FE | Five drivers to watch out for in Diriyah

Formula E
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It’s already time for the second race weekend of Season 10, with two night races in the following days. Here are five drivers to look out for under the Diriyah moon, whether they will be gunning for the top spots, or hoping to recover points after a difficult inaugural Mexico City round.

Pascal Wehrlein

To no-one’s surprise, the German driver is number one contender for both race wins, a feat he had achieved already last season. Winner from pole in Mexico City, the Porsche driver appears to be off to another incredibly successful beginning of the season. Will this finally be his year?

The Porsche driver is feeling confident, as he mentioned ahead of the race weekend:

“I definitely had a good feeling already during testing and at the end of last season, it was clear that we have made some steps forward. Mexico is somehow always a special track for us, that’s why I’m a bit cautious. But hopefully we can confirm that performance in qualifying and on other tracks.”

Oliver Rowland

The British driver has made his return on the Formula E grid with Nissan, and has already showcased a great deal of speed during practise. His Mexico City E-Prix was made more difficult by a tough qualifying, but he was able to recover nine positions, ending near the top ten in P11.

During yesterday’s FP1 session the former Mahindra driver signed the fastest lap, proving that his adaptation to the new team and staff is proceeding as it should, but will Rowland be able to translate his pace into points for the Japanese outlet?

In his fourth non-consecutive  season with Nissan, Rowland is looking forward to yet another opportunity to prove his worth:

“The first event in Mexico was all about experience and we ended up with plenty of positives after a good comeback in the race. We’ll be looking to maintain that momentum, attacking it with the same relaxed approach. Diriyah is a tough track to overtake on, so we need to maximize our performance in qualifying.

“Free Practice will be important, to get ourselves in a comfortable place ahead of the rest of the weekend. It’s cool to race at night, it’s the only one of the season and the show is always great for fans, so I’m excited to get started.”

Sam Bird

One of three drivers with multiple wins at the track, alongside Wehrlein and former champion Nyck de Vries, the experienced British will have an extra boost of motivation due to his new team switch.

In fact, after three years with Jaguar TCS Racing and partnering with Mitch Evans, Bird has moved to Neom McLaren.

His first outing with the team formerly running under the Mercedes banister wasn’t easy, as he finished off the top ten, but he will definitely be on the hunt for more at a track where he has historically performed well.

Ahead of the Diriyah double header Bird talked to the press, expressing the importance the round hold for him and McLaren both:

“I’m very excited to be out in Diriyah for the second and third rounds of the season. It’s a very important race for us with NEOM being our Title Partner. We consider this to be one of our home races. It’s a race that I have gone well at before, winning twice and getting another podium, so I’m looking forward to hopefully having a strong weekend. It’s also a race where NEOM McLaren have competed strongly at in the past, so I’m optimistic about our potential for this weekend.”

Mitch Evans

Championship contender until the final rounds in 2023, and especially the dramatic Rome double header packed with joys and tears for the Kiwi driver, Evans is definitely another driver that should never be counted out for the win.

After a strong qualifying in Mexico City, a steering issue prevented him form being up in the podium fight like his new teammate and title rival in 2023 Nick Cassidy.

Nevertheless, Evans’s first E-Prix of the year was still pretty impressive, as he managed to hold on to a top 5 finish, in spite of his car troubles and the vicious assaults of Vergne.

The Jaguar driver is pleased to be back to Diriyah, discussing how the Formula E grid has evolved since the Gen3 cars ‘first outing around this time last year:

“Naturally, with the second year of the same car, teams are going to find new ways to get performance out of the drivers and get more comfortable. Compared to 12 months ago, it’s definitely a different story.”

“I feel like the pack has definitely closed up. To try and execute a lap there is really tricky. It requires a lot of rhythm, a lot of corners flowing to one another. It’s very much one of those tracks where there’s kind of high risk but, you know, no kind of margin for error. It’s a special event and we all enjoy coming here.”

Maximilian Gunther

After a tough first half of the season, the Maserati team leader had ended his 2023 on a high scoring the Italian outlet’s first race win in motorsport after Fangio’s times and three other podiums, including one in Rome for Maserati’s home race and one in Berlin for his own home E-Prix.

The former Andretti driver appears to have picked up the new season right where he had left in the final rounds, being in contention for more than half of the Mexico City race for the final podium position, but ultimately having to surrender it to Cassidy due to an untimely Attack Mode.

Diriyah is a fast, technical track and it’s one of the most complex and challenging venues we’ll race at in Season 10. Unlike Mexico City, it’s a proper street circuit. The barriers are close, and it has a lot of blind corners, which means it rewards driver skill and confidence in equal measure,” said the German driver ahead of the weekend.

“The race is also the only night race of the year, and the first double-header of the season. This means we’ll need to contend with a lot of circuit conditions, not only with temperature changes from day to night but also with natural evolution from Thursday to Saturday.”

“We enjoyed a successful first race in Mexico, but the focus is entirely on a strong execution once again. I love racing in the night and we‘re definitely feeling good heading into the weekend,” Gunther concluded.

The German driver’s first outing of the weekend was positive as well, ending the first practise session in light conditions similar to those of the race in the top ten, but there’s still room for improvement and time to make the final tweaks in today’s FP2, set to begin in about an hour from now.

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