3/24/2020

Race premiere in Riyadh: From zero to 2.

The moment the starting light high above the Ad-Diriyah Formula E Circuit in Riyadh turned off at 3.07 PM CET, motorsports history was written. This was the moment the Formula E season 2019/20 kicked off. The race also marked the entry of the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E team into the all-electric race series. It was a leap in the dark, a start from zero with a lot to catch up on. The initial goal: gather experience and get a sense of what to do in the first race. We cannot expect to be at the top – that was the constant reminder for the team. But then the unexpected happened.

One thing was clear from the start: Everyone was thrilled about the new season. Directly in the first curve, right after the start, things got tense. Every single centimeter and every single position was fought over. Particularly André Lotterer proved himself while defending his 7th position. After 6 minutes the first Yellow Flag: Sebastian Buemi was stationary on the track. The Yellow Phase tightened up the field even further and renewed the battle for each position. Especially in the lead, something André Lotterer felt all too well. Still, he fought his way to the top, position after position, until he reached the 5th position. And went one-on-one with the Mercedes pilot. What could be more archetypical than a duel during the first race? Both newcomers and Stuttgart locals faced off against each other, just behind the top. At this point, the British driver Sam Bird from Envision Virgin Racing was taking the lead in front of Stoffel Vandoorne for Mercedes and Porsche pilot André Lotterer.

Just short of the end, or rather: just short of a Safety Car.

Deciding to use Attack Mode is always a strategic decision made by the driver. It’s always addressed during the radio communication between box and driver: leaving the ideal racing line to charge up on power – yes or no? Too risky or possible in the current race process? It always takes careful evaluation. No matter the final decision, some things are beyond all control. For example, when Daniel Abt in the Audi race car collided with the track boundaries toward the end of the race. The result: A Safety Car round. Mere moments before that Vandoorne decided to activate his Attack Mode and in turn, to leave the ideal racing line. Lotterer took his chance: He passed the Mercedes pilot and took position 2. With the Safety Car phase running in the final 3 minutes of the race: no passing allowed! And the energy was decreasing – just under 10 % energy was left to most still active cars. Can everyone cross the finish line? How to budget the energy? The Safety Car left the track one last time and the race was cleared. Lotterer on 2, Vandoorne on position 3, doing all he can. Bird is in the lead, the tension is palpable – where’s the finish line? The last curve and Lotterer closes off the track. The chance is lost to Vandoorne. The Belgian is humbled third.

Started from zero. And took 2nd place in the first race. What a result! The team is ecstatic. Neel Jani could also rise in the ranks throughout the difficult race and moved up to position 17. It was an eventful race premier for the entire TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E team. And tomorrow, it begins anew. What else could we be, than be hungry for more?

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