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Hong Kong Sunday Notebook

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

Photo: Formula E

***Formula E founder and CEO Alejandro Agag announced a new business venture with Yunfeng Capital to expand the scope and reach of the championship, particularly in China. A second race on the mainland of the country is being worked on and could become reality as a potential double-header with Hong Kong in Season Five.

***The status of the deal between Formula E and Hong Kong for the future is expected to be revealed shortly. ”We have exciting news coming up that will hopefully see our presence grow in the near future in Hong Kong as well as mainland China which is a very important market for us,” said a Formula E spokesperson.

***Edoardo Mortara said it was “tough to swallow” losing a certain victory after spinning from the lead on the penultimate lap. “We had the pace, we were managing the race from the beginning to the end. I guess that at some point I wanted too much and I made a stupid mistake. Sometimes you just have to admit it. I was probably overconfident and looking for too much. I should have gone just for the win.”

***Felix Rosenqvist, who inherited the win following Daniel Abt’s disqualification, admitted he doesn’t have the same confidence with the brakes on his Mahindra compared to last year, having had multiple brake lock-ups over the weekend. “That’s my main thing I’ve been working on all weekend to find the confidence in the braking zones and work with the brake bias,” he said. “That showed again this race as in qualifying yesterday that I’m not really in the level I need to be.”

***Formula E debutant Andre Lotterer described his new role in Formula E as the “biggest challenge” the three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner has ever had. “It is crazy difficult, like nothing else,” he said. “It is fun too because it is very challenging. You can’t really control the car the way you want!”

***Lotterer’s former Porsche LMP1 stablemate and fellow Formula E rookie Neel Jani suffered a tough baptism, as Dragon Racing was embarrassingly off the pace all weekend. Jani finished one lap behind in 18th, with teammate Jerome d’Ambrosio nearly going a lap down himself. “I think with my own race today, compared to Jerome, I improved,” Jani said. “I got into a window at least today, if I take him as my reference. But the problem is that we are not even there… Jerome lost one minute to the leader, one minute, on a track where a lap is 1:04s!”

***Luca Filippi’s race was derailed after he went off the circuit while being overtaken by a recovering Rosenqvist, damaging a track rod.

***Sebastien Buemi leaves Hong Kong with just a single point, after a disastrous weekend for the former series champion that included multiple incidents and issues for the Renault e.dams driver. “We were bad, so now we need to understand what was the problem,” he said.

***Team boss Jean-Paul Driot was not in attendance this weekend. It was the first race weekend that the e.dams founder had missed since the championship’s inception in 2014.

***Nissan Global Motorsport Director Michael Carcamo was in attendance at Hong Kong throughout the weekend as he continues to form the Japanese manufacturer’s plan of attack for the 2018/19 season. “I’ll be coming to most races and soaking up things from lots of different angles ahead of Season Five,” he said.

***NIO drivers Oliver Turvey and Luca Filippi will both travel to China after Hong Kong for official team duties. E-racing365 understands that a major new team partner could be announced next week.

***Dr. Jens Thiemer, Vice President marketing Mercedes-Benz Cars, Daimler AG, together with Wolfgang Schattling, long-time head of motorsport communication at Mercedes and now a consultant to the company, were also in attendance today.

***Board members of the Macau Grand Prix Organising Committee also attended the races. The former Portuguese colony that hosted its famous Grand Prix event for the 64th time two weeks ago is only an hour’s ferry trip away from Hong Kong.

***Venturi’s development driver Michal Benyahia was spending time with the team in Hong Kong. The American-born Moroccan national is expected to drive in one of its cars at the Rookie test in Marrakesh next month.

***When asked after his first action-packed day of Formula E action on Saturday evening to sum up his first full day in the series, Andretti driver Kamui Kobayashi alluded to a mixture of the early start, tight schedule and communications problems in the cockpit: “No breakfast, no lunch, no radio,” said the Japanese ace.

***Alejandro Agag confirmed to e-racing365 that the new generation two Formula E car will be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show between March 8-11. The car has continued testing in Spain over the last month and is believed to have completed over 2,000 kms of running so far.

***Plans to implement larger infrastructure for the Formula E pit buildings, incorporating two and three tiers in Season Five, are starting to be drawn up by organizers Formula E Holdings Ltd. It’s believed that hospitality areas above the new structures are in the pipeline for when more space is available next season as teams will only have one car to prepare.

***E-racing365 understands that potentially three additional teams could be announced for the Jaguar I-Pace eTROPHY next month. Several Asian teams are believed to be in the frame to join the new-for-2018 series. Famed U.S. open-wheel and sports car operation Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was confirmed as the first team last week.

***Freestyle skier and Youtube star Jon Olosson was a guest during the weekend and got the chance to drive a Formula E car around the Hong Kong circuit. “The most thrilling thing I have ever done,” he said afterwards. Having used on-board footage from last year’s event to prepare for his drive, Olsson was slightly caught out by the revised layout of the chicane. “I expected it to be much, much wider than it actually was.”

***‘The Hong-Kong Coca-Cola ‘incident’ is set to go down in Formula E folklore after an unnamed team was given a dressing down for emptying several liters of the soft drink on their apron yesterday. The method behind the madness was to try and create more adhesion on the slippery and dusty surface at the pit stops, which became something of a cause celebre after Sam Bird’s race one incident on Saturday.

Rene De Boer and Luke Smith contributed to this report

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

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Paul G

    December 3, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Very interesting weekend. Basically everyone but Dragon come out of it with some reason to believe they can compete. Even Renault, for whom this weekend has to go down as a disaster, had by far the fastest lap overall in Sunday practice.

    NIO still need to improve their race pace, but are more competitive than last year and fast in qualy. Andretti would have had two solid points scoring races if not for troubles in the pits in race two. Jaguar and Venturi have both taken huge steps forward. Perhaps the best news of all, there was no sign that Audi was far ahead of the field as some predicted.

    • Sam Smith

      December 5, 2017 at 10:16 am

      It is going to be a long season for Dragon sadly. See Neel’s comments today.

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