With just days to go until the 2019 HKT Hong Kong E-Prix kicks off on the city's Harbourfront on March 10, marking the ABB FIA Formula E Championship’s 50th race, we take a look back at the lesser-known stats and facts surrounding the race in Hong Kong.
Four years, five months and 25 days after the inaugural race in Beijing, and we find ourselves on the eve of our 50th E-Prix. Cue fireworks, party streamers and a healthy amount of champagne – what started as nothing more than a dream scribbled on the back of a napkin in 2011 is celebrating its half-century. Bravo. In that time, we’ve raced in 20 cities, across five continents, seen 13 global manufactures commit to the series and witnessed 10 different drivers take to the top step of the podium. Thank you all, it’s been one hell of a ride but fear not, the best is yet to come.
Five drivers have started every Formula E Race and they are (in order of points scored) Lucas di Grassi (645), Sam Bird (501), Daniel Abt (309), Jérôme d’Ambrosio (289) and Nelson Piquet Jr (237).
Hong Kong, which plays host to its third Formula E race, is a special administrative region of China and former British colony. The entire territory returned to China in 1997 after more than 150 years of British rule. One of the most densely populated areas in the world, it is also a major port and a leading international financial centre, with a population of 7.5 million. Its name literally translates as ‘fragrant harbour’ and became known as Spice Harbour after serving as the gateway for Asian spices to travel out to the rest of the world.
The ten turn 1.86 km circuit, located in the Central Harbourfront area is a firm favourite on the Formula E calendar. Making use of existing roads, all 22 cars and drivers will rip past landmarks including the International Finance Centre, Hong Kong Observation Wheel and City Hall. Back in the early days, the track was touted as a potential venue for the all-electric series’ inaugural race but it wasn’t until October 9, 2016 that the city first hosted an E-Prix as its first major international motorsport event.
To date, Hong Kong has produced three different winners from three different teams, as well as three different polesitters in the three races that have taken place here. But despite Audi Sport Abt Scheffler having won a race in nine different Formula E locations, the team has never managed to make it in Hong Kong, even though Audi’s Daniel Abt took the chequered flag here last season before he was later disqualified. With that haunting memory of Hong Kong, the team will be looking to set the record straight this time.
The man to beat this time is Nissan e.dams’ Sebastien Buemi, who set the fastest lap time of 1:02.002s in the Practice session ahead of Race 2 in last season’s double-header, on 3 Dec 2017. With the more powerful Gen2 car ready to hit the streets, expect the lap record to tumble.
With over 350 skyscrapers sitting on Hong Kong’s shoreline, it’s home to the greatest number of super towers in the world. While that makes for impressive reading, it was claimed several drivers encountered radio communication problems due to the buildings blocking the signal, which forced them to recalculate their energy management unassisted.
The 2017-18 season started and finished with a duel between eventual champion, Jean-Eric Vergne, and Sam Bird, who won the first race of the last campaign in Hong Kong by beating the Frenchman into second place after the two had dominated the opening day. After occupying the front row (with Vergne on Pole), the pair led virtually the entire race, swapping positions just under halfway, with Bird ultimately taking the victory with Formula E’s second-biggest winning margin, crossing the finish line 11.575 seconds ahead of the Techeetah driver.
With the race in Hong Kong approaching fast, Audi could be on the verge of securing 1000th point in Formula E, with a current total of 954. They will need a team one-two, plus pole position, to reach the milestone in Hong Kong, but the German motorsport masters have been known to do it before. In Berlin last season, the team actually scored a maximum 47 points from their two drivers (29 from Daniel Abt and 18 from Lucas di Grassi) after Abt also threw in a Fastest Lap for good measure.
The last Formula E race in Hong Kong began and ended in dramatic circumstances. The race had barely got going when polesitter Felix Rosenqvist spun at the first corner. But the former Mahindra man wasn’t the only driver who seemed intent on spinning his way out of contention. Edoardo Mortara appeared to be heading for both his and Venturi’s maiden Formula E win only to get into a spin himself with three laps to go, seemingly handing the victory to Daniel Abt. The German thought he had been given the most generous of gifts on his 25th birthday, but, having celebrated on the podium, the Audi racer was later disqualified after his car failed post-race scrutineering. After all was said and done, the two drivers who had started on the front row ultimately finished in the top two positions. Felix Rosenqvist eventually inherited the victory after being promoted from second place, with fellow spinner, Mortara, moved up to second from third and Mitch Evans also bumped up one place to claim his and Jaguar’s first Formula E podium finish.