Formula E: Audi moves up at Paris ePrix in April weather
The FIA Formula E Championship round 8 took place in the heart of Paris. Under the Eiffel Tower and close to Notre Dame, the all-electric cars took over the narrow Circuit des Invalides. With just 1.93 km in length, the track is one of the shortest on the circuit, but winds around 14 curves that turned into a slippery slope due to adverse weather conditions.
But first to the winner – Envision Virgin Racing’s Robin Frijns. The Dutchman became the eighth winner on the eight race of the 2018/19 Formula E racing season. It was an emotional win for Frijns, who had won his first Formula E race ever on the Dutch Koningsdag under chaotic circumstances. The same would hold true in Paris as the rain made it a hard run all around. “The last thing you want in a race is rain, and it was very slippery for everyone – everybody went off at some point,” said Frijns. He added: “It was definitely one of the toughest races,” as the following video with the races’ highlights illustrates.
Whenever the Formula E returns to Paris, it is a trip down memory lane. On 3 March 2011, FIA president Jean Todt here met Alejandro Agag and Antonio Tajani, who is now president of the European Parliament at the fine dining restaurant Le Stresa. Over dinner, they first had the idea of an electric Formula racing series and wrote it on a napkin, which you can now find hanging framed at the restaurant’s wall.
But let’s head back to the present. Saturday’s race was a rollercoaster ride for all drivers due to the ever-changing weather. Pascal Wehrlein (Mahindra) clung to the Pole Position in wet conditions during qualifying. But due to a tyre pressure technical infringement, both Mahindra teammates had their qualifying times deleted and were moved to the back of the grid. Nissan’s Oliver Rowland emerged on the pole position when the sun was out again over Paris.
After Rowland’s incident with the wall in round two of the race, his teammate Sebastian Buemi took over the lead until a puncture forced him to a pit stop shortly before the rain came down hard. At that point, Frijns moved up the ranks from P3 at the start and headed the pack despite a damaged front wing and DS Techeetah’s Andre Lotterer hard at his tail.
Fifteen minutes into the race, conditions changed dramatically. Heavy rainfall and hail put the track under water. The slippery surface resulted in many collisions, impacts and turners. BMW’s Alex Sims and HWA’s Stoffel Vandoorne were two of the many affected by collisions, forcing them to retire early. After all, HWA’s Gary Paffett stayed cool under the harsh weather conditions and raced from P17 on the grid to P8 and scored points for the second time this season.
After numerous yellow flags and a safety car phase, the leading group around Frijns, Andre Lotterer (Techeetah) and Daniel Abt (Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler) remained close together, finishing the race in this exact order.
Andre Lotterer finished in second place for the second time in a row and is only one point behind the leader Frijns in the overall ranking. “What matters is to be up there at the end so, if it’s without a win, then who cares? Obviously, it would be nice though,” said Lotterer.
In the team standings, Audi scored the most points of the weekend with Abt’s third place and Lucas di Grassi coming in fourth. With now 129 total points, they gained some ground to the leading team Techeetah (142). “Very good result and a super exciting race. Bringing back third and fourth positions are excellent positions for the factory team,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass. “But I’m very happy as well for Robin Frijns for his first victory in the Virgin, with another Audi on the grid,” he added.
Maximilian Günther scored the first ten points for the US team Geox Dragon with a sensational 5th place finish. Pascal Wehrlein showed a strong performance too, as he raced from P22 to P10, thus securing at least one point.
Only for the local hero and current champion Jean-Eric Vergne, the weekend did not turn out as hoped. After a disappointing qualifying at P12 at least he finished behind Günther on P6.
Au revoir Paris! The next round of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship will be the Monaco E-Prix on 11 May 2019. At the end of May, the race series will be in Berlin for the fifth time. Few remaining tickets are available at fiaformulae.com.