Felix Rosenqvist underlined his current form in the FIA Formula E Championship by posting the fastest lap of the day at the inaugural New York City ePrix on Saturday, although a late-race spin put the Swede out of points contention.
Having claimed his first Formula E win at the recent Berlin ePrix, Rosenqvist picked up where left off in Germany by topping the times in free practice at the Brooklyn harbourfront venue, setting a 1m02.423s lap that would remain unbeaten for the remainder of the day.
Spurred on by his pace-setting practice form, Rosenqvist went into qualifying aiming to bid for a second consecutive Formula E pole position, but an error under braking for a tight hairpin ruined his flying lap and restricted Rosenqvist to a lowly 17th on the grid for the historic first-ever single-seater race in New York City.
Rosenqvist’s error came just moments after he had lit up the timing screens in the first sector, indicating what could have been. Rosenqvist’s practice time remained almost four tenths quicker than the fastest lap in qualifying.
Once the 43-lap race got underway, Rosenqvist made rapid progress, immediately picking his way into the top ten after the opening flurry of laps. A well-executed pit stop then hauled Rosenqvist ahead of Mahindra Racing team-mate Nick Heidfeld (GER) and Brazil’s Lucas di Grassi as the second stints commenced, and when Alex Lynn (GBR) retired shortly afterwards with a broken driveshaft, Rosenqvist found himself all the way up in fifth place.
It would all ultimately come to nothing, however, with Rosenqvist frustratingly spinning into the wall while battling with di Grassi and damaging his rear wing. Forced to pit for repairs, the 25-year-old Formula E rookie eventually came home one lap down on race winner Sam Bird (GBR), in 15th place.
“A lot of promise today, but nothing in the end to show for it,” says Felix Rosenqvist. “We knew that we had to do something magic to come back from 17th on the grid, and the first few laps were quite mental! Somehow, however, I managed to get through everything quite well, even though my car picked up quite a lot of damage. We then had a good strategy, coming in a bit earlier for the car swap and getting ourselves ahead of Nick and Lucas – which I must say was quite impressive at that point.
“I had to save a little bit more energy during the second stint, and that allowed Lucas to close in and drag alongside on the run to Turn 2. I covered him off on the inside and thought I had everything under control, but I was on the dirty side of the track and once I hit the brakes the car just wouldn’t stop. It was a big misjudgement from my side, and unfortunately it ruined my race. It was a real shame, because we’d done really well up until then.”
While self-critical of his Saturday mistakes, Rosenqvist now looks ahead to the second leg of the New York City ePrix on Sunday.
“I’ve made two mistakes today that threw some points down the bin, so of course I can’t be pleased with my performance,” Rosenqvist admits. “This track is very, very tricky and most people have made errors today, but it’s no excuse and I do expect more from myself. It’s just the kind of things that happen sometimes in racing. I will learn from it, move on and give it another go tomorrow. We had the pace to take pole and to win this race today, so I’m feeling optimistic.”
Felix Rosenqvist remains third overall in the Formula E standings. Sunday’s activities in New York will kick off with another run of free practice and qualifying sessions, with the race then set to start at 13.00 local time.
RESULTS (top five)
FIA Formula E Championship
New York City ePrix, USA
1: Sam Bird (GBR), 43 laps
2: Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA), +1.354s
3: Stéphane Sarrazin (FRA), +4.392s
4: Lucas di Grassi (BRA), +6.155s
5: Loïc Duval (FRA), +8.428s
15: Felix Rosenqvist (SWE), +1 lap
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (top five)
FIA Formula E Championship
After 9/12 races
1: Sébastien Buemi (SUI), 157 p.
2: Lucas di Grassi (BRA), 137 p.
3: Felix Rosenqvist (SWE), 86 p.
4: Nicolas Prost (FRA), 76 p.
5: Sam Bird (GBR), 72 p.