The MS&AD Andretti Formula E team are targeting a podium finish at the next race after a strong, but ultimately frustrating, season opener in Hong Kong.
Race pace was good but a technical hitch prevented the team from scoring more points in the second race of the double-header. António Félix da Costa was sixth and 11th in the two races while Formula E debutant Kamui Kobayashi brought the car home in 15th and 17th.
Roger Griffiths, the MS&AD Andretti Co-team Principal, explained: “Hong Kong went perhaps better than we expected it to. Kobayashi spent most of his first day getting to grips with not only the car but also the uniqueness of the Formula E schedule. Doing everything on one day was quite an eye-opener for him.
“With António we were quite surprised by the pace of the car. To be able to qualify eighth and then race to a sixth-place finish was a really positive start and for Kobayashi to bring the car back without any damage was a really good start for him. On Saturday we were pretty happy. Antonio even led the race briefly during the car change. We were also pleasantly surprised by how efficient the car was as we ended up going further than anybody else on that first stint.
“Coming into Sunday we were thinking ‘is this just going to be a one-off?’ But António ended up starting the race in sixth place which was justification of the performance from the Saturday.
“António was comfortably running in fourth place and matching the pace of the cars ahead of him. We even pitted from the lead because we were able to run longer. Unfortunately we suffered a technical problem on the car change and we lost 25 seconds or so. We came in from the lead and came out in14th place – we were devastated by that.”
At the mandatory stop to change cars the system failed to go into race mode and the vehicle failed to move off.
“I think we lost a genuine podium finish,” said Roger. “It was bitterly disappointing. That technical issue was not something we had ever experienced before. Now there is a huge investigation going onto find out what happened.
“Of course we know what happened – we just don’t know why it happened and work out how to fix it. The engineers are working extremely hard to determine the route of the problem. It’s the highs and lows of motor racing – you go from one extreme to the other.”
António spelled out just what might have been.
He said: “We would have been very, very close. I think at least P2 would have been ours so it’s very disappointing to finish 11th.”
Next up is the Marrakesh leg of the Formula E championship at the Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan on January 13.
“Marrakesh is a conventional, semi-permanent race track so it’s pretty smooth,” said Roger. “It’s a track that the drivers know very well. But we are really looking forward to going there to see if we did just have a one-off weekend or do we actually have a car that can be competitive anywhere we go. We are certainly going into that race more competitive than we were at this stage last year.”
And Roger revealed what is top of his Christmas list.
“I’d like a podium finish in Marrakesh,” he said.