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2018 Marrakesh ePrix

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2018 Marrakesh ePrix
Race 3 of 12 of the 2017–18 Formula E season
Marrakech Circuit 2016.svg
Race details
Date 13 January 2018 (2018-01-13)
Official name 2018 ABB FIA Formula E Marrakesh ePrix
Location Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan, Agdal, Marrakesh
Course Street circuit
Course length 2.99 kilometres (1.86 mi)
Distance 33 laps, 98.043 kilometres (60.921 mi)
Weather Sunny
Pole position
Driver e.Dams-Renault
Time 1:20.355
Fastest lap
Driver Brazil Nelson Piquet Jr Jaguar
Time 1:22.832 on lap 32
Podium
First Mahindra
Second e.Dams-Renault
Third Virgin-Citroën

The 2018 Marrakesh ePrix (formally the 2018 ABB FIA Formula E Marrakesh ePrix) was a Formula E electric car race held at the Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan in the Agdal district of Marrakesh, Morocco on 13 January 2018. It was the third round of the 2017–18 Formula E season and the second running of the event. The 33-lap race was won by Mahindra driver Felix Rosenqvist after starting from third place. Sébastien Buemi finished in second place for e.Dams-Renault and Virgin driver Sam Bird came in third.

Buemi won the pole position by recording the fastest lap in qualifying and maintained his startline advantage heading into the first corner. Buemi held the lead but had Bird and Rosenqvist close behind him for much of the first half of the race until a full course yellow was necessitated when André Lotterer stopped on track with a hardware failure on his car. Buemi retained the lead after the field made their pit stops for the switch into a second car but was put under pressure from Rosenqvist who eventually passed him with four laps to go. Rosenqvist maintained the lead for the rest of the race to clinch his second consecutive victory of the season and the third of his career.

The consequence of the final positions meant Rosenqvist gained the lead of the Drivers' Championship for the first time with 54 points and Bird was four points behind in second. Jean-Éric Vergne finished in fifth and this meant he fell to third while Nelson Piquet Jr. ran strongly in the race and set the fastest lap, moving him to fourth. Edoardo Mortara rounded out the top five placings. Mahindra increased their Teams' Championship advantage to eighteen points over Virgin while Techeetah held on to third with nine races left in the season.

Report[edit]

Background[edit]

The Marrakesh ePrix was confirmed as part of Formula E's 2017–18 series schedule in September 2017 by the FIA World Motor Sport Council.[1] It was the third of twelve scheduled single-seater electric car races of the 2017–18 season,[1] and the second running of the event.[2] The ePrix was held on 13 January 2018 at the 2.97-kilometre (1.85 mi) anti-clockwise twelve-turn Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan street circuit in the Agdal district of Marrakesh, Morocco.[2] The race stewards for Marrakesh included chairman Paulo Longoni, additional international steward Achim Loth and former Bentley factory driver Andy Soucek.[3]

José María López (pictured in 2014) replaced Neel Jani at Dragon for the ePrix and the rest of the season.

Coming into the race Virgin driver Sam Bird led the Drivers' Championship with 35 points, two ahead of his nearest rival Jean-Éric Vergne in second and a further six in front of Felix Rosenqvist in third. Edoardo Mortara was the highest-placed rookie driver in fourth with 24 points and Nick Heidfeld stood in fifth place with 15 points.[4] Mahindra were in the lead of the Teams' Championship with 44 points. Virgin were in second place with 41 points. Techeetah stood in third position with 33 points and Venturi (30) and Jaguar (27) rounded out the top five.[4] Bird and Rosenqvist were the victors of the Hong Kong ePrix double header one month prior to Marrakesh. Vergne and Mortara had both finished second once and Heidfeld and Mitch Evans had each secured one third-place finish.[4]

