By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
Ahead of each ABB Formula E Series race weekend, Motorsports Tribune offers an in-depth look at the details and storylines going into the weekend’s event(s).
Race(s): Marrakesh E-Prix (33 laps, 61.38 miles)
Circuit: Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan (Morocco)
Track Details: Anticlockwise – 12 turns, 1.86 miles
Track Record: Sebastien Buemi (1:20.599, 2016)
What Happened Last Year: Sebastien Buemi overcame a five-position grid penalty issued after a post-qualifying inspection failure to pass the dominant Felix Rosenqvist late and win his second-consecutive race.
Saturday, January 13
Free Practice 1: 2:55-3:55 a.m. ET (FOX Sports Go)
Free Practice 2: 5:25-6:10 a.m. ET (FOX Sports Go)
Race 1 Qualifying: 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 2)
2018 Marrakesh E-Prix: 2 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 1)
Looking for a Bounce Back
Considering the fact that they’d combined to dominate most of the past three seasons, it was fair and reasonable to expect both Renault e.Dams and Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler to succeed in the Season Four opener at Hong Kong.
Instead they both struggled.
Renault’s Nico Prost and Sebastien Buemi combined to score just seven points during the doubleheader weekend. Audi’s Daniel Abt led the way for the group overall with 11 markers, but Season Three champion Lucas di Grassi failed to deliver a single point in two races.
With their combined struggles, both of Formula E’s traditional powers find themselves mired deep on the championship table, well behind points leader Sam Bird.
The season is far from lost, but if any in the quartet hope to claw their way back into the championship fight, they’ll need to jumpstart the effort with a solid performance at Marrakesh.
Separating Contenders from Pretenders
The season-opening doubleheader in Hong Kong was as chaotic as any weekend in Formula E’s four-year existence, with 16 of the field’s 20 drivers scoring points and no repeats on the podium between the two E-Prix.
As a result, an early glance at the points standings shows that the paddock has yet to separate it’s contenders from the rest of the pack.
Bird leads the way on the championship table with 35 points. Jean-Eric Vergne follows two points back in second. Felix Rosenqvist and rookie Eduardo Mortara each have point totals in the 20s, with the quartet of Mitch Evans, Nick Heidfeld, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Abt following in the teens.
No one team or driver managed to establish themselves as a cut above the field in Hong Kong, which leaves everything to race for among the 20 drivers that will line up on the grid this weekend at Marrakesh.
The season won’t be determined in the third round, but don’t be surprised if a few of the season’s eventually contenders begin to rise to the top of the standings as the true structure of the field begins to take shape.
Taming the Dragon
The only consistent presence in Hong Kong was Dragon Racing at the back of the field. Now Jay Penske’s organization will look to rebound in Marrakesh, as it searches for speed and adjusts to a driver change.
Try as they might, Dragon’s duo of Jerome D’Ambrosio and Neel Jani couldn’t find the necessary pace to contend in the season-opener. After struggling throughout the weekend, the pair combined to score just one point, with a best finish of 15th from D’Ambrosio in Race 2.
The furstrations led Jani to depart from the team over the holiday break. Replacing him will be Jose Maria Lopez, a 34-year-old Argentinian who tallied two podiums in 10 starts with DS Virgin Racing in Season Three.
Dragon appeared to be a step behind the field in their first outing. Look for the team to switch things up and try to reverse course in Marrakesh.