Drugovich sets pace in rookie practice opener in Rome as Mahindra loses valuable track time
Maserati MSG drew first blood of the 2023 Hankook Rome E-Prix weekend. With rookie driver Felipe Drugovich, the Italian-Monegasque team set the fastest time in the "Rokkie Free Practice", a session before the actual weekend in which only Formula E rookies were allowed to participate. The Brazilian set a lap time of 1:43.736 - several seconds slower than the previous lap record.
The heat wave in southern Europe is also affecting the Formula E weekend in Italy: with extreme outdoor conditions and temperatures of 32 degrees Celsius in the shade, practice began promptly at 14:30. At least for ten of the eleven drivers, it did. Because Adrien Tambay, who was nominated by ABT Cupra for the practice, lingered in his team's garage for the first twelve minutes.
The Frenchman, however, missed comparatively little action on track during that time: aside from the obligatory full-course yellow exercise in the first part of the session, comparatively little happened on the Circuito Cittadino dell'EUR. Jehan Daruvala (Mahindra) returned to the pit lane after just three laps of testing, as did Tambay. Renewed powertrain problems at Mahindra?
Problems at Mahindra & Porsche cost practice time
The teams hoped the session would provide data for their car development. In addition, the rookies were able to check setup elements such as ride height and assist with adjustments to the car. And so, apart from two braking errors by Ye Yifei (Porsche) and Daniil Kvyat (Nio 333) at turn 7, the rookies remained rather subdued until the final minutes of the session.
In the meantime, Drugovich, Eastwood and van der Linde took turns at the front of the field before Yann Ehrlacher (DS Penske) took over first place shortly after the session halfway point. The Frenchman was the only racer who had not participated in the rookie test in Berlin before the practice in Rome - all the other rookies had at least a little prior experience with their teams from the Germany test. At least in terms of "one-lap pace", however, this did not seem to have been a disadvantage for Ehrlacher.
Drugovich works out regular-season bid
In the final minutes of the session, the drivers got a little bolder and were able to improve their personal best times several times. Even Ye, whose car had been jacked up and repaired in the Porsche garage for a couple of minutes during the session, managed to jump ahead to 7th place, but Felipe Drugovich set the best time: 1:43.736 minutes. The Brazilian had already won the rookie test in Berlin and again confirmed his good form. This result should also help his ambitions with regards to an application for a regular cockpit in 2024.
The "official" part of the weekend begins late on Friday afternoon. With the 1st Free Practice, the regular drivers of Formula E will give the starting signal for the Rome E-Prix from 5 pm. Then 22 cars will be on the track again - but probably not in less extreme conditions.