Formula E in Saudi Arabia: Edo Mortara saves Maserati honor, Max Günther experiences nightmare weekend
After the difficult weekend in Mexico, things did not go much better for Maserati MSG Racing in Diriyya. Although Edoardo Mortara was able to score the first points for the Monaco-Italian alliance on Saturday, the team's aspirations are quite different.
It was already apparent in the free practice sessions that Maserati would once again not be among the favorites in Diriyya: Mortara finished eleventh twice, while his teammate Max Günther only took positions 19 and 16.
In qualifying, Mortara lost control of his Maserati and hit the wall. He was able to bring the vehicle, which was badly damaged at the rear, back to the pits, but a fast lap was out of the question. With starting position 20, the Swiss had a very poor starting position. The race was over for Mortara, who had at least managed to work his way up to 15th place by then, after a puncture on lap 32.
Mortara: "After yesterday, we should be satisfied today"
On Saturday, things went better for the runner-up in the 2020/21 season: fourth place in qualifying was tantamount to moving into the duel stage. Here he was defeated by Mitch Evans, but secured seventh place on the grid with his lap time of 1:09.279 minutes.
In the race, Mortara took advantage of the turmoil in the first corners for a great maneuver: the Swiss drove through the middle between Jake Dennis and Sam Bird, who had started very well, and even pushed past Sebastien Buemi into fifth place in the next corner. He was able to maintain this position for long stretches.
When the energy levels were displayed after the first third of the race, however, it was clear that this would not last: Mortara's direct pursuers - Buemi, Dennis and Bird - had a clear energy advantage over the Maserati. Mortara had to give up all three positions almost without a fight. On the final lap, he lost another position to Sacha Fenestraz, so that in the end only ninth place remained. Still, the first points for the Monaco team this season.
"After a difficult first race, we recovered well today," Mortara described after the race. "Unfortunately, we didn't have the pace to keep up with the leaders in the long run. But after yesterday we should be happy with some points. I am very grateful to my team and have great respect for the hard work of everyone in the garage this weekend."
Günther: "We didn't have the pace or the efficiency"
For Max Günther, the Diriyya E-Prix turned out to be a weekend to forget: On Friday, the German hit the track barrier so hard in qualifying after a driving error that he had to skip the race. The monocoque on his Gen3 car had to be replaced, which was not possible until the start of the race. The mechanics therefore concentrated on repairing Mortara's car on Friday afternoon.
It wasn't until around 3 a.m. on Saturday morning that Günther's car was ready. Maserati MSG Racing had obtained permission to break curfew because of the accident, as Formula E normally does not allow work at night.
Günther thanked his team with a good performance in qualifying - but missed out on entering the duel stage by two hundredths of a second. His teammate Mortara, of all people, snatched fourth place away from him in the final seconds of qualifying.
In the race, Günther drove inconspicuously in the top 10, but was less efficient than his competitors. Then, a few hundred meters before the finish, came the shock: the Maserati ran out of power, causing Günther to drop to the back of the field.
Team boss Rossiter: "Still a long way from where we want to be"
"It was a very difficult weekend for us," Günther said. "The guys did a fantastic job setting up a new car for today. I think we made some steps forward in qualifying. Throughout the race we were close to the points. We didn't have the pace or efficiency to get to the front. Although Diriyya was difficult, we are a strong team and we have to keep working on ourselves. I know we can do it."
Tough and unsatisfying weekend for us, but we'll put it behind us, keep progressing and come back stronger than ever in 2 weeks time in India. I've got full trust in our strong team @maseratimsg.- Maximilian Günther (@maxg_official) January 28, 2023
Thanks for all your support this weekend!#DiriyahEPrix #MAXG pic.twitter.com/FWFf3yOny1
"After a difficult weekend, it's nice to get some points, even though we're still a long way from where we want to be," explained team principal James Rossiter. "A good qualifying result was key to our performance today. In the early stages we were able to keep up well with the leaders, but given the tightly packed field it was very difficult to activate attack mode in time."
"The safety car then made things even more complicated," Rossiter described further. "Unfortunately, it was difficult to get a lead after that given the higher pace. It was a difficult two days for everyone in the team, but I'm very proud that everyone pulled together."
In just under two weeks, Maserati MSG Racing already has the opportunity to do better. That's when the Hyderabad E-Prix, the first Formula E race in India, is coming up.