Hong Kong: Mahindra Racing has made an impressive start to its third season in the FIA Formula E Championship, scoring a podium finish and setting the fastest lap in the inaugural Hong Kong ePrix, the opening round of the 2016-17 season.
German driver Nick Heidfeld started the 45-lap race from 10th place on the grid and took advantage of first lap chaos to jump to fifth. By managing his first M3Electro’s available energy, Heidfeld and Mahindra Racing were able to time his mid-race car swap in order to gain more positions. He moved up to third, focused on completing clean laps during the second half of the race and crossed the finish line just before his second car reached zero percent energy in its battery.
Swedish rookie Felix Rosenqvist endured a tough beginning to his Formula E career. Having started from an encouraging sixth place on the grid, he was caught out in early race traffic. Then damage to his M3Electro from a high-speed spin sent him to the back of the pack, forcing an early car swap. Never one to give up, Rosenqvist showed his mettle and true potential by setting the fastest lap of the race en route to a 15th place finish.
The pace of the Mahindra-developed M3Electro around the bespoke 1.86km Hong Kong Central Harbourfront street circuit underlined the promise shown by the car in pre-season testing.
Nick Heidfeld said, “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 period and I was able to overtake during the car swap. After that I was in third position, with Nico Prost catching up 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.”
Felix Rosenqvist said, “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 a 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 had been driving well, so the only target in the end was to go for the 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.”
Dilbagh Gill, Team Principal, Mahindra Racing Formula E Team said, “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.”
Mahindra Racing is fourth in the FIA Formula E Teams Championship going into race two in Marrakesh next month on November 12. Formula E’s third season will see Mahindra Racing visit a total of ten different countries for 12 races from October 2016 through to July 2017.