Wehrlein targeting Diriyah double repeat
Pascal Wehrlein heads to Saudi Arabia this weekend aiming to repeat his Diriyah double-header dominance of last season and extend his early lead at the top of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship standings.
Wehrlein triumphed in the first race of the season in Mexico City, converting Julius Bär Pole Position into his fifth win in Formula E and going one better than last season’s second place to Jake Dennis, who went on to become Formula E world champion.
Reigning champion Dennis goes into the Diriyah double-header (Friday, 26 January and Saturday, 27 January) targeting an all-round upgrade on his season-opening performance in Mexico. An uncharacteristic error in qualifying forced a start from the back half of the grid in 14th, though the battling Brit showed his fighting spirit to finish in ninth.
Second to Wehrlein in both Diriyah races last year, Dennis will be aiming to go one better to ignite his title defence which is under pressure from multiple drivers, reaffirming Formula E’s reputation as the most competitive motorsport.
Wehrlein leads the drivers' world championship from Sébastien Buemi (Envision Racing) in second and Nick Cassidy in third while Maximilian Günther will be aiming to put Maserati MSG Racing in title contention in fourth position. Mitch Evans is in fifth.
“I definitely had a good feeling already during testing and at the end of last season, it was clear that we have made some steps forward," said Wehrlein. "Mexico is somehow always a special track for us, that's why I'm a bit cautious. But hopefully we can confirm that performance in qualifying and on other tracks.”
Wehrlein is on form and full of confidence, and heads to Saudi Arabia as the favourite after sealing the win-double in Diriyah last season. While he didn't appear to have the one-lap pace and qualified down the order for both races last season, that didn't matter come race time.
The German was quick all weekend, producing two calculated drives to the front with an unmatched energy management strategy. The 29-year-old became only the fifth driver in Formula E history to win both legs of a double-header.
Elsewhere on the grid, NEOM McLaren Formula E Team new signing Sam Bird is among the most successful in Diriyah. He has two wins to his name, as does Season 7 world champion Nyck de Vries. Bird's teammate Jake Hughes set the qualifying pace in the 2023 visit, proving McLaren's package does work around the Saudi street track - what is considered a 'home' event for the NEOM-sponsored team.
DICING IN THE DARK:
Saudi Arabia hosts the only night races in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship with the circuit lit by energy-efficient LED technology around the circuit plus the illuminated neon halos of the 22 Formula E GEN3 race cars.
The LED lighting reduces energy consumption by up to 50 per cent compared to non-LED units and are powered by sustainably-sourced biofuel generators, underlining Formula E’s position as the world-leader for embedding sustainability in elite sport.
António Félix da Costa, TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team and Season 6 Formula E champion, said:
“With it being a night race, your practice and qualifying happen during the day and then you race at night. Temperatures change, along with the track surface with the sand getting brushed away. Your perceptions also change with the shadows changing. It takes a little bit of adaptation and training to the eye but I love the different variables and it definitely creates a better show for the fans. It’s very cool to race there, and great to watch – especially at night.”
ABOUT THE DIRIYAH STREET CIRCUIT:
The 2024 Diriyah E-Prix features Rounds 2 and 3 in Season 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship
The Diriyah Street Circuit, just outside of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, is a true street circuit, snaking the historic city walls at the UNESCO World Heritage site.
The bumpy bobsleigh run of the Driiyah track is a favourite of the drivers and one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar for balancing energy management and outright pace, though drivers have never found overtaking a problem.
SOCIAL IMPACT IN DIRIYAH
Formula E’s positive impact on sustainability extends beyond the track. Also taking place in Diriyah before the race is the Zero Summit powered by Change.Accelerated.Live bringing together industry leaders, policymakers, and experts in sustainable energy and climate action to accelerate the transition to achieve net zero emissions.
The FIA Girls on Track programme will give 120 girls from Diriyah an introduction to careers in motorsport, with educational talk at Alfaisal University for more than 50 young women in Riyadh.
ENTERTAINMENT ON TRACK:
One Republic and The Backstreet Boys will perform post-race concerts alongside the queen of Arab pop, Nancy Ajram and local talent and Cairokee with DJ sets by Alesso and AfroJack.
The Allianz Fan Village features the Gaming Arena including racing and G-Force simulators, with more family-friendly entertainment.
SCHEDULE: WHERE, WHEN AND HOW TO WATCH OR STREAM THE 2024 DIRIYAH E-PRIX:
Canadians can watch the double header action on Friday, Jan. 26 on TSN+ at 11am EST and Saturday, Jan. 27 on TSN2/TSN+ at 11am EST.