In an attempt to speed up the race starting from Marrakesh, the world governing body of motorsport, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), elected not to implement a mandated minimum pit stop time any longer and this was communicated to all teams. This was due to teams progressively improving their pit stop efficiency which led to the limit being lowered on a gradual scale until the FIA believed the fastest possible limit had been reached.[5] The response from the drivers was mixed with defending series champion Lucas di Grassi reacting positively but wished the rule was changed when the season started. Bird spoke of his fear that drivers would not put on their seat belts on properly in order to spend less time in the pit lane and lower safety standards, "If things like this start to be ignored then it's not the right thing to do."[5] After teams signed a letter conveying their disappointment and safety concerns such as seat belt fastening to the stewards, it was decided to postpone the change until the Santiago ePrix to allow teams to utilise additional safety garage equipment for team members and invest in sports car style seat belts.[6]

The inaugural in-season rookie test was scheduled to be held at the circuit the day after the ePrix. Teams were permitted six hours of running and were allowed to field two drivers who were not in possession of an e-licence at the time of the test.[7] There were two driver changes heading into the race. Having missed the season-opening Hong Kong double header to allow Toyota World Endurance Championship driver Kamui Kobayashi to race because of a sponsorship demand, former Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters competitor Tom Blomqvist was confirmed to race for Andretti for Marrakesh and the rest of the season.[8] 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans co-winner and World Endurance Champion Neel Jani struggled for pace at the Hong Kong double header and entered into discussions with Dragon over the Christmas interval over how the team should progress. Both sides mutually agreed to end their alliance early.[9][10] Jani's place at the team was filled by three-time World Touring Car champion José María López for the rest of the season.[11]

Practice and qualifying[edit]

Two practice sessions—both on Saturday morning—were held before the late afternoon race. The first session ran for 45 minutes and the second for half an hour.[12] A half an hour untimed shakedown session was held on Friday afternoon to enable teams to check the reliability of their cars and their electronic systems.[3][12] The first practice session started on a dusty track and several drivers made errors while exploring track limits but lap times fell by one second as it was cleaned by drivers.[13][14] Di Grassi used the 200 kilowatts (270 hp) available to him and was fastest with a late lap of one minute and 20.310 seconds, nine-tenths of a second quicker than any one else on the track. His closest challenger was Jérôme d'Ambrosio in second, Daniel Abt third and Evans fourth. Sébastien Buemi (e.Dams-Renault) was fifth-fastest, ahead of Bird and Vergne. The rest of the top ten were Nelson Piquet Jr., (Jaguar) Rosenqvist and Oliver Turvey (NIO).[13] The Venturi cars of Mortara and Maro Engel were afflicted by a persistent software bug that affected their power cycles and cut off their powertrains. This caused the duo to stop on track for a combined total of seven times each.[13][14][15] Similarly, André Lotterer reset his car after coming to a halt on track.[16] Heavy fog descended over the track for the start of the second practice session.[15] While it caused mild visibility issues,[17] it was not thick enough to disrupt proceedings.[18] Six drivers led the session but it was Abt who lowered the unofficial track record with a late lap time of one minute and 19.760 seconds to end practice at the top of the time sheets.[15] His teammate di Grassi was 0.138 seconds adrift in second and Buemi placed third. Evans equalled his first practice result in fourth; his teammate Piquet was fifth and Alex Lynn came sixth. Lopez was seventh-fastest, Rosenqvist eighth and the Techeetah pair of Vergne and Lotterer completed the top ten ahead of qualifying.[18] As in the previous session, several drivers locked their tyres and ran into the run-off areas due to a dusty track with Vergne and António Félix da Costa controlling their cars despite brake-related issues.[17][18]

Saturday's afternoon qualifying session ran for an hour and was divided into four groups of five cars. Each group was determined by a lottery system and was permitted six minutes of on-track activity. All drivers were limited to two timed laps with one at maximum power. The fastest five overall competitors in the four groups participated in a "Super Pole" session with one driver on the track at any time going out in reverse order from fifth to first. Each of the five drivers was limited to one timed lap and the starting order was determined by the competitor's fastest times (Super Pole from first to fifth, and group qualifying from sixth to twentieth). The driver and team who recorded the fastest time were awarded three points towards their respective championships.[12] Qualifying took place in dry but cold and foggy weather conditions.[19] Teams kept their cars in their garages for as long as they could so that there was no overcrowding on the track.[20]

Sébastien Buemi (pictured in 2016) took the ninth pole position of his career and his first since the 2017 Paris ePrix.

