La Extreme E had promised a great show in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia. And the opening day of Desert X Prix showed just that, with jaw-dropping competition, breathtaking settings, great drama including accidents, and a sensational fight for the top spot in the rankings, which they ultimately won. Sébastien Loeb y Cristina Gutierrez, the team duo X44 de Lewis Hamilton.
La 8.8-kilometer high-speed track - set in the middle of a breathtaking landscape - was designed to push drivers and cars to their absolute limits. And it did not disappoint.
The route, which winds spectacularly between canyons, ravines and dunes, is full of rocks and undulations in equal parts, with steep climbs that are offset by “La Caída”, a descent of 100 meters at 45 degrees that some competitors compared to a ski slope. For almost everyone, it represented a journey into the unknown.
"Yes, I think we did well. I had a clean lap in the first classification, Cristina did the same, so we finished second in the classification but very close to the first ”, Loeb began his analysis of the day.
"In the second classification there was a big difference between third and fourth position so we decided not to take too many risks, just try to secure our position in second place. It was what we did, but our main rivals made a mistake when changing drivers, so we have first place after qualifying. That's perfect! We couldn't hope to start the race better ", finished the Frenchman, nine times world rally champion.
The error you refer to had the team as the protagonist Rosberg X Racing, Consisting of Molly taylor y Johan Kristoffersson, who took a 4s7 lead in the afternoon qualifying session to overtake the X44 drivers. But taylor you exceeded the maximum speed allowed in the driver change zone, for which he received a Second 60 penalty that made the team fall Nico Rosberg from first to third.
"We were first until the end! And we were very fast today, but then we had a technical problem, and in the pitlane, too much speed, because the button was removed, and then they gave us a penalty of sixty seconds. Sixty Seconds! Crazy", Rosberg said, debuting in his new role as a team owner.
"It is a very long race, and I think the driver who reaches the end of the race will win, because it is very difficult. I'm happy because our riders have done a very good job. "added the 2016 champion of the Formula 1.
The second position, before the sanction received by Taylor and Kristoffersson, was held behind the ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team de Carlos Sainz y Laia Sanz.
"I feel good. The truth is that we are second in this first day of competition, we know that there are many good people, a lot of talent, many world champions, but here we are Laia and I, we have made, I think, a good qualifying and tomorrow we are going to that pre-final . Only two pass, but let's try "Sainz said for his part.
El ODYSSEY 21 de Andretti United He was also among the protagonists, but a puncture in Q1 cost the team time and sparked a heroic effort from Catie munnings, who completed much of his lap with car trouble as the right rear tire hung precariously from the rim. This limited the British and her Swedish partner Timmy hansen to fourth place overall and means that they will have to overcome tomorrow's “Crazy Race” if they want to reach the final.
In the Crazy Race they will be accompanied by the Hispano Suiza XITE Energy Team (Oliver Bennett / Christine Giampaoli Zonca) and the JBXE (Jenson Button / Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky), who had their share of inconveniences this Saturday. The former received a 75-second penalty for speeding in the driver change zone, while the latter lost time with a stoppage on the track after hitting a pothole in Q1.
Promising work by Button and Åhlin-Kottulinsky in Q2 it was cut short by penalties of almost three minutes they received for a violation in the driver change zone and for speeding, although the team of the 1 F.2009 champion was benefited by problems even greater than three of his adversaries.
After a difficult Friday, the problems of the Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing continued today in Saudi Arabia, with a failure in the power steering that forced Kyle leduc y Sara price to physically fight with his ODYSSEY 21 until the end of Q1, a situation that the former described as "A fist fight" inside the cabin. Other problems prevented Price from reaching the starting line in Q2, which means that she and LeDuc will be limited to the “Shoot Out” tomorrow.
Other teams that suffered problems were the ABT CUPRA XE, whose pilot Claudia Hürtgen she emerged unscathed from a spectacular accident in Q1; and the Veloce Racing, where an overturn of Stéphane Sarrazin, also in qualifying, was enough for the British team to be out of the rest of the weekend due to the damage to the car.
Sunday's races will begin at 9:00 a.m. (local time), with the Shoot Out, Crazy Race, semifinal and final (the latter scheduled for 13:00 p.m. local time), which will determine who will have the honor of be crowned the first winner in the history of Extreme E.