Floodlight Formula E in the desert: preview of the Diriyah E-Prix 2024 in Saudi Arabia
Night race, double header and the risk of crashing: that's the Diriyah E-Prix. Next weekend (January 26/27), Formula E will once again be travelling to the suburb of the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh. The first double-header of the season will take place on one of the most spectacular circuits on the calendar. After two successes in the previous year and a dominant performance in Mexico recently, Pascal Wehrlein is one of the top favourites to win the race. Everything else you need to know ahead of the race weekend can be found in our preview.
What's happened since the last race in Mexico City
The last round of Formula E was less than two weeks ago, so not too much has happened in the electric series in the meantime. However, the third edition of the Sustainable Championship Index was published, which assesses the sustainability of racing series based on 25 criteria. Formula E once again took first place in this ranking, ahead of Formula 1 and Extreme E, which shares third place with MotoGP.
From 2025, a manufacturers' world championship is set to be held alongside the team championship, in which the points of works and customer teams will be added together. The main initiator appears to be Jaguar team principal James Barclay.
In addition, another well-known name has been mentioned in the context of rumours surrounding Formula E: This time it is Red Bull Formula 1 driver Sergio Perez.
Where does the Diriyah E-Prix take place?
Formula E will be held in Saudi Arabia in the city of Diriyah, a suburb of Riyadh. More than 200 years ago, Diriyah was one of the most influential cities on the Arabian Peninsula - it is considered the birthplace of the Saudi royal family. Today, the historic old town is an archaeologically valuable excavation site. The At-Turaif district has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2010.
The modern Diriyah, which Formula E has been visiting since 2018, was only built in the 1970s. The racing event of the electric series is one of the biggest events of the year in the city of 30,000 inhabitants. The event has been scheduled as a night race since 2021.
Gallery: The Diriyah E-Prix 2023
Fast Facts | Diriyah
- Saudi Arabia celebrates the Year of the Camel in 2024. Assuming that the average camel is 2.80 metres long, 892 camels would have to be lined up to completely circle the track in Diriyah.
- Accidents are not uncommon on the fast track in Diriyah. This has not changed in the Gen3 era: After nine races in the Saudi city, the safety car probability is still 100 per cent.
- Nyck de Vries, Sam Bird and Pascal Wehrlein are the only drivers to have already won two races in Diriyah. Race winners include Edoardo Mortara, Antonio Felix da Costa and ex-BMW driver Alexander Sims.
- Wehrlein is the only one of them to collect his two Diriyah victories in a single weekend in 2023. It was only the fifth time in Formula E history that a driver has celebrated such a double victory.
- Nick Cassidy and Jake Dennis will celebrate their 50th race in Formula E on Saturday.
Who will be broadcasting the Formula E races in Diriyah on TV & livestream?
Coverage of the qualifying and race sessions depend on the region you're in. e-Formula.news offers free Formula E live streams for the free practice sessions though. Here's the schedule for the weekend (CET).
|Day of the week
|1st free practice
|2nd free practice
|depends on region
|depends on region
|3rd free practice
|depends on region
|depends on region
* all times in Central European Time (CET)
What characterises the race track in Diriyah
The track in Diriyah cannot be compared with other circuits in Formula E. It is particularly known for its sweeping line in the downhill section between turns 2 and 13, which demands everything from the drivers with many blind corners. Turn 18 at the end of the start straight offers the best overtaking opportunity. The attack zone is also located just a few metres later.
Due to the many corners, the Riyadh Street Circuit is considered an energy-saving track. Turns 17, 19 and 21 are followed by longer straights. However, the location offers some additional challenges due to the change between day and night. This applies in particular to temperature differences and the so-called track evolution.
Which group will the drivers go into qualifying in?
After the first race in Mexico, the drivers will be divided into qualifying groups according to the World Championship standings. The drivers in the odd-numbered positions in the standings will compete in Group A, the drivers in the even-numbered positions in Group B. This means that Mexico dominator Pascal Wehrlein will face both Jaguar drivers Mitch Evans and Nick Cassidy as well as Jake Dennis in the customer Porsche in "Group of Death" A!
Group B is led by Sebastien Buemi, Maximilian Günther, who is currently fourth in the overall standings after a good start to the season, and both DS Penske drivers. Bringing up the rear in this group are both ERTs and Antonio Felix da Costa in the second Porsche.
What will the weather be like in Diriyah?
As in Mexico, Formula E is expecting sunny weather in Diriyah - albeit not quite as warm. Temperatures are expected to be around 20 degrees Celsius during the day and 14 degrees at night. Even though the meteorologists are forecasting ten hours of sunshine for each of the two race days, there is still a ten per cent chance of rain on Friday.
Who are the favourites?
After a dominant start to the season and impressive pace at the last edition of the Diriyah E-Prix, Pascal Wehrlein goes into the two races as the top favourite. However, Jake Dennis, who is also equipped with Porsche power in the Andretti, also has good memories of the 2023 races with two second places. If the general car set-up and the Briton's form on the day match up better in Saudi Arabia, he could also be in contention for victory. It is possible that a preliminary decision between the two top Porsche drivers will be made in qualifying.
Jaguar has often fallen short of its own expectations in Diriyah so far and was also beaten by its own customer team Envision at the season opener. Nevertheless, three cars in the top five was a strong start to the season. The "big cat" should also be on the radar for the night races. Max Günther and Jean-Eric Vergne have made a good start to the season for Stellantis and could benefit if Porsche and Jaguar get in each other's way.