In the first group of five drivers, di Grassi was the early pace setter with Lopez a tenth slower in second. In his debut Formula E qualifying session, Blomqvist glanced the barrier which lodged part of an advertising billboard in his right-side wheel guard and came third. D'Ambrosio and Lotterer were the group's slowest two drivers.[20] Buemi was one-tenth off di Grassi's pace but his lap allowed him to lead the time sheets in the second group.[19] Lynn followed in second place, Luca Filippi placed third and Engel was fourth.[20] Nico Prost was slower than Filippi in the first sector because of a loose rear and was slowest in the second group.[19] In the third group, Rosenqvist set the overall fastest lap time than any other driver in the group stages with an early effort of one minute and 20.115 seconds. Bird was four-tenths of a second slower than Rosenqvist in second. Vergne was third with Heidfeld and Mortara the third group's slowest two competitors.[20] Heidfeld went too fast heading towards the entry of turn eleven and drifted sideways into the outside tyre barrier at the turn's exit which inflicted heavy damage to his car.[19][21][22] Consequently, Mortara had to slow for Heidfeld's stricken car; he began from the rear of the grid after stopping at the final corner with further electrical issues.[22][23]

The start of the fourth group was delayed as marshals were required to repair the damaged wall and extract Heidfeld's car from the track. A large amount of water spilled onto the tarmac surface at the eleventh turn which worsened the condition of the track and bodywork debris was at the turn.[19][20] Just as group four had achieved a rhythm, Félix da Costa made an error on his fast lap because a deflating tyre put him over the kerbing at turn seven. He was thrown heavily into the exit barrier.[19][22] This red-flagged the session so that the stricken Andretti could be removed from the circuit.[19] Abt and Turvey were granted dispensation by the stewards for another attempt at recording their maximum power laps.[20] Piquet topped group four despite going wide at the final turn and second place was Abt after losing time in the second sector. Evans also ran wide at the final turn and came third with Turvey placing fourth.[24][19][21] At the end of group qualifying, the lap times set by Rosenqvist, di Grassi, Lopez, Buemi and Bird were fast enough to advance them to super pole.[20] Buemi attacked on his attempt and this clinched him pole position for the first time in the season, the ninth of his career, and his first since the 2017 Paris ePrix with a time of one minute and 20.355 seconds.[20][22][23] He was joined on the front row of the grid by Bird whose time was 0.260 seconds off Buemi's pace and held pole position until Buemi's lap. Rosenqvist took third after running over the turn five kerbing and glancing the barrier.[19] Lopez pushed hard and made an error which nearly placed him into the turn nine wall and was fourth.[19][23] Di Grassi ran strongly but slowed with a motor generator unit problem that restricted him to fifth.[20][22] After qualifying, Lotterer was sent to the back of the grid for missing the signal to enter the weighbridge.[25] The rest of the grid lined up after Lotterer's penalty as Lynn, Piquet, Abt, Evans, Turvey, Filippi, Blomqvist, Vergne, Engel, Prost, d'Ambrosio, Heidfeld, Mortara, Félix da Costa and Lotterer.[24]

Race[edit]

The race started at 16:00 Western European Time (UTC+0) on 13 January.[26] Weather conditions at the start of the race were dry and sunny. The air temperature throughout the ePrix ranged from 15.05 to 15.8 °C (59.09 to 60.44 °F) and the track temperature was 14 °C (57 °F).[24] A special feature of Formula E is the "Fan Boost" feature, an additional 100 kilowatts (130 hp) of power to use in the driver's second car. The three drivers who were allowed to use the boost were determined by a fan vote.[12] For the Marrakesh race, Buemi, di Grassi and Abt were handed the extra power.[27] Chassis manufacturer Spark Racing Technology ordered that Rosenqvist's battery be changed half an hour before the ePrix began after Mahindra were altered to the problem.[28][29] Similarly, Buemi began the race in his second vehicle as the car he intended to start in developed a water pump failure.[30] Audi undertook a precautionary power inverter change in di Grassi's car.[27] Turvey and d'Ambrosio started from the pit lane because of technical problems with their respective cars.[28][31] On the grid, Buemi made a clean getaway to maintain his pole position advantage heading into the first corner. Bird and Rosenqvist kept second and third. Both ran close behind Buemi as most drivers also made clean starts. Mortara made contact with another car further down the field.[27]

