Very few rookies are able to turn up to a brand new series and make an instant impact on the sport.
Jean-Eric Vergne secured pole position on his first race weekend at Punta del Este for Andretti Autosport. Scott Speed qualified 10th and secured second on his debut in Miami, also for Andretti, while Robin Frijns took two races to make an impression – putting a car that was pulling sideways on the podium in Putrajaya.
Edoardo Mortara did manage to make an impact as he competed in a Formula E weekend for the first time while other rookies struggled to adapt.
Techeetah’s Andre Lotterer, for example, received three penalties and was disqualified from Saturday’s race for leaving the car in ‘ready to move’ mode. He qualified 17th and finished 13th on Sunday.
Kamui Kobayashi was thrown in at the deep end for Andretti, having not tested for the team prior to running in Hong Kong. He qualified 13th and 16th and finished 15th and 17th across the weekend. On Saturday, the Japanese driver was almost a second behind his team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa in qualifying. This gap reduced to half-a-second on Sunday.
Luca Filippi, driving for NIO Formula E, scored points on his debut after finishing tenth. His second race was compromised on Lap 1 while he was battling a recovering Felix Rosenqvist.
Neel Jani was another who made his debut this weekend as he started his Formula E career with Dragon. He was another who struggled, qualifying on the back row for both races and finishing 18th in both races. To add context to this, it must be said that Dragon had a difficult weekend in Hong Kong.
Mortara’s performance stood out particularly on Sunday when he led for most of the race. A mistake with a few laps left to go cost him, and Venturi, a first win in the sport although he did recover to finish second after Daniel Abt was disqualified.
It wasn’t an easy weekend for Mortara, though, as he struggled for grip in qualifying and hit the wall, meaning he was unable to complete a 200kW lap and started towards the back of the grid. He recovered in the first race to seventh place while finishing on the podium on Sunday.
Mortara’s pace in the first race was telling as he made his way through the field, as the chart below shows. In this chart, laps 1-3 have been discounted as they were run under red flag and safety car conditions. Also discounted are laps 23, 24 and 25 where a driver either pitted or was on an out lap.
The lap number is on the horizontal axis with lap time, in seconds, on the vertical axis. It shows Mortara was generally quicker over the race than team-mate Engel, with a few exceptions. Taking into account the lap time differences per lap, excluding the laps mentioned above, an average difference of -0.099s can be calculated – in Mortara’s favour.
The second race of the weekend proved even more of a success for Mortara as he was able to set a 200kW lap in qualifying and progress to the Super Pole Shootout.
|Felix Rosenqvist||1:02.836||Super Pole|
|Edoardo Mortara||1:03.108||Super Pole|
Qualifying second (Jaguar’s Mitch Evans had his Super Pole lap times deleted) enabled Mortara to take the lead when Rosenqvist spun at the tight Turn 1 hairpin and he led throughout the race – save for the pit window – until the penultimate lap where a spin cost him.
With Daniel Abt being disqualified Mortara picked up second place in his second race, and was seven seconds away from taking the win.
While some highly-rated rookies did not make an instant impact on FE, it’s fair to say Mortara’s performance through the weekend did leave an impact (as did his post-race interview having lost the win through a mistake).
A title challenge may be premature at this stage of the season as Renault struggled across the weekend and Audi had their own issues, but the Swiss driver is surely one of a number of drivers who could take a win this season.