Mercedes see themselves as 'beginners' in Formula E

The Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team admits that it is facing a steep learning curve as it heads into its first-ever two races in the all-electric championship this weekend.

And with back-to-back races in Diriyah on Friday and Saturday, the squad will have to learn those lessons fast if it’s to avoid giving its rivals an immediate advantage.

“Finally, the day has come that everyone in the team has been working towards,” team principal Ian James commented this week.

“Our two cars will make their first competitive outing this week. We’ve worked hard over the last twelve months to devise the best possible setup and achieve the necessary consistency for our race debut at Diriyah.

“The season opener is not the end of this journey but rather the beginning,” he cautioned. “We are conscious of our status as beginners. We therefore have to learn quickly from errors as they occur and to continue developing as a team.”

James added that the team was aiming “to make our learning curve as steep as possible.”

“Finishing the two races somewhere in the points would obviously be fantastic,” he added. “But no matter how this first race turns out for us, I would like to express my gratitude here and now to the entire team for their tireless efforts.

“What I’ve experienced over the past few months has been the epitome of commitment in terms of teamwork.”

The team has been able to rely on the experience of former McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne, who after leaving F1 a year ago has already completed a season of competition in the ABB FIA Formula E championship with the Mercedes-affiliated HWA Racelab.

“I can hardly wait to get racing again,” commented the Belgian. “Testing is very nice, but it’s good to be switching back to race mode and to see where we are compared to the other teams.

Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team on track.

© Mercedes

“It’s not going to be easy, and it is hard to make any sort of forecast. We have to stay focused and try not to make mistakes. If we manage to do that, we should be in with a chance of a decent result.”

Vandoorne will be joined on the grid by newly crowned Formula 2 champion Nyck de Vries, who like Mercedes is also making his debut in the series.

“I’m very excited about competing in Formula E as a team for the first time and finding out how we shape up on our debut,” said the Dutch 24-year-old Dutch driver.

“I have the feeling that we have bonded together well as a team in the past few weeks. Now I’m ready to race again and to go up against our opponents on the track.”

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Gunther tops Formula E Valencia test for BMW

BMW driver Maximilian Gunther ended up with the fastest time of the 24 drivers taking part in this week’s three-day Formula E pre-season test at Valencia.

Gunther’s time of 1:15.087s was set after just 17 laps of running on Friday afternoon. He subsequently triggered an early end to the day’s track activity when he stopped at the first chicane with five minutes left on the clock.

Dragon pair Brendon Hartley and Nico Muller, together with Mercedes driver Stoffel Vandoorne, also sparked red flags in the final hour of Friday’s session.

Gunther duly finished the day a tenth quicker than Mahindra Racing’s Pascal Wehrlein, who had been the fastest driver in the morning runs.

Earlier in the day, Nissan e.dams’ Sebastien Buemi won the second ‘test race’ of the week by 1.698s over 30 laps from Porsche’s Andre Lotterer who led at the start.

However the week as a whole proved a subdued start for Mercedes, which is joining the all-electric championship this season for the first time as a manufacturer.

Vandoorne was only 20th fastest across the week, setting his best time of 1:15.736s on Friday morning. His team mate, Formula 2 champion Nyck de Vries, was just behind the Belgian in the week’s timing summary with a best effort of 1:15.916s.

“The first two days of testing this week were tough for us,” explained Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E team principal Ian James.

“There were some challenges to overcome that we had not anticipated. It was unexpected, to be honest, but we found the right solutions. It just goes to show how important these test outings are in the run-up to the season.

“We were consistent when conducting our own private tests and found some stability. We must now ensure that we can achieve that again during the first race weekend.

“[But] we’ve finished Friday’s test on a positive note. I think we’ve created a sound basis on which to build, so that we can continue to develop during the season.”

“We’re obviously not completely satisfied after this test week, but that’s precisely what testing is for,” echoed Vandoorne.

“We’ve ticked off quite a few points on our to-do list, but there’s still plenty to do before the season opener in Saudi Arabia [on November 22].

“At the same time, I am happy that we are finally racing again. We have been testing for a long time now and the feeling is good,” he commented. “After the long break, I’m really looking forward to getting back into the car and competing in actual races.”

“Everything is in place for us to mount a serious challenge, but we have to get it all together. This is by no means an easy task in Formula E. Let’s wait and see what happens next.”

De Vries was held back by limited track time, with an accident on Wednesday afternoon leaving him sidelined for the rest of the day.

“Unfortunately, I made a mistake in the chicane and lost a lot of time on the track,” said the 24-year-old Dutch driver. “That, along with a few other difficulties, virtually cost me a whole day.

“That’s why it was very important to have a flawless day today, during which I was able to put in a lot of laps and gain further experience.

“[Friday] morning was very positive in this regard, and the afternoon also was very interesting with regard to the race simulation. It was a pity that there were so many interruptions on the way, but that’s all part of racing.”

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