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Hong Kong Saturday Notebook

Sam Smith’s Saturday notebook from the opening round of the 2017/18 FIA Formula E Championship season…

Photo: Formula E

***Today’s pit stop minimum time was the shortest in Formula E history in terms of the time available for drivers get in and out of their cockpit. Discounting the entry and exit, the time available was just 21 seconds. The previous shortest was 24 seconds.

***Jaguar’s Mitch Evans reckoned that his lap in qualifying, which took place after the checkered flag dropped and thus meant he couldn’t keep his time, was faster than Sam Bird’s time of 1:03.276s which was topped the qualifying heats. “I should have been battling for pole,” the Kiwi said.

***Evans’ race was slightly compromised by erroneously being put to the back of the field when he had actually made up three positions to run 16th at the time of the first lap incident: “The FIA have now apologized for that, but that was not right. The race was ok, but it just sucks.”

***Nick Heidfeld described his battle with Jean-Eric Vergne as “not sticking to what is written in the rules.” Heidfeld said: “The rules say you can only change your direction once and as you could see going in to Turn 2 once or twice I went to go left or right and he just followed me and did a slalom. But nobody took action from the stewards which I accept and I have spoken to him. I have been in this business long enough to not make a big fuss of it.”

***DS Virgin team principal Alex Tai described the fraught reaction after Sam Bird’s pit lane incident: “What I was doing was seeing if we could appeal it but that is difficult to do during the race so we followed the instructions. We knew the pit lane was pretty short so we didn’t take the penalty we might get black flagged.”

***Despite taking second place, Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne said he had multiple issues he had to deal with during his race: “The dash was giving me the wrong information and I had no radio at all. The brakes were all wrong as I had no re-gen so it was actually a bit of a disaster. We have to find out what went wrong.”

***Daniel Abt reckoned a “minimum podium finish” was in the offing today if he had not lost 20 seconds in the pits after a problem which saw him unable to start his car. “We tried a reset which also didn’t work and then suddenly it did. I was catching the two leading guys and I know it is easy to say ‘what could have been’ but I am quite sure I could have been close to Bird and JEV and maybe a chance to win.”

***Abt also described his slight contact with teammate Lucas di Grassi: “I felt a little touch but I wasn’t even looking at it. Nothing big and then I realised he was close behind.”

***Felix Rosenqvist built an impressive comeback race after being “whacked” by Filippi, which damaged the radiator and caused issues. “Then it was a fun race and I overtook four people in to Turn 1 including Engel and Piquet.” The Swede faded in the final laps after his early stop strategy though and then lost his eighth position after being penalized for going over the 180kW maximum by 19kW.

***Renault e.dams technical director Vincent Gaillardot confirmed a “systems shutdown came quickly and then went quickly” on Sebastien Buemi’s ZE.17 midway through the race. “We have to investigate but of course this really compromised Seb.”

***Panasonic Jaguar Racing Sporting Manager Gary Ekerold described Nelson Piquet Jr.’s fourth place as a “solid start but we also have to take on board the team mistake for Mitch [Evans] in qualifying, so there are mixed feelings. We have a good basis and the fact we have around 40 percent new people in the team this year, we can be happy with this [result] for a first event of the year.”

***Maro Engel says that the problem which saw a momentary spike over his 180kW maximum power was “ironic” because “I had a massive power loss between Turn 1 and Turn 2 at the same place every lap. I dropped around 50kW down so lost a lot. This is how Felix got in to a position where he was so close to attack. Without that I could have attacked for the podium maybe as I actually crossed the line with a little too much energy.”

***Andre Lotterer suffered a tough Formula E baptism after he accrued four separate penalties during the race. The first was for a cooling system not being removed from the car before the start, while the second and third were for cutting the Turn 3/4 chicane. The final sanction was for leaving the car in an unsafe mode in Parc Ferme. He was excluded from the results for the final infringement.

***The replacement for the postponed Sao Paulo date on March 17 will be announced at the World Motorsport Council Meeting in Paris on Wednesday. As revealed by e-racing365 on Thursday, the Uruguayan venue of Punta del Este is favorite to take over the slot.

***Both NIO drivers Oliver Turvey and Luca Filippi will return to the Far East for NIO Day on December 16 when the new electric NIO ES8 SUV will be launched in Beijing. As well as the ES8, the NIO power system, the NOMI AI companion and other NIO innovations will be showcased.

***Several teams have confided in e-racing365 they are concerned about what one team principal described as “creative pass arrangements” in Formula E. This was a alluding to alleged mishandling of teams’ allocation of passes within the garages during sessions.

***The regulations dictate that no more than 20 operational personnel (red) can have access to the paddock, pit lane, grid and be able to work on the car. However, the teams also receive a combined 12 additional passes (four purple and eight blue colored) for access to paddock and pit lane. The blue passes are allocated for guests but fears have been raised that teams are openly abusing these and utilizing them for additional team members to work on the cars.

***A customer event to launch the Audi RS 5 for the local market in Hong Kong was held at a stylish location in the harbor on Friday evening. Audi team drivers Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt were present. During the event, there also was a farewell speech for Audi’s outgoing Head of Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, who was presented with an original rear wing of an Audi R8 LMS by Lothar Korn, managing director of Audi Hong Kong. Hong Kong is Ullrich’s final event with the German manufacturer.

***Spotted in the paddock today was newly-crowned Japanese Super GT champion Nick Cassidy and former Rebellion LMP1 driver Alexandre Imperatori.

***Hugo Rippert, owner and CEO of scale model manufacturer Spark, showed a pre-production model of the Audi Formula E car in 1:43 scale. Rippert, a keen hobby racer in an Audi R8 LMS and Porsche 911 himself and a long-time sponsor of former Le Mans and Pikes Peak winner Romain Dumas, announced that the models are expected to go on sale soon.

***Tomorrow’s second Hong Kong E-Prix of the weekend will be the first to utilize both the slightly modified qualifying procedure and also only one free practice session, which is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. local time.

Rene de Boer and Luke Smith contributed to this Notebook

Sam Smith is e-racing365’s Formula E Editor. A 20-year veteran in motorsports media, including press officer roles in both the FIA Sportscar Championship and at Lola Group, Smith is a well-known face in the Formula E paddock, where he served as series editor for Motorsport.com from 2014-17. Contact Sam

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