Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird was fastest overall on a crucial full day of testing took which place today, 16 December, on the Ad Diriyah circuit following the thrilling opening race of the 2018/19 ABB FIA Formula E Championship season yesterday.
Race runner-up Jean-Eric Vergne once again found himself just missing out on the top position, this time by a margin of only 0.113s in his DS TECHEETAH machine.
The test featured a diverse mix of nine female and 11 male drivers, with teams having worked with the local promoter of the event to encourage greater female participation, providing an unprecedented platform from which they could show their talents.
After an impressive performance in the race, Nissan e.dams rookie driver Oliver Rowland posted the third fastest time of 1:10.264s. The British driver climbed seven places in the race, finishing up in seventh behind his teammate Sebastien Buemi.
Fastest of the fresh faces was Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler’s Nico Mueller who posted a 1:10.432s lap time behind the wheel of the Audi e-tron FE05. Mueller first tested for Audi during the Rookie Test in Marrakesh earlier this year, where he bettered the race lap record around the Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan. Formula E returns to the circuit for the second race of the season on 12 January.
Former Formula E driver Simona de Silvestro rounded off the top ten fastest drivers of the afternoon session by posting a 1:12.048s lap. The Swiss driver drove for Andretti Autosport in the inaugural season before returning to the series for the first time since 2015, today with the BMW i Andretti squad.
Close behind was Nissan e.dams Sebastien Buemi, followed by DS TECHEETAH’s Tatiana Calderon. “It’s fun being on the streets but you need to be very precise – you go a bit offline and you hit the wall quite easily,” she explained. “To be testing here in Saudi Arabia is incredible. I think the step they’ve taken to allow women to drive and to encourage more women to get into motor sport with such great teams is a really great initiative – I’m really happy to be a part of it and I hope that it leads to more opportunities and leads to more women in motor sport.”
Present on the day was the FIA’s Women in Motorsport Commission President Michèle Mouton who watched the test trackside. “It is great to see so many strong female drivers testing the new Formula E car.
“I strongly believe that in order to see the potential of the best women drivers in the world, they need to get a chance to drive with the best teams, which is exactly what is happening here.
“Through our FIA Women in Motorsport monitoring and assessment programmes, we know that some of the best are here today. I hope that this initiative with Formula E can continue in the future and I can’t wait to get all the feedback from the drivers and teams.”
British F3 driver Jamie Chadwick finished up 14th after missing much of the morning’s session due to technical issues on her Gen2 NIO Formula E car. Behind Chadwick was fellow British driver Katherine Legge who finished the test in 16th place for Mahindra Racing, ahead of Geox Dragon’s Maximillian Guenther, HWA Racelab’s Carrie Schreiner (18th) and Amna Al Qubaisi (Envision Virgin Racing) in 19th. “I really like the car but it’s quite different from what I’m used to,” said Al Qubaisi. “The track here is testing – when you lose the racing line, you’re pretty much in the wall.” she added. The UAE-born driver touched a barrier on Turn 17 towards the end of the morning session, damaging the car which brought her day to a close early.