• Jérôme D’Ambrosio finishes on the podium on his debut for Mahindra Racing, finishing in third position at the season opener in Saudi Arabia.
• Jérôme leaves Riyadh in third place in the Driver’s Championship, with Mahindra Racing in third position in the Team standings after scoring 15 points.
• Felix Rosenqvist was forced to retire with a mechanical fault on his car on lap 8 of the race.
15 dec 2018, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – The new era of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship got underway today with the 2018/19 season opener in Saudi Arabia marking the series’ first ever race in the Middle East plus the debut of the new Generation 2 cars.
The SAUDIA Ad Diriyah E-Prix had a disrupted start to the day when unexpected heavy rain forced organisers to cancel Free Practice 1 and delay Free Practice 2. Due to the timing delay the qualifying format was then amended to two groups of 11 drivers, rather than the usual four groups, and Super Pole was called off. In the wet qualifying session, on a drying track, Jérôme D’Ambrosio went out in Group A and set a fastest lap time of 1:19.077, securing a sixth place start. Felix Rosenqvist headed out in Group B but was unable to complete his qualifying lap, due to a mechanical failure on the car which resulted in an accident when he was on course for a top six time, and was forced to begin the race from 17th on the grid.
Jérôme was able to comfortably maintain position at the start and, on lap 21, overtook Sebastien Buemi to move up to fifth. A lap later Jean-Eric Vergne and Andre Lotterer were handed drive through penalties for technical infringements, pitting from first and second, which moved Jérôme up into the top three behind Antonio Felix Da Costa and Jose Mario Lopez. On lap 23 Jérôme overtook Lopez for second position and was running comfortably there until a safety car bunched up the pack. On lap 30, after the restart, reigning Champion Vergne overtook him, putting him P3, the position in which he took the chequered flag after 33 laps to secure his and Mahindra Racing’s first podium of the 2018/19 season.
Unfortunately it was a different state of affairs for Felix. Despite an impressive start which saw him move up to 14th by the end of the first lap and then overtake Gary Paffett and Nelson Piquet Jr by lap 6, which saw him in reach of points, he was forced to retire the #94 on lap 8 after suffering the same technical issue that halted his qualifying run.
The second round of the 2018/19 ABB FIA Formula E Championship will take place on 12 January 2019 in Marrakesh, Morocco.
“It’s an amazing way to start Season 5 and I think there are good days ahead of us if we keep working the way we do. I played it safe at the beginning to try to save some energy but stay close enough to fight for position. I’ve had a difficult couple of seasons so it’s great to start this new relationship with the team in this way. Going forward, we have to start fighting for the championship. There are some tough competitors out there as Formula E is becoming one of the most competitive championships in the world.”
“The car felt like it had a lot of speed but it was a bit tricky to drive; it wasn’t one of those days when you felt really confident but we didn’t have much practice so everything was a bit of a guess. Then we had a mechanical failure in qualifying which caused us to have a big shunt and in the race the same thing happened but I was able to park the car. I’m sad I couldn’t score any points for the team and it’s a shame as I think we could have had a really good result today but it was fun to be back and I’m really happy for Jérôme and for Mahindra on the podium today.”
“I am absolutely thrilled for the whole team and Jérôme– the perfect way to start a season is with a podium and this is the fourth season in a row that we have scored a podium in the season opener. I am really sorry that Felix suffered with a technical issue in both qualifying and the race as, without that, I am sure he would also have had a very good result this weekend. It’s a good start for us and we will enjoy this, although our attentions are now firmly focused on the next race in Marrakesh and improving – we want both of our cars at the front as we showed this weekend we have the pace.”