Race Report: Hong Kong ePrix
TE's resident engineer Matt Gould shares his experience from the Andretti Formula E paddock in Hong Kong at the first race of the 2016/17 Formula E Season.
Preparing For the Formula E Hong Kong ePrix
I recently traveled to Hong Kong for the first Formula E race of the 2016-17 season, marking my first race with the Andretti Formula E team.
While the Hong Kong race, or ePrix, did not take place until Sunday October 9, we landed in Hong Kong on Wednesday, October 5 to begin our preparations. The team gained access to the paddock area Thursday morning to get to work. The day consisted of unpacking and assembling the team’s garage and paddock area. After the garage was set up, the mechanics began to disassemble the cars to allow for major components to be sealed the following day. The Formula E series requires that the motors and gearboxes are sealed to clearly identify if teams change or modify any of the major systems during the season – a very tight restriction.
On Friday morning, Andretti drivers Antonio Felix da Costa and Robin Frijns and I visited the TE Hong Kong office where we met with the local staff. We had the opportunity to educate the TE employees about the partnership between TE and Andretti Technologies while highlighting the unique aspects of the Formula E series. The energy and excitement of the group was contagious! Meanwhile back at the track, the cars were being reassembled. Upon my return, I completed the Technical Passport, a highly detailed document that records all major components of the four cars.
Qualifying – and Major Events
Saturday’s focus was on the shakedown – the first opportunity to get the cars on the track and essentially prove that everything is working correctly. Antonio and Robin drove each of their cars for a handful of laps behind the safety car. This not only ensures everything is in working order, but also allows the drivers to begin familiarizing themselves with the race circuit.
Finally, it was race day. Sunday was an early morning for the team, as we arrived to the track at 6:30 am. Before the race started at 4:00 pm, there’s a hectic period of two free Practice sessions where final adjustments to the cars can be made before heading into the Qualifying sessions.
Both Practice sessions went off without a hitch, leading us to Qualifying feeling confident. In Formula E Qualifying, every driver’s name is placed in a ballot and drawn into groups of five. These groups determine when you head out to qualify. Each group of five is taken out to the track and given six minutes to complete one 200kW qualifying lap in attempts to set your best time. From these times, a “Super Pole” session of the top five drivers then race again to set even faster times to try and win three championship points.
Antonio was first to qualify in group 2 – unable to get off a clean run, he ended up qualifying in 13th position. Robin was next in group 3 – this is when things took an unexpected turn. During the qualifying lap, Robin crashed into the wall exiting the chicane, cracking the carbon fiber tub. With only three hours until the start of the Hong Kong ePrix, another race began to rebuild Robin’s car. The entire Andretti team came together with more than 12 people working on the car at one time! With Antonio lined up in 13th and Robin at the back of the field in 20th, they knew a challenge lay ahead of them.
Hong Kong ePrix Results
The race started with Robin unsure if he would even be able to complete the race, as his second car was not yet finished being rebuilt. With the safety car coming out prior to the half-way mark on the race, many of the other teams came in for the car change. Andretti decided to stay out and the safety car came in, allowing the drivers to complete a few additional laps in their first cars. Antonio completed his stop first with Robin following suit the next lap. It came down to the wire, but Robin’s car was completed just four minutes before he entered pit lane for his car change! An outstanding effort by the Andretti team!
Having switched cars later than the rest of the field, Robin and Antonio had significantly more energy remaining than the other drivers. Their smart energy management allowed both drivers to quickly advance through the field in an exciting race, concluding with Antonio in 5th and Robin in 6th. The drivers had both driven with determination, resulting with Antonio gaining 8 positions and Robin advancing an astounding 14. With the 5th and 6th finishes, Andretti Formula E is tied for 2nd in overall championship points!
After an intense week in Hong Kong, it was time to head back to Indianapolis, Indiana – otherwise known as home for Andretti. Our sights were first set on recovering from the travel and race battle, and then back on preparing for race two in Marrakesh in just a few short weeks.