The roads of Ad Diriyah in Saudi Arabia

Formula E Race 1 Preview: Saudi Arabia

Dec 14, 2018 - 4min read

‘It’s lights out and away we go’ for season 5 of the FIA Formula E Championship this weekend, with a whole host of changes: new cars, new tracks, new drivers and new features, so here’s a preview of everything you need to know about the opening race and what to look out for.

Map of Ad Diriyah race track in Saudi Arabia.

2018 SAUDIA Ad Diriyah E-Prix 

Track length = 2.495km

Number of turns = 21

History = First time this circuit has featured in Formula E!

Track Preview

This weekend sees the highly-anticipated Formula E season kicking off with a whole host of changes: new cars, new tracks, new drivers and new features which should all combine for a thrilling race!

The original home of the Saudi royal family, the old town of Ad Diriyah is a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated on the outskirts of Saudi Arabia’s capital city Riyadh.

Alongside the new, modern city that features gardens, palm groves and rolling estates, it’s a beautiful setting for the season’s opening race.

Technically a challenging circuit, the fast, long straights and high-speed flowing corners mean we’re in for some electrifying action!

Turns 1 – 6 in particular will be a challenge for drivers, but should allow viewers to see which teams have been able to get the most out of the new generation of faster Formula E cars!

Green Scout Report

With each race, we’ll look at a positive social story coming out of each country Formula E visits.  

We start with Saudi Arabia: its history is steeped in fossil fuels but there are signs of positive changes coming.  The Kingdom has officially announced its ‘Vision 2030’ plan, with the aim being to bring about significant social and economic reform, including diversification away from oil.  

Demonstrating its commitment, Saudi Arabia has signed a ten-year deal to host Formula E races as a tool to help communicate its vision and act as an immediate catalyst for the wider adoption of renewables in the region.

Three things to look out for:

In what is most likely the biggest change in Formula E this season, each team will be showing off the new generation of bigger, better, and faster cars.  So, to keep it simple, here are three things we’d recommend keeping an eye out for:

1. The introduction of Attack Mode

As the cars race around the track, you’ll see arrows on the tarmac – most likely positioned towards the outer edges near the walls. By driving over these arrows, the car’s power can increase by up to 10% – giving them some vital extra speed to try and overtake the cars in front. Think real-life Mario Kart and you won’t be far off!

2. The Renaissance of ex-Formula 1 drivers

This season we see a few familiar and well-known faces from Formula 1 joining Formula E, showing the increasing status of the series. Most notably, Felipe Massa, 11-time GP winner and title contender to Lewis Hamilton in 2008, will be making his debut with the Venturi Grand Prix Team. Former McLaren driver Stoffel Vandorne will also be making the jump to join the 37-year old Brazilian on the grid, as well as ex-Toro Rosso Drivers Jean Eric Vergne and Sebastien Buemi, who have been on the Formula E grid for a few seasons now.

3. BMW Andretti look like the team to beat

Despite all the cars having physically the same specification, during the three days of pre-season testing BMW topped the time sheets. The German factory team seems to have brought together a strong package of software and drivers who can make the most of their cars – including our very own Alexander Sims! As BMW looks to translate early season optimism into race victories, here’s what Alexander had to say about their success during testing:

“We had really positive results, testing under wet and dry conditions and we were competitive in both. You can feel the advancement in the BMW iFE.18 Gen2 car, which is really exciting. We have increased power and the new ‘Brake-by-Wire’ system gives you so much more confidence in the cockpit. Overall, the car feels fast and efficient. But race conditions will be very different from testing; despite our positive results we can’t be complacent. I’m very much looking forward to getting out in the car in a race situation.”

How do I watch?

Each race lasts an action-packed 45 mins with pre-race build up starting at 12pm on Saturday 15th December. It’s available to watch on a range of channels, with the most notable being BBC (race only via the red button or online) and YouTube (screening extended build-up before each race).