Vergne made the best start in the field, moving from thirteenth to tenth by the end of the first lap, while d'Ambrosio's pit lane start resulted in him losing four places over the same distance. At the end of the first lap, Buemi led Bird, Rosenqvist, Lopez, di Grassi, Lynn, Abt, Piquet, Evans, Vergne, Blomqvist, Engel, Filippi, Heidfeld, Prost, Lotterer, Félix da Costa, Mortara, Turvey and d'Ambrosio.[24] At the start of lap two,[31] Abt lined up an overtaking manoeuvre on Lynn for sixth place on the start/finish straight and came into contact with Lynn driving towards the first turn.[32] This sent Lynn spinning into the turn's run off area who re-joined the track at the rear of the field.[31][33] Meanwhile, Piquet was moving up the order and was in fifth place at this point in the race. His fellow countryman di Grassi gained fourth place from Lopez by forcing this way through. Shortly after Lopez fell to seventh when Piquet and Abt passed him on lap three.[27][31] Prost was sent into a spin by Lotterer, dropping to nineteenth.[34] Turvey was the main beneficiary of the incident, moving to fifteenth place.[27] Di Grassi and his Brazilian compatriot Piquet battled for fourth position and it ended when di Grassi slowed with a battery management system failure.[34][35] He drove off the racing line and was instructed by Audi to stop his car. Di Grassi attempted a restart procedure, prompting the waving of localised yellow flags.[27][33]

Felix Rosenqvist (pictured in 2016) passed Buemi to secure his third career victory and his second in a row.

He eventually returned to his garage and exited his car to become the ePrix's first retiree.[34] After the race, di Grassi explained that his car started to cut out the lap prior.[36] Meanwhile, his teammate Abt moved past Piquet for fourth but was issued a drive-through penalty for his earlier contact with Lynn. Abt exited the pit lane behind Lynn in fifteenth place. This allowed Turvey into the first points paying position of tenth.[27][32] Multiple incidents occurred in the middle of the pack: Filippi came into contact with Mortara and Félix da Costa hit Heidfeld who angrily gesticulated to the latter.[34][37] Both Techeetah drivers made up ground as Vergne was now sixth and Lotterer thirteenth. Similarly, the problems affecting the Audi pair of di Grassi and Abt let Lopez back through to fourth.[27] On the sixteenth lap, Bird slowed briefly with gearbox issues on the start/finish straight, allowing Rosenqvist through to second.[28][31][35] On the same lap, Lotterer became the race's second retiree when he came to a halt off the racing line with a hardware malfunction that locked his brakes.[28][38] Course officials waved yellow flags at the section of the track Lotterer stopped at for half a minute until the race director decided that a full course yellow was necessary.[38]

The leaders elected to make their pit stops for the change into their second cars during the full course yellow. Buemi kept the lead with his advantage over Rosenqvist increasing to one and a half seconds.[27] Piquet returned to fourth ahead of Lopez and Vergne moved to fifth.[31][35] The Venturi pair of Mortara and Engel exited the pit lane in the points scoring positions.[34] Evans, Félix da Costa and Abt lost half a minute of time because they had chosen to make their pit stops before the activation of the full course yellow procedure.[32] Turvey was the race's third retirement after a technical problem affected his second car.[27] Upfront, the lead trio of Buemi, Rosenqvist and Bird were close behind one another and distanced themselves from the rest of the field.[32] Rosenqvist quickly halved Buemi's advantage and later eased off slightly to allow Buemi to open his lead to a second.[35] Rosenqvist also had slightly more electrical energy to use than Buemi and was tempting Buemi to use his FanBoost.[27] Buemi however could not use his FanBoost because it was not programmed to work on the car he was driving,[30] and Rosenqvist made his attack for the lead on lap 29.[31] Rosenqvist out-braked Buemi for the lead by using his extra electrical energy to steer left onto the inside line heading to the end of the backstraight and the turn seven left-hander.[31][35]

