Gary Paffett put his first ABB FIA Formula E race miles on the clock this weekend as he and his HWA RACELAB team made their debut in the series at the inaugural Ad Diriyah ePrix. Unfortunately, Gary’s race ended prematurely but he gathered crucial data and experience for the season ahead.
With Saudi Arabia hosting the first race of the 2018/19 season, Gary arrived in Ad Diriyah set to make his debut in the all-electric series with HWA RACELAB. After completing Friday’s shakedown around the 2.494-mile circuit, Gary headed into Saturday’s race day looking to get his Formula E career off to a positive start.
Heading into the race day, the target was to gather crucial data and focus on the development of the car rather than results. Saturday began with heavy rainfall, which didn’t clear before the start of the first free practice session and was eventually cancelled - turning the first two practice sessions of the day into one combined practice.
The combined practice session was not an easy test for Gary and the rest of the field as all drivers struggled to keep their cars in a straight line in the wet conditions. Looking to avoid any mistakes, Gary took fewer risks in the difficult conditions and finished the practice in 21st place.
Due to the change of the running order, qualifying was changed into two groups, rather than four groups of up to six cars as originally intended. With this, Gary was drawn into group two for his maiden Formula E qualifying session.
Finishing his qualifying with a best time of 1:19.929, Gary ended in 15th place in the combined qualifying standings from group one and two. But after penalties were handed out to several cars, Gary was promoted to inside the top-ten and started his first-ever Formula E race from 9th place.
Starting from ninth place, Gary enjoyed some close battles out on track and was battling hard with the cars around him through the early phase of the race. However, Gary’s maiden race did not end in favourable circumstances and after a little more than ten minutes, Gary made a small mistake on the narrow Ad Diriyah circuit and made contact with the wall - forcing Gary into an early retirement from the race.
“That was a very disappointing race weekend for me. I started from ninth place, the race calmed down a bit after some duels in the opening phase and I was feeling very good on the track. But then I made a little mistake between the eighth and ninth turns, lost the racing line and ended up in the wall. That was the end of my race – it just happens sometimes when you're racing on street circuits. We learned a lot in the race, even if it was much shorter for me than we had hoped. We will be better prepared for Marrakesh. I am already looking forward to getting back into the car.”
Ulrich Fritz, Team Principal HWA RACELAB, knew that the team’s first race would be a challenging one but knows the team with benefit from the lessons learnt.
“As expected, today was very instructive for us. Qualifying went very well for Stoffel and Gary, but pace was clearly missing in the race. We will have to analyse exactly what caused that. Our objective for our first appearance in Formula E was for both cars to finish the race. Unfortunately, we didn't quite manage that. However, that is no reason not to express our thanks to the whole team for their hard work over the last weeks. I hope that the data we gather today and at tomorrow’s test will help us to take a step forward in time for Marrakesh.”
Gary remained in Ad Diriyah for the official test the following day where he completed an impressive 40 laps to finish the morning session in 4th place and will be looking to build on his first Formula E race weekend at the next race of the season in Marrakesh (12th January 2019).