Lots of kilometres driven, plenty of data and experience gained, but no countable result – ABT CUPRA leaves Saudi Arabia with disappointing results in the second and third rounds of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship season. Kelvin van der Linde finished 16th and 18th on his debut in Formula racing, while teammate Nico Müller retired on both Friday and Saturday.
« We are disappointed with our performance here in Saudi Arabia, as we had hoped for a clear upward trend after the season opener, » said team principal Thomas Biermaier. « The list of issues and tasks we need to work through is getting longer, but the short gaps between races remain – it’s becoming increasingly clear that this season will be a major challenge. Not only for us, but also for the two sister cars of the Mahindra team, as we have seen here once again. » ABT CUPRA is competing as a customer team with Mahindra Racing cars this season.
Sunday’s race was tackled by Kelvin van der Linde and Nico Müller from the back row of the grid. Both paid attention to their energy management and tried to hold their own in the field. While Müller slid into the track barrier during an overtaking maneuver on the 25th lap and had to retire, van der Linde brought his car back to the pits without a scratch, just like the day before. The 26-year-old South African joined the team at short notice and replaces regular driver Robin Frijns, who injured his hand in an accident in Mexico.
« I would like to thank the whole team for their trust and patience, » says van der Linde. « Even if we don’t see any countable results, we have created a good basis for our next race weekend on which we can build. » The first of the two night races on Friday evening was a premiere of a very special kind: Kelvin van der Linde completed the first race in a formula car in his career on the tight and demanding circuit. And he did it with flying colors: starting the race from 19th place, he stayed out of all the scuffles, got better accustomed to the challenges of Formula E from lap to lap and ultimately finished his debut race in 16th place. « Compliments to Kelvin – not only for his performance here in Diriyah, but also for his diligent preparation over the past week and a half, » says Thomas Biermaier.
Nico Müller was already one of the unlucky drivers on Friday. In free practice, the Swiss lightly touched a wall. A minor slip with major consequences: After an enormous effort by the entire ABT team, the car was ready for the race, but Müller had to skip qualifying and start the race from last position. Already on the way to the starting grid, Müller reported strange noises via radio and had to retire in the race after 13 laps due to further damage. « I feel particularly sorry for the two slip-ups for the guys who worked so hard, » said Müller. « And of course the missing laps also hurt us. »
There isn’t much time before the next Formula E appearance: after intensive data analysis and the all-important preparation in the simulator, the team is already off to India at the beginning of the week after next, where Formula E will be staging a race for the first time. The financial metropolis of Hyderabad will be the venue for the fourth of a total of 16 rounds in the ninth season on February 11.