With three laps to go, Mortara made an attempt to overtake his teammate Engel—who was battling Heidfeld—and the Venturi pair made contact. Engel had little space to negotiate through and ploughed into the side of Heidfeld.[31] Engel and Heidfeld to were able to continue driving but the damage sustained to Mortara's car forced him to park at the side of the circuit and retire.[39] Piquet set the ePrix's fastest lap on the penultimate lap, completing a circuit in one minute and 22.832 seconds, earning him one point.[24] Rosenqvist crossed the start/finish line after 33 laps to secure his second consecutive victory of the season and the third of his career.[40] Buemi followed 0.945 seconds later in second and Bird completed the podium in third. Off the podium, Piquet equalled his best result of the season so far in fourth and Vergne placed fifth.[24] Lopez came sixth in spite of radio problems that lost him access to electrical energy readouts.[41] Engel was deemed responsible for causing the Heidfeld-Mortara crash and was handed a post-race drive through penalty converted into time, dropping him to twelfth.[33] Hence, Heidfeld inherited seventh.[24] Blomqvist was consistent in his debut race and took eighth.[33] Lynn and Abt completed the top ten. Evans and Engel followed in the next two places.[2] Prost had twenty seconds added to his race time and was demoted to thirteenth after being adjudged to have exceeded the 50 km/h (31 mph) speed limit during the full course yellow.[28] The quartet of Félix da Costa, d'Ambrosio, Filippi and Mortara were the last of the classified finishers.[24]

Post-race[edit]

The top three drivers appeared on the podium to collect their trophies and spoke to the media in a later press conference. Rosenqvist spoke of his delight of returning to Marrakesh after losing the victory to Buemi in the 2016 race, saying that he felt he was now settled into Formula E and was no longer believed he was "a rookie driver", "I was learning racecraft in the beginning and losing here was our biggest lesson of the year - we realised we had a lot of work to do and a lot of things to improve."[42] Buemi stated that he did not mind losing the win to Rosenqvist and spoke of his feeling that the latter had "payback" after his victory in the second Berlin ePrix the previous year was revoked because of a sporting infringement, "When you lose a race you always end up a bit disappointed. But everyone thought we had no pace and we were done, and we came here, had pole and finished second. We showed everyone we're still there."[30] Third-place finisher Bird revealed that his car was affected by a reoccurring issue since Hong Kong that could not be rectified and made the decision not to replace the affected component, "But still, third place is strong points and it’s a third place with a big issue! I didn’t think I was going to finish the race in the first car, I thought I was going to be pulling over and retiring so actually we were quite relieved with the full course yellow came and saved my bacon a little bit."[29]

Engel was perplexed with the penalty imposed on him for the contact with teammate Mortara and Heidfeld, arguing that he was attempting to avoid any damage where possible by mounting the kerbs on the inside and held the belief that Heidfeld did not leave enough space for him to pass through.[39] Abt was also annoyed with the drive-through penalty he received for his second lap clash with Lynn and believed it was merely a "racing incident" and held the belief that the steward's judgement was harsh, "In an incident like this Alex is going to say it is my fault and I will say it is more his fault because I think it was avoidable as I was already next to him when I made the move and he turns in."[39] Di Grassi said that he believed that he would have kept with Rosenqvist had he not suffered technical problems with his car, "As a worst-case scenario, a third place would have been easy to achieve, if not a win."[42] Audi team principal Allan McNish affirmed the manufacturer would return to competitiveness in the season's upcoming races but admitted his appointment at the unreliability of the team's cars. He stated his belief this would invigorate a comeback, "We just have to fightback and dig in. It’s like Le Mans. It only finishes at the end of the race, it doesn’t finish halfway through. You have to have the spirit to come back stronger, and we will do that straightaway."[43]

The consequence of the final positions meant Rosenqvist moved to top of the Drivers' Championship for the first time in his career with 54 points.[4][44] Bird's second-place result dropped him to four points behind Rosenqvist in second while Vergne fell to third place as a result of finishing in fifth. Piquet gained three positions to move into fourth position on 25 points and Mortara rounded out the top five, one further point in arrears.[4] Mahindra further extended their advantage at the top of the Teams' Championship on 75 points; Virgin had seventeen less points but still maintained second place and Techeetah remained in third. Jaguar moved ahead of Venturi for fourth place in the standings with nine races left in the season.[4] Rosenqvist spoke of his satisfaction of leading the championship and revealed it motivated him not to take too many risks in the upcoming ePrix.[44]

