The fifth season of the ABB FIA Formula E championship commenced with the Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix as the season opener of the 2018/19 season which was the first race in the Middle East and also the debut of the Generation 2 cars.
The race saw unexpected downpour which forced the organizers to cancel the Free practice 1 as well as delay the second free practice. The qualifier format was changed due to this delay and the drivers were grouped into two batches of 11 racers opposed to the regular four groups. Jerome D’Ambrosio in his debut race with Mahindra Racing clocked the fastest lap time in his group and secured the sixth place start. Meanwhile Felix Rosenqvist didn’t have luck in his favor. After a mechanical failure, Felix could not complete the qualifying lap and had to start at the 17th position on the grid.
Commenting on his debut race with Mahindra Racing, Jerome D’Ambrosio commented, “It’s an amazing way to start Season 5 and I think there are good days ahead of us if we keep working the way we do. I played it safe at the beginning to try to save some energy but stay close enough to fight for position. I’ve had a difficult couple of seasons so it’s great to start this new relationship with the team in this way. Going forward, we have to start fighting for the championship. There are some tough competitors out there as Formula E is becoming one of the most competitive championships in the world.”
The race turned out to be action-packed as Jerome calmly maintained his position from the start and overtook Sebastien Buemi to score the fifth position. In the 22nd lap, Jean-Eric Vergne and Andre Lotterer received penalties which boosted Jerome to the third position. As the race progressed, the competition only got fiercer. With Antonio Felix Da Costa and Jose Mario Lopez fighting for the top spot, Jerome managed to overtake Lopez until the safety car hit the track. In the 30th lap, Jean-Éric Vergne flew past Jerome bringing him down to the third position. After comfortably maintaining his position till the 33rd lap, Jerome crossed the checkered flag in his debut race with Mahindra Racing that marked their first podium finish of the season with 15 points.
On the team’s victory, Dilbagh Gill, team principal stated: “I am absolutely thrilled for the whole team and Jerome– the perfect way to start a season is with a podium and this is the fourth season in a row that we have scored a podium in the season opener. I am really sorry that Felix suffered with a technical issue in both qualifying and the race as, without that, I am sure he would also have had a very good result this weekend. It’s a good start for us and we will enjoy this, although our attentions are now firmly focused on the next race in Marrakesh and improving – we want both of our cars at the front as we showed this weekend we have the pace.”