Jerome D'Ambrosio, Mahindra, Marrakech, Formula E, 2019

D’Ambrosio wins in Morocco after BMW team mates collide

Formula E

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Jerome D’Ambrosio won a lively Formula E race in Morocco after the race-leading BMW Andretti team mates collided with each other.

Sam Bird had taken pole with what was surely a near-perfect lap in Super Pole, with Jean-Eric Vergne in second, Sebastien Buemi third, Alexander Sims in fourth place and Mitch Evans promoted to fifth after Antonio Felix da Costa’s Super Pole time was deleted for exceeding power usage limits during the session.

Vergne had a poor getaway, then seemed unable to brake into turn one – he collided lightly with Bird, span and pushed five cars wide to avoid him, relegated to last place by the time Bird had reached turn two.

Third-placed Buemi and both Jaguar cars were pushed out, leaving the BMWs space to move up to the lead, easily chasing Bird while other drivers attempted to recover, some with substantial diffuser damage.

The Attack Mode activation zone for the Marrakech Eprix was set at the outside of turn three, a much easier-to-reach part of the track than the inside of a corner, as selected in Ad Diriyah. Two mandatory periods lasting 240 seconds (four minutes) had to be armed and activated by each driver during the race. Attack Mode gives drivers an additional 25kW of top end speed, which was expected to have a more significant effect here on a high-throttle circuit, in comparison to the lower-power Ad Diriyah track.

Attack Mode is unavailable for the first two laps of a race and the first driver to activate it was Maximilian Gunther with 36 minutes of race time remaining – having crashed in qualifying, an early break was his best chance of a result and it had the desired effect, except to leave him with only one more activation and a sudden energy deficit, with each activation costing around 12% of usable remaining energy.

With 30 minutes to go, Bird was defending the lead hard from Da Costa but clearly struggling, the BMW right on his rear. At the time, Bird believed his already-damaged car, which had taken a hit to the diffuser during qualifying and again during the collision with Vergne – whether there was significant effect or not, he was unable to withstand the Andretti drivers and after Da Costa forced past, Sims swiftly followed.

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Bird lost third place to team mate Robin Frijns 21 minutes into the race. It looked like an orchestrated recovery for Virgin but they were both swiftly passed by D’Ambrosio, at standard race pace, and then Lucas di Grassi with Attack Mode, then fell to losing further places as Jose-Maria Lopez plowed through and the BMW cars were free to break away from the pack.

With fifteen minutes to go, Da Costa and Sims had a substantial lead from D’Ambrosio and Di Grassi, after cutting their way through the pack, however, D’Ambrosio still retained two Attack Mode activations to the rest of the leaders’ one remaining.

Both Virgin cars armed attack mode with just under fourteen minutes to go in an attempt to recover places but with a seemingly irretrievable gap to the BMWs and D’Ambrosio still holding two activations in reserve.

After a seemingly perfect race with a surefire one-two finish, however, Sims and Da Costa suddenly clashed. Both drivers locked up, as Sims seemed to make a move around the outside of Da Costa and their front wings inexorably interlocked. Sims escaped the collision unscathed but Da Costa’s car went nose-first into a tyre barrier and out of the race.

A safety car had to be called to allow both car and driver to exit the track, meaning the race time counted down behind it and it seemed as though the result might have been neutralised early. However, a final lap re-start left Sims with a chance of redemption to change a post-collision fourth into a pyrrhic podium finish.

The four lead drivers were nose-to-tail in a train of defence led by D’Ambrosio but despite Sims’ best attempts – and Attack Mode – the order remained unchanged to the flag.

Jerome D’Ambrosio has now scored Mahindra’s entire points-haul for the season, placing them joint-second-placed in the teams’ championship, equalling Andretti with 40 points. DS Techeetah lead the team’s championship – but D’Ambrosio has taken Da Costa’s driver lead.

Marrakech is D’Ambrosio’s third Formula E victory, however, it is the only one he has stood on the top step of the podium for or achieved on track; both previous wins having been the result of Lucas di Grassi’s disqualifications.

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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  • 30 comments on “D’Ambrosio wins in Morocco after BMW team mates collide”

    1. That race was just intense!
      Dusty track, close battles all around, big drama between the race leaders, breathtaking finale!
      Despite the drama, it was much more linear than Riyadh wich was a little bit too confusing for my tastes.

