Jan 16, 2019 - 4min read
Against the stunning back drop of Marrakesh, the second race on the Formula E calendar proved to be just as engaging as the first. A contender for race of the season already, BMW i Andretti Motorsport dominated, but a team clash allowed Mahindra Racing’s Jerome D’Ambrosio to snatch it at the end.
So, what happened in the race?
After the unexpected rainy weather in Saudi Arabia meant the format of qualifying was subject to last-minute change, we got to experience the first Super Pole session of the season. After the four initial qualifying groups saw both BMW i Andretti Motorsport drivers reach Super Pole, it was Sam Bird who put in a stunner of a lap, closely followed by Jean-Eric Vergne and António Félix da Costa. However, the latter was on the receiving end of a three-place grid penalty due to exceeding power limits and it meant that our man Alexander Sims was promoted to a fourth-place start on the grid.
On to the main event… Lights out, and it was drama at the first corner.
An aggressive overtake down the inside of Bird by 2018 Champion Vergne led to him spinning off the track, bringing him down to last and shuffling the order up and down the pack. The BMW i Andretti Motorsport pairing of Sims and da Costa were the biggest winners as they managed to avoid the chaos and tidily slip into second and third place respectively. The next few laps resulted in a couple of early retirements - Pascal Wehrlein on his Formula E debut and Gary Paffet, who suffered a tyre puncture.
The BMW i Andretti Motorsport drivers busied themselves stalking Bird, who remained the leader, until 15 minutes into the race when da Costa and Sims pulled off a bona-fide “shake and bake” move (note: if you’ve not seen Talladega Nights… it’s a terrible movie, but some great car racing one liners).The move started with da Costa switching spots with Sims to take him from third to second on Turn 4. Then da Costa carved out Bird on Turn 5 to bring him into the lead – then only seconds later, Sims pounced at the opportunity to overtake Bird and tuck himself behind da Costa in second. The boys in blue and white now had supreme control over the race, and they looked to have a 1-2 finish in the bag.
Then, with just under ten minutes remaining on the clock, a series of unfortunate events unfolded. Sims, who’d been gathering pace with each lap, decided to make a move on the outside of da Costa, who defended and held his ground. Sadly, this resulted in both cars locking up, da Costa crashing into the barrier and Sims falling to fourth position!
D’Ambrosio took advantage, and the lead, while a safety car was called in to remove da Costa’s car from the track. Most cars dived in early to utilise Attack Mode in the final laps, but the recovery operation took longer than expected, and most went to waste. With the exception of Sims who was the only driver with Attack Mode activated for the final lap. The race restarted with just a few seconds of the race remaining and a tense sprint to the chequered flag saw D’Ambrosio finish first. He was closely followed by Frijns and Bird, who came in third, despite having a determined Sims practically glued to the back of his car.
It’s hotting up at the top of the team standings.
Just 11 points separate the top four teams. Envision Virgin in fourth picked up all of its 36 points in Marrakesh. BMW i Andretti Motorsport, third on 40 points, has carried the momentum it created in pre-season testing by leading in both races of the season so far. With a podium and a race win, Mahindra is level with 40 points. DS Techeetah looks strong as the team worked its way through the pack throughout the race, but a few mistakes have cost it a race win thus far – and yet the team sits at the top of the Team Championship on 47 points!
These street circuits aren’t plane sailing for our Formula 1 veterans.
There is a distinct absence of ex-F1 drivers at the top of the drivers’ championship standings. This is in part due to some bad luck (Felipe Massa struggled with his Venturi car throughout the race), but it also highlights just how challenging and intense the Formula E circuits are. They always say though… form is temporary, but class is permanent – so if the ex-F1 crowd can pull it together, we could have one hell of a season on our hands!
The teams are developing their cars as fast as they’re driving them!
Race 1 in Saudi Arabia saw a somewhat controversial number of penalties given up and down the grid for exceeding regeneration limits. This time around, there were none. Clearly, the teams have taken a hard look at their systems and developed solutions to their issues accordingly – and at lightning speed. It’s great to see the teams can deliver such a quick turn around and hopefully we’ll see a similar rate of development as we go through the season!
From Alexander Sims himself:
Marrakesh saw a fantastic change of fortune for Alexander Sims – in part aided by his fantastic showing in qualifying. Ok, so the outcome wasn’t quite what he wanted, but there were plenty of positives! Here’s what Alexander had to say about his second Formula E run out:
“It was a great shame for the race to finish like that. I’m naturally disappointed, particularly for the team who worked so hard to give us cars that were so competitive and out-pacing the field. We have all learned from this – António, myself and the team – in how we must improve; we are well aware that such incidents are unacceptable. However, what we must do now is take those lessons from it and move forward."
“Although a fourth-place finish and taking points in just my second race is a fantastic result, the circumstances make it a case of what might have been. But the pace is there and I’m confident for more positive results in the coming races.”
Formula E returns to action in just under two weeks on Saturday 26th January in Santiago, Chile – tune in on BBC Red Button or YouTube.
For more details on our partnership with Alexander Sims, click here.