Formula E: ABT Cupra has manufacturer Mahindra under control in Jakarta, Merhi remains colorless on debut
Mixed feelings at the two Formula E teams with Mahindra powertrains in Jakarta: While ABT Cupra was able to continue the upward trend of recent weeks and again score points, Mahindra Racing disappointed once again. Also the pace of debutant Roberto Merhi was not really competitive, so that the Spaniard could hardly draw attention to himself.
Apart from the sensational double pole in the rain of Berlin, the Jakarta qualifying on Saturday was the best of the season so far for Robin Frijns and Nico Müller. Dutchman Frijns entered the duel stage with fourth place in Group A. His teammate missed the quarter-finals by 0.056 seconds and finished fifth in Group B. A strong result for the team from Kempten, which, unlike all the other teams, had never raced in Jakarta before.
The ABT drivers started the race from grid positions 7 and 9 and stayed out of any skirmishes. Frijns secured his next championship points with a ninth-place finish, while Müller narrowly missed out on the top 10 with an 11th-place finish.
On Sunday, things didn't go so well for the Mahindra customer team in qualifying, so Müller and Frijns only managed 17th and 22nd on the grid. In the race, both worked their way forward well, but a points finish remained out of reach. In the end, ABT Cupra came home 12th and 13th.
Frijns: "Made small steps forward"
"Those were two very tough races physically, where we had to go to our physical limits," Frijns described. "We also made small steps forward here in Jakarta, even if you can hardly see them in the results. We are moving in the right direction and will not let up in the final third of the season."
Müller commented, "My first weekend with Formula E in Jakarta was hot and a real challenge sporting-wise and physically. But also a great experience - especially with these enthusiastic fans."
"Saturday I almost made it into the duel stage of qualifying and with a slightly cleverer strategy I might have been able to score points in the race," the Swiss continued. "Sunday we came back to reality and were clearly reminded that we have to fight hard for every single point with the current package."
Biermaier: "Scored points under our own steam in the race"
"On Saturday, we (...) scored points in the race under our own steam - that was strong," said a delighted team boss Thomas Biermaier. "But for us to achieve something like that, you need a perfect lap in qualifying and also a perfect day in other respects, which we were not able to repeat on Sunday. The reality is that there is still a lot of work ahead of us until we can consistently fight in the midfield."
So whether ABT Cupra can also score points in the USA remains to be seen. Formula E travels to Oregon for the first time on June 24. Frijns is hoping for an advantage for precisely that reason: "Portland is completely new territory for all the teams and drivers, so we're all starting with a blank sheet of paper," says the 31-year-old.
Unremarkable debut for Roberto Merhi
Mahindra traveled to Indonesia with a new driver as a result of Oliver Rowland's departure: Roberto Merhi made his racing debut with the Indian team, having already been allowed to move the M9Electro for half a day at the rookie test drives in Berlin-Tempelhof.
The qualifying session didn't go well for the Mahindra factory team, with Lucas di Grassi and Roberto Merhi each finishing last in their qualifying group, meaning they started the race from grid positions 21 and 22. While di Grassi was able to make up a few positions in the race and crossed the finish line in 14th place, Merhi was 18th, with only drivers who had to make a pit stop due to damage to the vehicle finishing behind him.
On Sunday, things didn't go any better for the two drivers: Coming from 19th and 21st on the grid, di Grassi and Merhi finished 14th and 17th, respectively. Di Grassi clashed with the second debutant in the field, Andretti driver David Beckmann. The young German subsequently crashed into the track barrier, ending his race. The race stewards judged the scene to be a racing accident and did not issue a penalty.
"Very frustrating" weekend for di Grassi
"It was not a good weekend," Lucas di Grassi explained. "We tried everything and worked hard day and night to get some points. But unfortunately we didn't find what we needed to get to the front. It's very frustrating. We need to go back home and analyze the data to understand what we need to do for the next race."
"I actually thought both races were okay," the Brazilian continued. "I pushed hard, didn't make any big mistakes and overtook a few cars. But when you start so far back, it's always hard to make significant progress."
Debutant Merhi found it "difficult to start a race in the middle of the season because everyone already has a certain level." He explained, "I had a lot of catching up to do coming here with no experience and no testing. However, it was a good weekend with Mahindra, who really helped me get to grips with the championship and the car. I improved a lot from Saturday to Sunday. My qualifying was already much better. I can see that the team is pushing things forward."
Bertrand: "Year of learning & rebuilding"
"Of course we would have hoped for more," said team principal Frederic Bertrand. "But we now know that this season will be more of a year of learning and rebuilding. Lucas did a great job in both races, making up several places, and Roberto has become more and more familiar with the team and the car with each session. It was the first time he drove a car of this type (in the race), and I think he handled it very well."
"Of course, we still have a lot of work to do," the Frenchman continued. "It doesn't get easier towards the end of the season in terms of results. But fortunately, our team has a good fighting spirit. We are not going to give up. We have the support of our partners and, above all, the entire Mahindra Group to make the necessary changes and bring Mahindra Racing back to the top of Formula E."