A crash by another Formula E driver hits Mahindra Racing, the only Indian team in the Hong Kong circuit, but this disappointment aside the weekend saw more action and thrills than a Hollywood blockbuster, says Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com.
Photographs and video: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com.
The 50th race in the history of Formula E racing in Hong Kong’s iconic Harbourfront over the weekend gave its viewers more thrills than an action-packed movie, from the first lap to the last. This was nothing less than a thriller, with landmarks such as the International Finance Centre, Hong Kong Observation Wheel and Hong Kong City Hall providing a spectacular backdrop.
Formula E, for all of us who are still unaware of it, is a single-seater racing championship and the world’s first fully electric racing series.
It has 10 teams and 20 drivers, with two cars of each team running in the race at the same time, competing entirely in street circuits set in the heart of iconic cities around the world.
In the earlier seasons, all the drivers had to change cars mid-race as the batteries did not have enough charge to complete the race.
But in the latest and fifth season all the cars ran on a single charge in the iconic heart of Hong Kong.
And Mahindra Racing was the only Indian team in the race, and ran the M5 Electro, a 5th Gen car.
Another interesting feature unique to Formula E is something called Fanboost, where fans can vote for their favourite driver online, and the fan favourite gets to use a speed-burst. The Fanboost is announced with 20 minutes to go for the race's completion, and can be very important in overtaking or in defending his position.
In the 50th race in Hong Kong, both the Indian cars with drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Jérôme D’ Ambrosio from Mahindra Racing were forced to start on the last and second-last position after the challenging qualifying laps due to the rains.
But even though they made some progress, unfortunately, GEOX Dragon’s Felipe Nasr lost control of his car and hit the wall in the second lap, leaving no place on the track for Mahindra Racing’s Pascal or Jérôme to go but directly into him.
This forced both the cars out of the race for no fault of theirs.
Later, in the major part of the race, there was an epic battle for the 1st place between Sam Bird and André Lotterer, but Bird took the lead in the 2nd last round after nudging André out of the race and won the race.
But the nudge which damaged Andre’s car put Sam Bird under investigation and a 5-second penalty was imposed on him, which put him in the 6th place and handed Edoardo Mortara from Venturi Formula E team the win on a platter.
For the Indian team of Mahindra Racing, despite a disappointing end to the Hong Kong E-Prix, they are placed third in the team’s championship with 83 points, while Jérôme D’Ambrosio came second in the driver’s battle with 53 points.
Jerome, who was clearly quite upset with his former team Dragon where he had spent four years, said, “I think it was obvious that there was an issue with Nasr’s car as there was smoke coming out of it so Dragon should have brought him into the pits, made the car safe and then sent him out.
"In my opinion, they caused a dangerous collision and that needs looking at. It’s disappointing because we knew there would be incidents, but unfortunately it happened to us. But very poor standards from both his team and him to have not pit earlier.
"We have to pick ourselves back up and focus on the next race.”
Pascal Wehrlein, who crashed into Nasr’s car, too expressed similar sentiments.
“It was a disappointing weekend, unfortunately. We didn’t have the pace from the beginning and couldn’t find the solution in time. Obviously, the race was really short; I couldn’t avoid the accident because the car in front of me crashed into the wall so it was an early finish for us," he said.
"We have to work hard now to make sure our car is competitive in wet conditions because we know we have got the pace in the dry. So we learn from this and move on to Sanya (China, on March 23).”
Dilbag Gill, the team principal and CEO of Mahindra Racing, admitted that they didn't have a winning car in Hong Kong as they lost a lot of traction and slipped due to the wet tracks.
"It is unfortunate that the celebration of 50 races turned out for Mahindra Racing into our shortest race in our Formula E history." But, "We still have more to go and in two weeks time in Sanya, China, the team will be back after taking learnings from this race."