes that the circuit’s location close to the nearby beach may create an interesting variable for the drivers: “The track looks good and reminds me a little of the Punta del Este circuit with its beach location, so will be interesting to see how dusty the surface becomes over the weekend.”
Full course yellows and safety cars
In the last two races, we’ve seen two red flags and several full course yellow periods which have forced the drivers to be more conservative in the use of energy due to ‘time extension’ of the races.
Many racers had issues to reach the final laps of the race, particularly in the case of the Nissan e.dams drivers at the Mexico City E-Prix. In the previous race in Hong Kong, a late safety car period helped others like Dragon’s Jose Maria Lopez to reach the closing stages with less energy than his rivals.
It is expected that safety cars or full course yellow periods could provide drivers the chance to be more aggressive in overtaking but energy management will still be a key factor during the race and also an entertaining spectacle, as we have often seen during the 2018/2019 season to date.
Tight championship battle
After five races of the 13 scheduled, season five of Formula E seems to be the most competitive in the championship’s history, with five drivers separated by just seven points at the top.
Edoardo Mortara (Venturi), who won in Hong Kong two weeks ago, climbed to fourth place in the championship, only two points behind leader Bird. The British raced crossed the line in first place in Hong Kong but later was demoted to sixth in the race result having received a five-second time penalty for causing a collision with Lotterer.
Mahindra driver Jerome D’Ambrosio is just a point further back, two points ahead of Audi’s Lucas Di Grassi and Hong Kong winner Mortara. Ad Diriyah E-Prix winner Antonio Felix Da Costa has dropped to fifth with 47 points, but with eight races to go the championship is still wide open with several drivers still in realistic contention for the title.
One hot topic after the Hong Kong E-Prix was the fierce battle on track for the win between Lotterer and Bird. Reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne was very critical of the stewards’ performance in season five, and the Frenchmen said: “Once again, I had an incident-filled E-Prix in Hong Kong, we just don’t seem to catch a break this season. Two incidents within two laps are just not cool so we will do everything that we can to have a good E-Prix in Sanya now. It’s time to turn this bad luck around and it would be beyond good to do this at our home E-Prix”.
Mahindra team suffered two DNF’s in Hong Kong following an unavoidable crash with Brazilian Felipe Nasr after the Brazilian hit the wall and was then hit by both d’Ambrosio and Pascal Wehrlein. The Belgian later complaint saying he thought the Dragon racer should have been forced to pit for repairs to his car, which was damaged after contact with his teammate at turn 1.
Looking for six
The competitiveness of the fifth season of Formula E is marked by the number of different winners. Five winning drivers from five different teams and four different manufacturers is an impressive number for the all-electric series since the new Gen2 car was introduced a few months ago. Da Costa, d’Ambrosio, Bird, Di Grassi and Mortara have all secured wins so far for BMW, Mahindra, Virgin, Audi and Venturi
In fact, Audi is the only manufacturer to have taken two wins so far, as Di Grassi claimed a win for the works team and Bird won for his Audi-powered Virgin team. We have also had five different polesitters from five different teams so far, with the most recent being a shock pole for rookie Stoffel Vandoorne with newcomers HWA Racelab in Hong Kong.
Image credit: Formula E
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