      Attack Mode works great imho: it can spice up things without being too much invasive: time to get rid of the Fanboost beacause, that’s the real deal!

      Also, cars were around 3 seconds/lap faster than last season’s car in practice & qualifying, despite the track being in worse conditions than last season (more bumps, worsened track surface).
      That’s a pretty decent step forward, and the power output is going to rise up season after season!

    2. Fantastic racing, unpredictable and close battles. 8/10

    3. Strange that Di Grassi didn’t get a penalty for crashing i to the back of Wehrlein who was forced to retire.

    4. Why wasnt Sims penalised for not using attack mode?

      It is my understanding that drivers must finish both attack modes before the end of the race, yet I believe Sims finished the race with it still active?

      1. Good point, although I think the rule is they have to use it so maybe it was OK since he started. There’s also an argument he expected the safety car to stay out and make the race longer I suppose.

      2. not sure it matters if the 4 minutes of AM are finished before the end of the race, they only need to activate it twice during the time of the race. DiGrassi did the same thing, he activated it in the same lap as Sims (with around 2 minutes before the end of race period).

      3. @minnis

        Sims armed and activated Attack Mode twice, it doesn’t actually have to complete the full four minutes.

        1. Thanks for responses. I remember the commentators made a big deal in Al Diriyah that it had to be completed before the end of the race, but nothing was mentioned for marrakesh so was just wondering if it still applied!

        2. Very well written piece.

    5. I refuse to believe someone can watch that race with an open mind and not enjoy it. Fantastic.

      1. the race was definately good, but to me it still feels like the driving in FE is a bit… naive. The move Vergne tried in the first lap was rather amateur hour and what happened to Sims and DaCosta was kind of laughable. Don’t get me wrong, i loved the race, but to me it’s like watching an entertaing European basketball game vs. NBA playoffs: the same sport, but with lower levels of skill.

        1. Well, Rosberg & Hamilton tangled multiple times in 2016, Vettel this year alone pulled at least 3 of those “Vergne” moves, spinning out.
          Bare in mind that those cars have close to zero aero grip.

          1. yes, maybe my comment came across as harsh, but the reality is that BMW lost a pretty certain 1-2 in this race. And while ROS & HAM had fierce duels they rarely lost a 1-2 for the team, even though they were leagues ahead in the manufacturers championship. BMW on the other hand doesn’t have this advantage, they are not in a position to wate any points. But DaCosta and Sims are nowhere near that rivalry, and they really shouldn’t be rivals at this point.

            And bare in mind that the constructors championship is so much more important in FE than in F1, that’s why the big constructors are joining the party. They want to win the title solely for bragging rights in the commercial vehicles arena.

        2. It’s easy to look poised and in control when you’re nursing the tyres at 85% speed, in a procession of cars with a gap of 5 secs in front and behind. but sure.

          1. @graham228221 i agree, maybe they have a bit much on their plate with these new gen cars, but DaCosta’s error very clumsy in my opinion. He outbraked himself, ran into a wall, and lost the win for his team (and teammate). To me that’s unexcusable for his experience.

            1. @gechichan it was pretty clumsy and he looked suitably chastened afterwards (as did Sims). i liked his response though – can’t imagine many F1 drivers putting their hand up like that, and i feel the team would have appreciated his honesty. I was surprised at the number of errors, but vergne could maybe be excused due to cold tyres/brakes (although most of the rest of the field made it through turn 1 fine). his recovery was really impressive and he’s obviously one of the big stars in FE.

              I really enjoyed this race – even the track was half decent and the ridiculous fan boost didn’t have much of an effect given that half the drivers awarded it were already out of the race – I wonder if some fans are trolling the system because it’s so stupid.

    6. Remembered to watch this one and glad I did. Didn’t feel bored at all, thought the racing was pretty exciting and the quality of the driving was pretty good too, a few bumper-car moments aside.

      I don’t particularly like the idea of ‘attack mode’ but I can’t moan about ‘purity’ when FE was born with Fanboost… it’s not so bad because everyone gets it, and it probably made a big difference to how exciting today’s race was. Didn’t look as stupidly placed as in Saudi either, which was nice.

      One race won’t change my thinking on FE, but it’s certainly helped.

