Formula E: Robin Frijns needs surgery after Mexico accident, participation in Saudi Arabia questionable
Robin Frijns (ABT Cupra) has been injured in an accident in the first race of the 2023 Formula E season. As a spokesman for the racing team confirmed, the Dutchman broke his left wrist on the starting lap of the Mexico City E-Prix. The 31-year-old will have to undergo surgery while still in Mexico. His participation in the upcoming "double header" in Diriyya is thus questionable.
Two full Formula E seasons survived Robin Frijns without missing a single race lap. However, the Dutchman's prelude to the Gen3 era ended after just nine corners: in the chicane on the back straight of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, he roared into the rear of Norman Nato (Nissan), mounted and landed ungently in the run-off zone.
Already during the race, the early suspicions were confirmed: "Robin has broken his left wrist and will have to undergo surgery here in Mexico," an ABT team spokesman said of the incident. Frijns had previously been examined at the medical center at the track.
This is the third Formula E weekend in a row across the season that a driver has been injured: At the 2022 London E-Prix, Sam Bird (Jaguar) injured his metacarpal, at the Seoul E-Prix Antonio Giovinazzi (Dragon) injured his thumb.
Start in Saudi Arabia very unlikely
The extent to which Frijns' hand fracture and surgery will affect his participation in the next Formula E race in Diriyya is currently uncertain. However, it is considered highly unlikely that the Dutchman will be able to compete in the two rounds in Saudi Arabia - after all, the races are scheduled to take place in less than two weeks (January 27/28). "The most important thing for us is that Robin gets well quickly and returns to the team. For this we wish him from the bottom of our hearts a speedy recovery," says team boss Thomas Biermaier.
To date, ABT Cupra does not have an official replacement driver explicitly designated for Formula E. However, the team could fall back on its own driver pool from the DTM. There, Rene Rast started for the team from Allgäu in 2022, who, due to his Formula E contract with McLaren is no longer an option, however, Kelvin van der Linde (former Audi test driver for Formula E) and Ricardo Feller. Drive partner Mahindra could also provide Indian Jehan Daruvala from its own squad.
"ABT Underdogs" scoreless at Formula E return
In recent weeks, Frijns has been closely involved in the preparations of ABT, which has been preparing its Formula E return with its own private racing team for months. It wasn't until the second half of last season that the German team found an agreement with Mahindra on an engine partnership - much later than other customer teams in Formula E.
"We are two and a half months behind everyone else," team boss Thomas Biermaier recently told 'Motorsport.com' about the development status. "Mahindra has helped us a lot and provides us with the powertrain. However, we lacked time, especially time on the track. That's why the last few weeks have been anything but easy. Nobody has slept much with us!"
Biermaier compares the situation to that before the first season in 2014/15. "The workload is similar, but now everything is much more professional and competitive. We are the underdogs in that respect."
On its return to Formula E, ABT failed to score any points. Nico Müller started the E-Prix from 18th place after a mixed qualifying session and remained largely inconspicuous throughout the race. Retirements and penalties against a number of competitors ultimately saw him finish in 14th place, 31 seconds behind race winner Jake Dennis (Andretti).
That there is fundamental potential in the M9Electro, however, was proven by, of all people, former ABT driver Lucas di Grassi with a 3rd-place finish.