Fenestraz and Frijns race to ABB Driver of Progress in Shanghai

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Fenestraz and Frijns race to ABB Driver of Progress in Shanghai

Two intense, hard-fought races made for high stress levels in the pack in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship’s debut double-header in Shanghai.


Through that, Sacha Fenestraz and Robin Frijns emerged with an ABB Driver of Progress Award apiece, as they battled through nose-to-tail fields of cars from start to finish on Formula E’s return to China - across both Rounds 11 & 12.

Starting from 22nd and last place, Fenestraz had a very clear strategy in the opening race. The Nissan driver was on maximum energy conservation, to the point where halfway through the E-Prix he was still fighting to avoid being last!

Usually, that plays out in a relatively straightforward way. The driver holds back, makes no (or little ground), then uses their energy surplus to scythe through the order late on. But such was the nature of the Shanghai opener that there was very little opportunity to do that.

RACE HIGHLIGHTS: 2024 Shanghai E-Prix, Round 11

There was still a battery advantage to be gained from a cautious start and an energy-conscious approach to the race. Avoiding the battery-sapping side-by-side runs through the hairpin or onto the start-finish straight, for example, was beneficial, as was the fact sitting at the back of the queue meant maximising the 0.4% or so of energy per lap that the tow was worth.

But the trouble for Fenestraz was how the entire field was so mindful of energy usage in this race – the field’s average speed on lap two was just 128km/h, compared to 134km/h at its peak. That was unusual, and made for two problems: one, the gain was less than it usually is; and two, the majority of drivers had enough energy in reserve to improve their pace as the race got faster and then attack in the final few laps when the pin was properly pulled.

R11 energy

It meant Fenestraz had to be particularly patient, but also had to use his energy advantage early enough to start climbing through the order while others were waiting to be able to up their own pace. He made a bit of progress just after the halfway mark, moving from 22nd on lap 14 to 17th by lap 16, but that just preceded a few laps of vying for position with those around him rather than signal a sharp ascent. By this point, he was around 2% better off on energy.  

He settled in 15th heading into the race’s crescendo, then jumped ERT's Sergio Sette Camara and Nico Mueller (ABT CUPRA) to grab 13th – and two more places arrived after the flag thanks to penalties for Antonio Felix da Costa (Porsche) and Maximilian Guenther (Maserati MSG Racing). That both came because of clashes with other drivers shows the kind of rough-and-tumble in this race that was easy to get caught up in.

Sacha finishing position R11

And while it meant Sette Camara was not rewarded with any points, the fact he finished the race 11th and 4.791s behind the leader having been 21st and 7.229s behind after the opening lap – without the help of a safety car – says a lot about what an unusual race this was.

Going aggressive for a faster race

As for Frijns, starting the second race 20th after a poor qualifying session for the Envision Racing team, there was a similar theme to the start. He and team-mate Sebastien Buemi, who started 22nd, practically dawdled through the opening lap.

But race two being a lap shorter meant that there was less time to make progress and, crucially, fewer laps for others to be conscious about their energy for – hence the pace of the race being 2 to 3km/h per lap faster from the very start.

Round 12 | Shanghai Youtube Race Highlights | Season 10 - WEB ENDBOARD

That necessitated a slightly different approach, which Frijns adopted. He managed all of two laps hanging around at the back of the field, even with an early deployment of his two mandatory ATTACK MODE activations.

Frijns focused his attention on getting himself into the pack early on so he had less to do later when there would likely not be enough time or energy advantage to make up the ground he needed. So his ascent was a lot sharper than Fenestraz’s. It took Frijns just 11 laps to get to the position Fenestraz was ultimately classified in Round 11.

Obviously, that came at an energy cost. Frijns had one of the more vulnerable states of charge for the second half of the E-Prix, running about 1% down compared to the field and 2% down to race winner Antonio Felix da Costa. But as he ran in the points from lap 12 onwards, he was in control of his race and knew that as long as he held position he was going to leave Shanghai with a tangible reward.

That didn’t stop Frijns attacking for more. He harried Nyck de Vries a lot – before Mahindra Racing's Nyck de Vries was removed from the picture by a Sam Bird (NEOM McLaren) mistake. The Dutchman chased after Guenther in eighth for the remainder of the race but crucially, even with a frustrated reigning World Champion Jake Dennis (Andretti) and an energy-rich Oliver Rowland (Nissan) directly behind him, Frijns never looked like losing his position. 

As others spent their surplus, Frijns’ deficit reduced to the point of being back level with da Costa, and he held on quite comfortably - that’s how much track position trumped energy levels by the time these races shook out.

Compare and contrast his race with that of Buemi’s, who had a slightly more Fenestraz-esque E-Prix. Buemi forced the issue less, and had slightly better energy usage than Frijns, but he couldn’t use that to his advantage at the end because nobody was really limping to the chequered flag.

The upshot was Frijns proactively hauled himself into the points in ninth while Buemi – like Fenestraz – was frustratingly on the other side of the cut-off in 12th.

As it stands...

Rowland heads Dennis in the overall running 56 to 47 points, while Fenestraz's forward progress in Shanghai now sees him third.