D'Ambrosio: Ad Diriyah track is the 'most unforgiving we've seen in Formula E'

Risk, pressure, uncertainty and fear - just a few choice words used by the drivers ahead of the opening round of the 2018/19 season of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship here in Saudi Arabia. Nestled in the ancient surroundings of Ad Diriyah, the 2.495km track skirts the historic town walls, passing by historic landmarks and stunning scenery. But for Mahindra Racing's Jerome d'Ambrosio, while it might be "the nicest" track it's also "the most unforgiving we've seen in Formula E." Well, looks can be deceiving after all.  

Ad Diriyah race icon

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"Now with just one car per driver, you might not even make it to Qualifying or to the race, so the risk management will be an important factor here," adds the long-standing Formula E driver on the eve of his fifth season in the series. 

formula e ad diriyah street track

In the five months since DS Techeetah's Jean-Eric Vergne was crowned champion in New York City, the paddock has undergone a transformation. With new drivers, new teams and, most notably, 22 new Gen2 cars the 2018 Ad Diriyah E-Prix marks the beginning of a new era of Formula E. But with that comes more risk, more competition and, of course, a whole lot more uncertainty.  

"You can't just bin it, and then you've got a second car. If you bin it badly, you could be compromising your chances of competing," says d'Ambrosio. 

"It's definitely a tough one"

With a grand total of 21 turns, a significant gradient change and the new Attack Zone after Turn 17, the Ad Diriyah track is nothing short of a baptism of fire for Formula E's 22 drivers. "The track looks amazing," says reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne excitably. 

"It's up and down hills, around fast and blind corners - it's mega, especially the surroundings - I mean we're in the desert!"

Andre Lotterer in Saudi Arabia

Alongside a new, challenging track, ATTACK MODE - a new in-race power pick up - makes its debut. Here, all 22 drivers will need to deviate from the racing line and through the Attack Zone (Turn 17) to collect an extra 25 kW of power and engage ATTACK MODE. Drivers that secure the extra speed, can use it for a few laps when they want to race harder, giving them the edge to keep ahead of the competition, with the number of times and duration of the power mode being decided just one hour before the race. 

"It's definitely a tough one," says DS Techeetah's Andre Lotterer. "You'll be in the wall if you try and catch the whole of the Attack Zone but it's the same for everyone, so we have to deal with it."  

"I don't know what to fear most"

As for his teammate Vergne, however, the Frenchman is a little more concerned. "You have to lose four seconds, risk your car and risk so many positions to use it," says the reigning champ. With a championship title to defend and 21 opponents vying for it, you'd imagine Vergne would be feeling the pressure. 

Jev in Saudi Arabia

"There's so much going on here that I don't know what to fear most, to be honest!" he says with a smile. With all that, the Frenchman has a fresh outlook going into the race. "People keep saying that and I was the champion last year but this season I'm not the champion and I have to do it all again." 

"Everybody looked pretty good in testing - BMW seemed strong, Audi seemed strong - everyone has a good package. You need to watch out for absolutely everyone here," he insists. 

With just hours to go until the lights go green for the inaugural Formula E race in Saudi Arabia, keep it locked to FIAFormulaE.com for all the latest news and features. We've got you covered.