Formula E

Floodlit spectacle in Saudi Arabia: XXL preview of the 2023 Formula E Diriyya E-Prix

Tobias Bluhm

Tobias Bluhm

Just 13 days have passed since the start of the 2023 Formula E season, and the second race weekend of the year is already upon us. The next E-Prix will take place in Saudi Arabia. Two races are planned - each at night - because the Diriyya E-Prix is traditionally a "double header." What you need to know before the desert race, you will find out as usual in our race preview.

In 2018, the Diriyya E-Prix was held for the first time. Since 2021, it is started after the sunset. More than 170 LED floodlight towers will light up the track for it again this year. According to the organizer, the electricity for the entire event is generated entirely from climate-friendly hydrogenated vegetable oil. All lamps can be controlled individually via software. Presumably, Formula E will thus provide a spectacular light show before the start this year as well.

But even without the glamour of the night race, Formula E fans should be looking forward to an impressive race. After passing the dress rehearsal with the Gen3 cars, the battle for the early lead in the world championship is now getting serious. Can the competitors catch up with the Porsche cars that dominated in Mexico? What about DS and Maserati? And where does Team Jaguar, recently plagued by reliability problems, line up?

City, Country, River

Formula E is making a guest appearance in Saudi Arabia in the city of Diriyya, a suburb of Riyadh. More than 200 years ago, Diriyya was among the most influential cities in the Arabian Peninsula, but was almost completely destroyed by the Ottoman siege in 1818.

The historic old city is now an archaeologically valuable excavation site. The At-Turaif district has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2010. The modern Diriyya, which has hosted Formula E for five years, was not built until 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. Diriyya, as well as Formula E, plays a central role in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's "Vision 2030".

Fast Facts | Diriyya

  • Accidents are not uncommon on the high-risk Diriyya track. Every edition of the E-Prix has seen at least one race neutralization: so the safety car probability in Saudi Arabia is statistically 100 percent! And the new Gen3 cars are, after all, even more difficult to control...
  • Diriyya is believed to have been founded in either 1446 or 1447 by Mani' Al-Muraydi, the oldest ancestor of Saudi Arabia's current royal family. However, the city is not the oldest on the Formula E calendar: Rome, Monaco and Berlin have longer histories than Diriyya.
  • The tower clock of the Abraj Al Bait Tower in Mecca has a diameter of 43 meters, the largest dial in the world. Incidentally, the clock was designed by a manufacturer in Calw (Baden-Württemberg).
  • Unless technical problems prevent a start, Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Penske), Sam Bird (Jaguar) and Sebastien Buemi (Nissan) will celebrate their 100th race start in Formula E on Saturday. So far, Lucas di Grassi is the only driver in the "hundreds club" of the electric series.
  • On average, Saudi Arabia produces 9,125 barrels of crude oil in a day. This contains enough energy to charge about 400,000 Formula E cars.

TV & Livestream | The Formula E race in Diriyya

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Formula E fans can rely on ProSieben in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The private station from Munich will broadcast both races of the Diriyya weekend on free TV. As usual, it starts half an hour before the start of the race with the pre-reporting. In all three countries, the E-Prix can also be followed via the Eurosport pay service discovery+.

Austrian fans can also watch the Friday race on ORF Sport+. Saturday's race, however, will not be broadcast. In Switzerland, pay-TV channel MySports Edge will take over the broadcast of all sessions.

Session Datum Wochentag Start TV/Stream Session Ende TV/Stream TV-Sender/Website
Shakedown 26.01.2023 Donnerstag   13:00-13:30   wird nicht übertragen
1. Freies Training 26.01.2023 Donnerstag 15:55 16:00-16:30 16:45 e-Formel.de
2. Freies Training 27.01.2023 Freitag 11:25 11:30-12:00 12:15 e-Formel.de
Qualifying I 27.01.2023 Freitag 13:30 13:40-14:55 15:10 ran.de
Rennen I 27.01.2023 Freitag 17:30 18:03-19:00 19:15 ProSieben / ran.de
3. Freies Training 28.01.2023 Samstag 11:25 11:30-12:00 12:15 e-Formel.de
Qualifying II 28.01.2023 Samstag 13:30 13:40-14:55 15:10 ran.de
Rennen II 28.01.2023 Samstag 17:30 18:03-19:00 19:15 ProSieben / ran.de

* alle Angaben in Mitteleuropäischer Zeit (MEZ)

As always, you can watch all the practice sessions at 'e-Formel.de' in a free livestream. A German-language broadcast of the qualifying is available on 'ran.de'. We also accompany the race weekend as usual with our popular Hankook Formula E live ticker, which is ideal for background information or as a second screen with assessments from our editors.

