Rowland returns to seal ABB Driver of Progress in Mexico City

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Rowland returns to seal ABB Driver of Progress in Mexico City

Oliver Rowland would have wanted more from his Nissan homecoming than starting 20th and missing out on the points. But he had a personal accomplishment to show for his efforts in the Formula E season opener – winning the ABB Driver of Progress Award at the Hankook Mexico City E-Prix.


Rowland saw the positives in his points near-miss in Mexico, where he rose nine places after traffic in qualifying left him starting back on the 10th row of the grid. In an E-Prix with a lot of multi-car packs and nobody giving an inch, making progress was difficult. Rowland, though, was able to give himself a crucial edge that let him pick off a few rivals and show there was potential in the Nissan package.

The field remained so close together throughout that it thwarted a familiar strategy for those starting a Formula E race at the back, which is to gradually gain places in the second half of the contest as gaps between cars get a little bigger, and energy advantages built up in the first half of the race are exploited.
Nose-to-tail running in this race did not afford Rowland such a luxury, nor did the fact that everyone was quite closely matched in energy consumption for much of the E-Prix.

But Rowland still set his race up smartly. He stayed out of trouble in the early laps and went from 20th to 14th almost exclusively by being smart and letting others have mishaps. He also activated his Attack Mode for six minutes while running in clear air, losing nothing while going off-line to do so and giving himself the potential gain if others did so later on.

Race position progression

And then he waited. After a safety car for a Robin Frijns shunt, which happened right in front of Rowland, he gave himself a bit of space to the pack in front and held position for some 20 laps. The ABB Driver of Progress Award does tend to reward patience as much as anything else but this was one of the longest, if not THE longest, spells of a driver biding their time. 

A steady, small under-use of his battery – banking 0.2% extra state of charge on one lap, 0.3% on another lap – even while clinging onto a train of cars suggested Rowland was well in control of his energy usage at this stage.

Making small deposits back into his battery every lap eventually gave Rowland the option of a handy withdrawal. Nobody had higher than his 38% state of charger by lap 28 – and he had as much as 3% more battery than those around him. His deft energy usage was outstripping even the leaders.

Race position progression 2

This is where he used his energy advantage the most. He hit his highest speeds of the race three laps in succession – 237kph, 238ph, 239kph on laps 27, 28 and 29 respectively – and then posted his highest personal average speed laps shortly after.

No surprise these were the laps he leapt forward. He grabbed two places in one with an opportunistic move when Edoardo Mortara dived inside Sam Bird exiting the stadium section and both ran wide.

Now in clear air, Rowland’s ‘greediest’ lap followed – using 3.3% of his battery in one tour as he trimmed the gap to team-mate Sacha Fenestraz and moved into 12th as Fenestraz activated ATTACK MODE.

That was the only time all race, apart from the opening lap, he used more than 3%, an indication of the restraint Rowland showed for much of the E-Prix. It was also 2kph faster than the grid average, and while this was draining his battery surplus, he would maintain extra performance a little longer. He was 3kph faster than the average speed the next lap, and 2kph the lap after. 

newplot (2)

It kept Fenestraz behind and chipped away at the cars a couple of seconds ahead.

Rowland completely eliminated the gap by the chequered flag, where he agonisingly missed out on pipping Norman Nato to the final point in 10th by less than two tenths of a second. 

A point-less 11th was less than his drive deserved but as the ABB Driver of Progress, it at least did not go unrecognised.