Marrakesh, Morocco|13 Jan, 2018

Rosenqvist: "It feels great to come back here and win"

"It feels great to come back here and win the race," said Mahindra Racing's Felix Rosenqvist, sitting proudly in between Renault e.dams Sebastien Buemi and DS Virgin Racing's Sam Bird in the post-race press conference.

Just over a year ago, Rosenqvist - then a rookie for the Indian manufacturer team - was sitting in the same press conference, at the same ABB FIA Formula E track but in a very different position. Back then, he finished third after starting the race on Pole, letting Sam Bird and race winner Sebastien Buemi slip by during the course of the race.

"I was learning racecraft in the beginning and losing here was our biggest lesson of the year - we realised we had a lot of work to do and a lot of things to improve," said the Swede reminiscently. "I think I finally feel like a settled Formula E driver now - I don't feel like a rookie anymore, which is a real change."

Stating his preference earlier in the week for more technical tracks, "like Hong Kong and Montreal," Rosenqvist confidently declared after winning the race, "I can be quick on any kind of track.
[Marrakesh] wasn't one of my favourites until I won here. Now, when someone says Marrakesh, it brings good memories."

Now, with two consecutive wins in the bag, the former rookie rises to the top of the driver standings with a total of 54 points - just four points ahead of Sam Bird in second place and a full 54 points of the reigning champion Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT Shaeffler), who sits at the bottom of the standings with zero points.

"I think I would have had the same pace as Felix in this race - I don't see any reason why not," explains di Grassi, who suffered technical difficulties, which ultimately led to him retiring early from the race. "As a worst-case scenario, a third place would have been easy to achieve, if not a win," he said confidently. For di Grassi, confidence is key - he'll need plenty of it as he looks to better his standing in Santiago in early February.

But the improvement of the season - so far, at least - goes to former champ Sebastien Buemi who improved on a dismal performance in Hong Kong to lead the race in Marrakesh for 29 laps before allowing Rosenqvist to slip by. "It was not a good move from my side, I could have done much better," said Buemi regretfully. If I had protected that corner, it would have been more difficult for him to pass.
I'm a bit disappointed with that." Or, as Rosenqvist simply put it - "this series can bite you in the ass at any time." Wise words indeed from the young hopeful who found himself in a similar position to Buemi just over a year ago. My, how the tables have turned.

But let's not forget the comeback king - Dragon's Jose Maria Lopez - who made a significant re-entry to the series this year, after leaving DS Virgin Racing at the end of Season Three. After a solid performance in Super Pole, the Argentinian started the race in fourth and finished just two places behind in sixth. Sure, it's not a podium but considering Dragon's disastrous weekend in Hong Kong, Lopez has raised the hopes of the US team considerably.

For DS Virgin Racing's Sam Bird, it was a bittersweet end to Marrakesh as technical problems hampered his efforts. "At the end of the day, it's still a podium. I'm frustrated but happy to be up there," said Bird. His victory in Hong Kong and third in Marrakesh puts the British driver second in the championship standings, just four points behind Rosenqvist.

After winning their first silverware in Hong Kong, Panasonic Jaguar Racing's Nelson Piquet Jn. had a solid race, finishing fourth after starting in seventh, as well as scoring an extra point for clinching the Visa fastest lap. With teammate Mitch Evans looking strong in the first three races, could this be the year the all-British racing team has a shot at the title? Let's see what happens in Santiago.

But whatever the result - team, individual or otherwise - what was overwhelmingly clear was the increased pace over the day's racing. With 13 drivers trumping last years lap record of 1:20.599 during Qualifying - some by as much as 1.2-seconds - the timesheets show the level of continuous technical development within the series, which filters down from the track to the all-electric road cars.

With the 2018 ABB FIA Antofagasta Minerals Santiago E-Prix taking place in less than three weeks, teams will be working furiously to ensure a smooth race in South America. For Mahindra - sitting at the top of both the team and drivers' standings, now is not the time to rest on their laurels. In the words of its very own star driver, "this series can bite you in the ass at any time".   

Tomorrow, the series' first official rookie test day takes place in Marrakesh, as 20 new drivers to the series try out all-electric racing for the first time on the Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan. Keep an eye on www.fiaformulae.com for a round-up of the day.