Fresh off the back of a memorable season opener in Mexico City, Formula E is set for its next instalment - the 2024 Diriyah E-Prix Rounds 2 & 3.
The Diriyah Street Circuit, just outside of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, forgoes the permanent circuit layout of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City for a full street circuit - snaking the historic city's walls at the UNESCO World Heritage site. Its a second new challenge in as many weeks with the snaking, bumpy bobsleigh run of the Driiyah track a favourite of the drivers - and it's one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar for balancing energy management and outright pace, though drivers have never found overtaking a problem.
As it stands...
Mexico City proved a fantastic start to the season for TAG Heuer Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein - the German converting Julius Baer Pole Position into his fifth win in Formula E. Wehrlein has a strong record in Mexico and left with four poles to his name - three in Mexico City and one in Puebla - as well as two wins for Porsche, including their maiden win and one-two in the series back in Season 8.
Wehrlein and Porsche opted for a different strategy than their rivals, with the race-winner taking both his ATTACK MODES in quick succession early on in the E-Prix. However, a gap from him to Sebastien Buemi (Envision Racing) soon appeared after the Season 2 champ made an error when hunting down the leader.
“I definitely had a good feeling and already during testing 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 also on other tracks.”
The Drivers' and Teams' World Championship tables
So, Wehrlein leads the Drivers' World Championship from Buemi, and the of top six in the standings there's only the German with Porsche power. Buemi and Nick Cassidy in third and fourth as well as Mitch Evans in fifth are driven by the Jaguar powertrain in either customer Envision Racing or factory Jaguar TCS Racing trim.
Maximilian Guenther (Maserati MSG Racing) and Jean-Eric Vergne (DS PENSKE) sit fourth and sixth respectively with Stellantis powertrains. It's as close as ever up there and an indicator of just how tight Season 10 is set to be, but it is TAG Heuer Porsche that hold the Teams' World Championship advantage so far, heading to another circuit they've performed well at historically.
Evans seemed to be more on the back foot than the front in Mexico. The Kiwi took the title fight to the wire in London in 2022/23 but out of the gate in Season 10, he was forced into a defensive drive to hold a charging Vergne back - the Frenchman having clambered through the order from 10th on the grid to become only the second driver after Lucas di Grassi (ABT CUPRA) to surpass 1,000 points in Formula E in the process.
Reigning champion, Brit Jake Dennis in the Andretti, made up ground to an eventual ninth and points from 14th at the start, after an uncharacteristic error in qualifying saw his title defense set off on the wrong foot. He'll be looking to put a poor weekend by his own admission to bed with a result in Diriyah.
Who are the favourites to perform at the Diriyah E-Prix?
Wehrlein's both on form and full of confidence, and heads to Saudi Arabia as the favourite. The Porsche driver sealed a memorable win-double in Diriyah last season.
Wehrlein didn't appear to have the one-lap pace and qualified down the order for both races last year, but that didn't prove to matter much. The German drove on rails and looked terrifyingly quick all weekend. He produced two calculated drives to the front with an unmatched energy management strategy. The 29-year-old became only the fifth person in history to win both legs of a double-header.
Dennis needs to ignite his title defence proper, and second in both races in Saudi last year is the benchmark he's set himself.
NEOM McLaren's new signing Sam Bird is among the most successful in Diriyah, too. He's two wins to his name, as does Season 7 World Champion Nyck de Vries (Mahindra Racing). 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 has hosted Formula E's night races since their first appearance at the Season 7 Diriyah E-Prix. In Season 10, the circuit will again be lit by 22 Formula E cars and their Halos, plus the latest low-power LED technology around the circuit. These reduce energy consumption by up to 50 per cent compared to non-LED units, and they will be powered by sustainably-sourced biofuel generators.
How do the drivers find racing at night?
"I love racing in Saudi – the track is amazing,” said Season 6 champion Antonio Felix da Costa, TAG Heuer Porsche. “I was the first winner there in Season 5 and I’ve got great memories. We go well every time we go there.
“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.”
Old meets new in the ancient surroundings of Diriyah. With 21 twists and turns, the 2.495km Diriyah Street Circuit skirts around the historic UNESCO World Heritage site.
The drivers face a challenging lap from the finish line as a technical first sector leads into the snaking Bobsleigh Run at Turn 6, a series of fast changes in quick succession.
SCHEDULE: Where, when and how to watch or stream the 2024 Diriyah E-Prix Rounds 2 & 3
The double-header in Diriyah gets udnerway on Thursday 25 January with Free Practice 1 at 17:55 local time, 14:55 UTC.
Then it's on to race day on Friday 26 January as Free Practice 2 kicks off the day at 12:55 local, qualifying follows at 15:20 local with lights out on Round 2 at 20:00 local/17:00 UTC.
Free Practice 3 follows on Saturday morning at 12:55 local with qualifying ahead of Round 3 set to get underway at 15:20. Round 3 itself then follows at 20:00 local/17:00 UTC on 27 January.
Follow the race LIVE on web and in the Formula E app!
Follow all the action on-track as it happens in the Race Centre.
Keep across Live Timing – which includes a real-time interactive track map and the ability to follow your favourite driver during every session of every E-Prix – plus highlights, detailed session reports, exclusive interviews, all the standings and results as well as data, insight and reaction from trackside.