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Diriyah Thursday Notebook

Sam Smith’s latest notebook from the paddock of the Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia…

Photo: Formula E

***As reported by e-racing365 earlier this month, the 1.54-mile Diriyah E-Prix venue features enhanced drainage facilities around the track.

***Several new manhole covers were noted by drivers on the pre-event track walk this morning. The measures were put in place to avoid a repeat of the standing water issues which affected last season’s timetable.

***E-racing365 has learned that delegates from the city of Tokyo met with Formula E recently to further discuss prospects of hosting a race in the Japanese capital, either in 2021 or 2022. Tokyo is one of the most challenging cities to host events on public roads because of complex legal and public highway legislation but exploratory meetings are still taking place.

***Yokohama has long been thought to be the most likely location for the first-ever Japanese E-Prix. E-racing365 reported in July that city chamber of commerce officials had met to discuss an initial feasibility study for hosting a race in the port area on the banks of the Katabira River, close to Nissan’s global HQ.

***However, it’s now understood that an alternative venue close to the original proposed Katabira River site is now being targeted and that Yokohama still remains the favorite to land a date. Further meetings are believed to be taking place this month.

***The QEV Technologies company has been confirmed as having a formal stakeholding in the NIO333 team. The Spanish technology firm has former Mahindra engineers Joan Orus and Andres Castillo embedded in the NIO333 team this season. E-racing365 understands that a share of around 10% is held by QEV.

***Shanghai Lisheng Racing Co. Ltd, the company which is now the majority stakeholder of the newly named NIO333 team, has confirmed that it has formed a Young Driver Academy in China.

“The Young Driver Academy is not only focused in China but we are using it as a bridge to present to the world,” said Xia Qing, the Chairman of the Board of Lisheng. “In China, we have different levels of championships from karting to touring cars and now Formula E so we want to use this bring on new talents.”

***New DS Techeetah driver Antonio Felix da Costa says that the FIA crackdown on software policing triggered him to get reassurance from his team on the matter.

“When I read that, I forwarded it to the team and said, ‘guys, make sure we are good on this’ because I don’t know what is done deeply inside the software,” he explained. “What I got back was ‘don’t worry, we are all good and it is no problem.’ At this point, I have zero concerns.”

***Formula 2 drivers Jordan King and Giuliano Alesi are believed to be in discussions to take part in an official Formula E rookie test at Marrakesh in March. E-racing365 revealed last month that Indycar’s Ed Jones, who was in attendance at the Valencia test last month, also held meetings with prospective teams about a potential drive.

***Envision Virgin Racing technical director Chris Gorne says that the team’s new simulator is already having a positive influence on its program heading into season six:

“We’re now part of the group and a lot of the manufacturers have now come together to do the track scans and we’re now part of that group, so we do feel part of it and it’s exciting for us,” Gorne told e-racing365.

***A proposal to reduce the number of operational passes at races for the 2020-21 season is currently being discussed between teams and organizers. Currently, a maximum of 20 operational passes are allowed but it’s understood that a cut to 18 is likely for next season.

***James Calado may be making his professional debut for Jaguar this weekend but the British driver has a long connection with the brand that few people realize.

“When I was karting, I was sponsored by Tony Purnell, who was Jaguar Formula 1 [team principal] at the time, so I’ve always been close in that respect,” he told e-racing365. “So now to race with them – I know it’s different – but to race with them [here] is really great.”

***E-racing365 understands that TAG Porsche Formula E test and development driver Thomas Preining will take part in the soon-to-be-announced Marrakesh test. Porsche is currently deciding on who could partner the Austrian, as Simona de Silvestro is ineligible for the test which is for drivers who do not hold an ‘e-licence’.

***NIO333 principal Christian Silk has praised his driver Oliver Turvey who has stayed with the team this season despite an unsettling summer which saw uncertainty and re-structure at the newly-owned team.

“He’s actually a bit of a manager,” said Silk. “The way he carries himself and the detailed information he gives us and the tone of the information he gives us, makes a big difference to the way the team is.”

***ROKiT Venturi Racing has re-signed Norman Nato and Arthur Leclerc as test and development drivers for the coming season.

“It was a straightforward decision to retain Norman and Arthur as our reserve and test drivers for the coming season,” said Susie Wolff. “Both provided valuable feedback during the Marrakesh test [in January 2019] and also in the simulator, which has played an important role in our Season 6 preparations.”

***Automobili Pininfarina has launched an initiative to give its Battista EV hypercar clients the unique opportunity to drive a Formula E race car and taste extreme EV performance under the guidance of Nick Heidfeld.

***The Hyperdrive event will take place at Calafat in Spain, where clients will take to the wheel of a range of track-prepared EVs, moving up in performance until their experience peaks at the controls of the Battista’s ‘cousin’: a Mahindra Racing Formula E car.

***Ian James is expecting Gary Paffett to be his “right-hand man” this season after the experienced British ace was recently named as both the Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team’s sporting and technical advisor and a reserve and development driver.

“We are going to see him a great deal in the sim as a development driver, first and foremost, but in that role of sporting and technical advisor, he will very much be my right-hand man as we take on that development process within the team,” James told e-racing365.

***TAG-Heuer Porsche is holding a special welcome dinner this evening during which a new bespoke team logo will be launched. Mark Webber, Jacky Ickx, Fritz Enzinger and Porsche Board Member for R&D, Michael Steiner, will be guests at the function.

***Vera Herrmann is the new FIA Formula E secretary to the stewards for the 2019-20 season. Herrmann has previous experience in the FIA World Touring Car Cup.

***Tickets for both the London and Berlin E-Prixs went on sale last week. Demand for both events has been high with the return of the London fixture at the ExCel Arena expected to be a sell-out.

***Official track action for this weekend’s double-header begins on Friday morning with Free Practice 1 at 7:00 a.m. local time (4 a.m. GMT; Saturday 11 p.m. ET).

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 from 2014-17. Contact Sam

1 Comment

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    November 21, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    Free Practice 1 at 7:00 a.m. local time (4 a.m. GMT; Saturday 11 p.m. ET) I’m sure I’m missing something, but free practice 1 starts Saturday 11pm Eastern time?

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