Classification[edit]

Qualifying[edit]

Pos. No. Driver Team Time Gap Grid
1 9 Switzerland Sébastien Buemi e.Dams-Renault 1:20.355 1
2 2 United Kingdom Sam Bird Virgin-Citröen 1:20.615 +0.260 2
3 19 Sweden Felix Rosenqvist Mahindra 1:21.196 +0.841 3
4 6 Argentina José María López Dragon-Penske 1:21.369 +1.014 4
5 1 Brazil Lucas di Grassi Audi 1:21.444 +1.089 5
6 36 United Kingdom Alex Lynn Virgin-Citröen 1:20.567 +0.208 6
7 3 Brazil Nelson Piquet Jr. Jaguar 1:20.585 +0.228 7
8 66 Germany Daniel Abt Audi 1:20.605 +0.248 8
9 20 New Zealand Mitch Evans Jaguar 1:20.690 +0.333 9
10 16 United Kingdom Oliver Turvey NIO 1:20.748 +0.391 101
11 68 Italy Luca Filippi NIO 1:20.804 +0.449 11
12 27 United Kingdom Tom Blomqvist Andretti-BMW 1:20.870 +0.515 12
13 25 France Jean-Éric Vergne Techeetah-Renault 1:20.906 +0.546 13
14 5 Germany Maro Engel Venturi 1:20.920 +0.560 14
15 8 France Nico Prost e.Dams-Renault 1:20.937 +0.577 15
16 7 Belgium Jérôme d'Ambrosio Dragon-Penske 1:21.176 +0.816 161
17 18 Germany André Lotterer Techeetah-Renault 1:21.222 +0.861 202
18 23 Germany Nick Heidfeld Mahindra 1:28.671 +8.316 17
19 4 Switzerland Edoardo Mortara Venturi 1:36.733 +16.378 18
20 28 Portugal António Félix da Costa Andretti-BMW 19
Source:[24]

Notes:

Race[edit]

Pos. No. Driver Team Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 19 Sweden Felix Rosenqvist Mahindra 33 48:04.751 3 25
2 9 Switzerland Sébastien Buemi e.Dams-Renault 33 +0.945 1 213
3 2 United Kingdom Sam Bird Virgin-Citröen 33 +5.762 2 15
4 3 Brazil Nelson Piquet Jr. Jaguar 33 +6.554 7 134
5 25 France Jean-Éric Vergne Techeetah-Renault 33 +12.238 13 10
6 6 Argentina José María López Dragon-Penske 33 +16.491 4 8
7 23 Germany Nick Heidfeld Mahindra 33 +28.381 18 6
8 27 United Kingdom Tom Blomqvist Andretti-BMW 33 +32.380 12 4
9 36 United Kingdom Alex Lynn Virgin-Citröen 33 +33.520 6 2
10 66 Germany Daniel Abt Audi 33 +40.951 8 1
11 20 New Zealand Mitch Evans Jaguar 33 +46.278 9
12 5 Germany Maro Engel Venturi 33 +46.915 14 5
13 8 France Nico Prost e.Dams-Renault 33 +53.099 15 6
14 28 Portugal António Félix da Costa Andretti-BMW 33 +1:01.116 19
15 7 Belgium Jérôme d'Ambrosio Dragon-Penske 33 +1:13.805 15
16 68 Italy Luca Filippi NIO 32 +1 Lap 11
Ret 4 Switzerland Edoardo Mortara Venturi 30 Engine 17
Ret 16 United Kingdom Oliver Turvey NIO 17 Technical 10
Ret 18 Germany André Lotterer Techeetah-Renault 14 Hardware 20
Ret 1 Brazil Lucas di Grassi Audi 7 Battery 5
Source:[24]

Notes:

Standings after the race[edit]

  • Notes: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.

References[edit]

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