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Track | The most challenging combination of curves of the year?

Although the Diriyya E-Prix takes place partly on public roads, the track layout is not quite comparable to other street circuits on the Formula E calendar. On a roughly 1,000-meter-long passage between turns 2 and 13, the drivers continuously steer alternately to the right and left. The fast "bobsled run" section between turns 9 and 13 is also almost legendary, demanding everything from the drivers.

Because of the many turns that do not require acceleration, the 2.495-kilometer Riyadh Street Circuit is considered a comparatively energy-saving course. Turn 18, the first corner after the start, is the best overtaking spot on the circuit. The attack zone is still on the outside of turn 19.

Rearview Mirror | What happened since the Mexico City E-Prix

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At ABT Cupra, eyes were nervously directed toward Hospital bed of Robin Frijns immediately after the start of the season. The Dutchman underwent operation on his hand after breaking several bones in his rear-end collision with Norman Nato (Nissan). He is expected to be out for several weeks - if not months. In his place, a driver known from the DTM moves up already in Saudi Arabia: the South African Kelvin van der Linde. This was announced by the team last week.

Independent of the Frijns accident, Formula E continued to work with its technical partners on vehicle safety. A few days ago, it was able to complete development of the emergency braking system. Two manufacturers are said to have already successfully tested the vehicle update before the system is made available to all other teams from the Diriyya E-Prix shakedown. This should reduce the risk of brake failure.

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Qualifying groups | divisions for the Diriyya E-Prix

In Formula E, qualifying takes place in two sections: Group Stage and Knockout Stage. For group qualifying, the driver field is first divided into two halves, with all drivers in the odd championship places (places 1, 3, 5, 7, etc.) competing in Group A, and those in the even places competing in Group B.

The four drivers in each case who were able to set the fastest lap times in their group after twelve minutes will then move into the quarter-finals, where they will duel it out for the best grid positions from then on. For the Diriyya E-Prix, this results in the following composition for the qualifying groups.

Weather forecast | Cool temperatures in the middle of desert

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It's hard to believe, but in the days leading up to the Diriyya E-Prix, meteorologists are even expecting rain showers in the area around Riyadh. By race weekend, however, the clouds are expected to clear.

With clear weather and temperatures between 6 and 17 degrees Celsius, the teams are preparing for a rather cool weekend in Saudi Arabia. Not to be underestimated, however, is the wind, which could blow sand onto the track with gentle gusts of up to 20 km/h and thus reduce the grip level.

Video: How the 2023 Formula E racing format works

 

Prediction: Who can slow down Porsche & Andretti?

The Mexico City E-Prix resembled a show of force by the Porsche cars: all four cars with powertrains from Zuffenhausen ended up in the top 7. The winner by a wide margin was Jake Dennis in Andretti's customer car. After the opening weekend, Porsche and Andretti are now the hunted in Formula E for the first time - who can catch them?

At least looking at the timesheets from the pre-season tests in Valencia, the answer would have to be: DS Penske and Maserati MSG Racing currently have the best chances. Both teams fell far short of their potential in Mexico and scored fewer points than hoped. Their motivation ahead of the Diriyya E-Prix should be correspondingly high. The same applies to the Jaguar team led by Sam Bird and Mitch Evans, who have been plagued by reliability problems of late.

We will also be looking eagerly at the performance of Kelvin van der Linde. The ABT newcomer is enjoying at least a little "puppy protection" this weekend, but wants to prove to his team as quickly as possible that the leap of faith in him was justified. In Nico Müller, he has a Formula E-experienced teammate at his side who will set the bar for him. Let's look forward to the second race weekend of the year!

By the way: also in the 2023 Formula E season, our readers:inside have organized a free community typing game round. Who wants to participate, still has time until the weekend to submit the first tips or register new!

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