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Bouncing back: Dragon and Renault bounce back from disappointing Hong Kong

“Bouncebackability” is a word bounded around in sport a lot these days to show when a team, player, driver, or manager needs to bounce back from a disappointing result or performance in the next event.

In football, for example, it would be used to describe a team who lose 4-0 one Saturday and won 1-0 the week after. The team had shown a reaction to a disappointing result by coming back at the next opportunity and picking up a win.

It’s no different in motorsport.

Bouncing back from a disappointing opening weekend, even so early on in a season, is crucial in how a season can play out. After picking up one point across the first two races in Hong Kong, it was incredibly important for Renault e.Dams and Sébastien Buemi to bounce back.

Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler, too, had a bad weekend in Hong Kong although this was not always an on-track issue. Daniel Abt did take a win for the German squad on the track but was later disqualified due to an administrative error and details on the technical passport not matching the details on the specified part in the car.

Audi’s 11 points from Hong Kong came courtesy of Abt, though, with Lucas di Grassi not picking up a single point across the two races.

And another team who had a bad weekend in Hong Kong was the Dragon Racing outfit, who were the only team to not pick up a single point across the weekend.

This is calculated using the fastest time from a session across the weekend. Although it is usually the fastest session, in this scenario groups qualifying has been used. It has an advantage in that it can be sure each team did a 200kw lap whereas it is not mandatory in practice. However, on the flip side, each team goes out in a randomly drawn group and therefore track conditions may differ.

The chart shows Dragon were performing at around 102% of the fastest time in each session and were the slowest in the second qualifying session of the weekend. In the first weekend, Venturi were the slowest according to supertimes, although with the caveat that Edoardo Mortara did not set a fast lap in the first qualifying session and we, therefore, do not know how he would have fared.

A like-for-like comparison between Hong Kong and Marrakesh is difficult as Neel Jani left the team after the opening weekend. He was replaced by former DS Virgin Racing driver Jose Maria Lopez.

Comparing the fastest times per team for the same session (groups qualifying) in Marrakesh shows a significant improvement for the Dragon squad, where Lopez made the Super Pole Shootout.

Dragon’s performance in qualifying was 100.38% of the fastest time in groups qualifying, down from 101.78% in the first Hong Kong qualifying session and 102.03% in the second.

This shows Dragon, in qualifying, had the third fastest car across the field. Given that powertrains have been homologated for the season there is little teams can do to improve this aspect of the car. Gains to be made come from engineering and software development and, while it remains to be seen whether Dragon can keep up the performance shown in Marrakesh, it does point to a decent gain for the team.

Another thing to take into account with the Hong Kong v Marrakesh comparison is the nature of the circuits. Hong Kong is very much a stop-start circuit with lots of slow corners while Marrakesh is the opposite: it has long, fast corners with not many slow corners.

The key for Dragon now is to keep up this performance when Formula E returns to more traditional street circuits.

Dragon Racing and Renault e.Dams ended up with seven points between them, taking up last and second last in the teams’ championship, after Hong Kong, all from the French marque’s results. Audi were two places and four points ahead of Renault.

It was an unusual performance for Renault. The French squad have been at the front of the Formula E field since powertrain development was allowed, and also won the teams’ championship in the first season.

Renault are still the only team to win the teams’ championship, so it was a shock when they left Hong Kong with seven points – and only one for season two champion Sébastien Buemi. Buemi’s team-mate, Nico Prost, picked up two points in race one, and four more in race two to bring Renault’s total to seven.

As the chart above shows, Renault were performing at about 101% of the fastest team in both Hong Kong qualifying sessions (101.09% for Saturday qualifying and 101.34% for Sunday qualifying).

This equates to seventh fastest in the first Hong Kong qualifying session and ninth fastest for the second qualifying session. For Marrakesh, the team performed at 100.47% of the fastest car in qualifying, moving them to fourth fastest.

The performance increased showed, too, as Buemi claimed second place and pole position after topping the Super Pole Shootout.

But while one former champion was able to bounce back from a disappointing opening weekend, reigning champion Lucas di Grassi wasn’t able to show his true pace after a mechanical issue ended his race early on.

Di Grassi was running fourth before he had to stop on track on lap six and register a did not finish against his name, leaving him with no points from the first three races. It means di Grassi is now 54 points behind Mahindra Racing driver Felix Rosenqvist as he looks to defend his title.

For Audi, performance has been less of an issue compared to Renault e.Dams and Dragon Racing. A win in Hong Kong for Daniel Abt showed that the German team does have the performance to fight at the front (Abt was disqualified after the race), as does Di Grassi running in fourth place until a mechanical issue on his car.

How the season unfolds for Audi will depend on how quickly the team can sort out the issues on the cars – Nyck de Vries had limited running in the rookie test while Nico Müller set the fastest lap around Marrakesh in a Formula E car – rather than improving performance.

For Renault and Dragon Racing, it is now a case of keeping up the performance gains made between Hong Kong and Marrakesh.

 

Jack Amey

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