Nico Müller explains special features of the "extremely demanding" Formula E track in Saudi Arabia
Nico Müller is back in Formula E. Although the Swiss in the service of ABT Cupra missed last season. However, he knows the track in Diriyya well. At the 2021 E-Prix, the now 30-year-old celebrated a fifth place there. Ahead of the upcoming "double-header" in Saudi Arabia, Müller talks about the difficult street circuit, its challenges and its special features.
"It's an extremely demanding track," Müller clarifies. "From my point of view, it's actually the paradigm track of a Formula E circuit in terms of characteristics: very fluid and fast, yet narrow and tight. The walls are felt to be everywhere." The track doesn't forgive mistakes, he said, and the layout is challenging. "The only place where the driver and the tire can 'rest' a little is the back straight between turns 17 and 18."
The twisty downhill passage in particular has its work cut out for it. The key to success here, he said, is a good rhythm: "You have to get into the flow to be fast there and find every inch of this narrow concrete-walled tunnel. On top of that, there's also the difference in altitude, which affects the driving behavior. Especially at the beginning of sector 2, when you go down into the dip, it gets exciting. That's one of the fastest corner combinations with Turns 8, 9 and 10."
The fact that both races in Saudi Arabia will be held at night has an impact on grip levels, he says: "The lack of sunlight in the evening makes for a big difference in track temperature compared to Free Practice 1 and 3 and Qualifying, which will be held during the day," Müller explains. "This obviously has a very big impact on the tire's working window. Our task is to bring the tire into its ideal working window in order to be able to call up the optimum performance."
Stress test for Hankook: "Tire is put under extreme lateral stress"
Generally, Diriyya is not the easiest track for the tire, Müller stresses: "The tires are permanently under load between turns 1 and 17. There is one change of direction after the other. The Hankook iON Race really works up a sweat, I think. The tire is put under extreme lateral stress. It's all about keeping the minimum speeds high and exploiting the tire's lateral grip potential." In addition, there would be several hard braking points: "Once in turn 18, a little less at the last corner and once again in turn 1," Müller said.
As if those weren't challenges enough, there is an additional factor in the desert state that is unique in the Formula E race calendar: "Especially at the beginning of the race weekend, the track is very sandy," Müller explains. "That has a big impact on the overall grip level. Over time, a relatively narrow line then forms that is only slightly wider than our vehicle. You have to hit that, because that's where the grip slowly builds up."
In the past, accidents often occurred when pilots hit the sand as a result of a driving error - especially in the "Esses." How often this will happen at the Diriyya E-Prix 2023 will be seen from 4 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. Then the 1st free practice is already on the agenda for Formula E. As usual, 'e-Formel.de' offers you a livestream as well as our Hankook Formula E Liveticker for the session. The first of two races will start on Friday evening at 6 p.m. German time.