      1. @neilosjames it does feel a bit gimmicky but it adds a little bit of strategy element that would otherwise be lacking. I liked the fact that in order to take, you have to lose a bit of time. it’s a bit like the joker lap that you get in rally cross, which always seems to work well.

    7. I watched the last one on YouTube. Couldn’t find where to watch this one.. it wasn’t on the main youtube channel. I tried the website for links but the page with links won’t load. I really want to watch this race still but they’re clearly having some issues sorting out delivery of their product.

      1. Well, it was on BBC Sport, BBC Red Button, BT Sports, Eurosport 1 & 2 all around europe, ZDF, Fox Sports 3. Plenty of opportunities.
        Usually they stream only FP1, FP2 & Quali on YouTube, Ryiadh’s race was a one off.

    8. Another stunning real race from FE!
      No matter how people bang on about the noise and speed of F1, theres no getting away from the fact that FE has the action that F1 lacks and its this that will attract the fans.
      The world has moved on now and F1 needs to keep up or die a miserable death…

    9. José Lopes da Silva
      12th January 2019, 23:30

      Attack mode is what allowed Alain Prost to overtake Gerhard Berger in Monaco/88 after 50 laps.

    10. It was an eventful race and had more action than 2018 F1 season.

    11. First FE race I watched live, and it was pretty good: I did not fall asleep on the couch even though that was my intention to just watch it in the background. It was also pretty clear to understand what happened in the race with no mandatory pit stops or such gimmicks; just 45 minutes of “pure” racing (well, apart from the Fanboost gimmick. As a side note, half of the driver who got the boost were already out of the race when the boost was announced…).

      Random notes: the cars seem fast enough at times, then oddly they run out of steam halfway up the straights (part of the energy saving?), there’s no sound, and there seems to be constant no-damage mode on (more bump n run than in your average touring car race, yet very few retirements due to collisions).

      1. Marrakesh was probably the most demanding track in the championship energy-wise due to multiple straights.
        So drivers had to do a little bit of lift & coasting in some parts of the race. Usually the tracks are a bit tigher & twisty than Marrakesh, so most of the races will be flat-out this season.
        I’ve seen quali tho, and those cars looks pretty serious quick at full power 250 kW.
        Wich is quite a step forward compared to last year’s Gen.

      2. @Kaiie

        Certainly on a high-power circuit like Marrakech, there’s some energy-saving that makes the cars lift and coast – equally balancing the requirement to not cook the brakes completely at the end of the straight; brakes are essential for regeneration so you need to look after them and the temperatures they reach. Additionally, FE cars only get two sets of tyres for a race day, so they must use the same tyres all race and try to preserve them for, say, Attack Mode (as you wouldn’t get so much of an advantage to activating it on moth-eaten tyres) so there’s lots of factors to it, beyond just conserving energy.

        So basically: yep, they do lift and coast, not as much as in generation 1 and it’s for lots of reasons.

        (Always happy to answer Formula E questions, feel free to @ mention me if you have anything you’d like to know)

        1. Thanks for the explanation :)

        2. @hazelsouthwell this is the first race I’ve watched in its entirety and I couldn’t really get a feel for how the tyres behave through the course of the race – is there significant wear by the end of the race? I assume it’s rear limited (they seem quite torquey and the cornering speeds don’t look especially high enough to wear the fronts). I think a wet race would be a lot of fun.

          1. @frood19

            So the tyres are very different from eg: Formula One tyres; they’re ridged instead of slicks and although this years are softer than previous, still really quite hard compared to a Pirelli.

            There’s also no tyre blankets in Formula E, so the tyres pretty much start cold – especially if they are sitting in the shade on the grid etc. Consequently, drivers have to get them up to temperature and find the operating window for each specific track surface – which changes, with variable street circuits.

            Degradation isn’t high but it does exist and the tyres marble quite a lot on the outside of corners. Management of tyres from a degradation perspective is, I guess, less important (although they’ll be messier at the end of a race than the start) but being able to maintain the correct temperatures and stresses to make them work on a particular surface can be race-deciding, like in Tempelhof in Season 3 when only Mahindra really mastered the concrete.

            1. @hazelsouthwell thanks! I guess no one wants to talk about tyres as much as we do in F1 but they’re still going to be the biggest performance determiner, as in all motor racing. the lack of tyre blankets makes sense, considering the dodgy/variable braking performance into turn 1 in this race.

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