The Alley

Formula E Marrakesh preview

The newly rebranded ABB FIA Formula E Championship begins the 2018 portion of its fourth season this weekend from Marrakesh, Morocco, with Round 3 serving as the year’s first single race weekend of the year.

DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird and Mahindra’s Felix Rosenqvist split the season-opening doubleheader weekend at Hong Kong last month, although Bird was the only one who actually won on the road.

Rosenqvist was promoted to the win in race two following Daniel Abt’s disqualification over a technical error, with bar codes on his Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler entry found in post-race tech not matching the ones conducted in advance of the weekend. For Abt (right), it cost him his first Formula E victory and on his 25th birthday no less.

Another driver unlucky to pick up the spoils in Hong Kong was Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara, who dominated the race but spun out late and lost a nearly assured win. He fell to third behind Abt and Rosenqvist once he spun, but the Abt disqualification promoted him back to second. Mitch Evans inherited third for Panasonic Jaguar Racing, giving that team its first Formula E podium.

Bird, on the strength of his race one victory and a fifth place result in race two, leads the championship heading into Marrakesh this weekend. He has 35 points, and has a two-point edge over Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne, who ended second and fourth in the first two races of the year. Rosenqvist sits third on 29 points.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the Hong Kong weekend was the relative struggles of the series’ usual championship sparring partners and two most recent champions, Lucas di Grassi and Sebastien Buemi. Renault e.dams’ Buemi earned only one point for 10th in race two, while Audi’s di Grassi went scoreless in both races.

Buemi won at Marrakesh last year over Bird and Rosenqvist, and will be looking to jumpstart his season this weekend before falling even further back in the standings. Considering he led the standings nearly all of last year after his incredible start before faltering down the stretch, might the Swiss driver be on course for a reversal this year where a comeback will define his season?

For di Grassi, getting on par with his teammate Abt will be the first task after enduring a difficult weekend in Hong Kong. He was fifth in Marrakesh last season and will look to make the rostrum for the first time this new year this weekend.

Two new drivers make either their series return or debuts this weekend. Jose Maria Lopez replaces Neel Jani at Dragon for the rest of the season. The Argentine driver raced all of season three except for the New York ePrix with the DS Virgin team, and will take over Jani’s stead as he and the Jay Penske-led team parted ways in the break between Hong Kong and Marrakesh.

At the MS&AD Andretti Formula E team, Tom Blomqvist makes his series debut alongside Antonio Felix da Costa. Blomqvist takes over for Kamui Kobayashi, who raced at Hong Kong. Blomqvist, 24, has excellent racing DNA as his father Stig was a rallying legend.

The younger Blomqvist finished second in the FIA F3 European Championship in 2014 and won a race in DTM.

U.S. TV coverage on FOX Sports airs on Saturday, with qualifying at 11:30 a.m. ET on FS2, and the race at 2 p.m. ET on FS1.

Highlights from the shakedown session held Friday and a further primer of the weekend are below.

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