By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
With three FIA Formula E championships in as many years to their credit, it’s rare for Renault e.dams to suffer an off day.
So when the organization tallied just two points in the first of two races at the HKT Hong Kong E-Prix – setting the team 27 points behind leaders DS Virgin Racing – there was cause for concern among the team.
“The race was a bit complicated,” Renault e.dams Co-Owner Alain Prost said. “We didn’t know very well where we would be in terms of performance, but we could have done better to optimize our potential.”
A move from 170kW of power to 180kW left the e.dams team uncertain of their performance relative to their competitors entering Hong Kong. Season Two champion Sebastien Buemi showed early promise by pacing free practice 1, and while he was quiet, Nicolas Prost slotted inside of the top 10 in both of Saturday’s practice sessions.
However the early speed didn’t translate to qualifying performance. Prost’s lap was lost when he hit the wall during his opening attempt, ruining his session and slotting him in 18th on the starting grid. Buemi didn’t have the same issues, but managed no better than ninth in the session.
Both Buemi and Prost avoided damage in the opening melee that led to Formula E’s first red flag – though Prost was one of many that were forced to come to a stop to avoid it.
After the crash, both drivers began to work their way toward the front. Buemi had a bit of drama in a battle with Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi – a battle that the team said led di Grassi to pit road with suspension damage.
Buemi soldiered on, but was left trapped back in the field later in the race when his second car broke down on-track. The Swiss veteran eventually continued on, but rose no higher than 11th before the checkered flag fell.
“In the end, it was a difficult first day,” Buemi said. “We had a good part of the race before I broke down after the car swap. I had to reset the car and I lost precious time. We also had some technical issues. It’s good to see that we are close to the competition and we will work hard to come back on top next race.”
While he didn’t suffer the same in-race setbacks as Buemi, Prost’s poor qualifying result left him out of contention for a strong finish. The second-generation driver moved up nine positions to slot in ninth, salvaging two points from a difficult day.
“Without the mistake I made in qualifying, I think we could have been in SuperPole,” Prost said. “I had good pace and I was fast. Even if there had been this incident at the end of lap 1, we didn’t do any mistakes and I managed to fight through the pack to (ninth). It wasn’t the result we hoped for, but it was a solid race and it’s better than nothing. Tomorrow is another day and we’ll do better.”
While their day didn’t go to plan, Renault e.dams weren’t convinced that Saturday’s chaotic race offered a solid example of their performance relative to other teams.
“The objective of this first race was to establish where we would be in terms of performance,” Formula E Program Leader Vincent Gaillardot said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t collect all of the information that we wanted because qualifying was a bit dramatic.
“During the race, we hoped for a great recovery from both drivers and targeted the points but because of technical issues, we couldn’t achieve this. This is our job to resolve these problems to reach our full potential amongst our competition.”