The Debrief: Inside Formula E’s return to China

Maserati MSG Racing Deputy Team Principal, Cyril Blais, debriefs the 2024 Shanghai E-Prix using insights powered by Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Formula E’s 10th season is edging closer to its conclusion, and with the 2024 Shanghai E-Prix complete, only two race weekends remain in the current campaign.

With the business end of 2024 here, every race matters and in Shanghai, Maserati MSG Racing staged a successful recovery to bounce back from a challenging Saturday to claim points on Sunday.

Reflecting on Formula E’s first race weekend in China since 2019, our Deputy Team Principal, Cyril Blais, debriefs Shanghai using insights powered by Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

“Overall, Shanghai was quite a challenging weekend,” says Cyril. “We had good pace, and we responded well to score more points, although our results don’t accurately reflect what I think we’re capable of.

“Looking back over our performances this year, it’s clear that we have a competitive package. We won in Tokyo, and were back on the podium at Misano, but in recent races, I think our biggest struggle has been in terms of consistency.

“With only two race weekends remaining, consistency is one of the most important aspects at this stage of the season, and if our performances align, I know that we can be at the front.

“We have the speed, but with bad fortune in Berlin, and then a couple of missed opportunities in Shanghai, we haven’t always been in the right position to capitalise on our potential.

“We can respond to that in one of two ways – we can be frustrated and disappointed by it, or we can use it to spur ourselves on, and I think it’s an incredible source of motivation.

“From my point of view, knowing that success is within your grasp makes you want it even more, and this is an attitude we share within the whole team. Racing is in our DNA.

“When we go into every weekend, we know that we’re not just fighting for points, but the very real chance of being on the podium and that makes us incredibly hungry.”

Alongside marking the eighth of 10 race weekends in 2024, the Shanghai E-Prix marked Formula E’s second race on a permanent racing circuit this season, and as such, presented a fascinating performance picture.

“From a racing perspective, Shanghai was interesting, and although the track was energy sensitive, we saw two very different races from Saturday to Sunday,” continues Cyril.

“Saturday’s race, which was 29 laps long, saw the return of the peloton whereas Sunday’s, which was one lap shorter, was much closer to a traditional Formula E race, but still had peloton features.

“From the weekend’s start, we had established a very solid baseline, but we didn’t perform as well as we hoped in Qualifying for Race One which left us with some work to do.”

“Starting from 14th with Maximilian Günther and 20th with Jehan Daruvala put us on a very defined path, and we decided to go for an energy saving strategy from the start.

“This meant that we strategically under consumed energy with the aim of creating an energy offset on other drivers. By spending less at the start, we would then be able to spend more at the end in order to fight forward and finish higher.

After dropping back, Max was able to deliver a very strong recovery drive to finish inside the top 10, but because of contact with [Edoardo] Mortara, he received a 10-second time penalty which demoted him to 21st.

“Jehan, on the other hand, had good pace but because of the energy targets, we found it very difficult to overtake and in hindsight, I think this provided quite a good indication of what we went on to see in Race Two.”

After carefully analysing performance overnight, the team regrouped for Sunday and showcased clear speed almost immediately by setting the fourth-fastest time in FP3 with Max.

This pace was maintained in Qualifying, but while Max and Jehan delivered near-perfect laps, it unfortunately wasn’t enough to advance to the head-to-head stages.

“The margins across the whole grid were small on Sunday, and we were very close to making it through to the next part of Qualifying, which would have opened our opportunities in the race,” explains Deputy Team Principal, Cyril.

“Max was only 0.018 seconds from the top four and was only 0.043 seconds away from the fastest time of Group A and this put him 10th on the grid.

“Because Race Two was one lap shorter, we anticipated that there would be less energy saving but knew that it would still be a factor, and with the real-time data insights we receive from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, we were able to create a very energy and pace-efficient strategy.

“During the race we saw some movement inside the top 10, at least in the early stages, but we found that the finishing positions were heavily influenced by the results from Qualifying.

“Jehan pointed out post-race that nine of the drivers who finished inside the points started from the top 10, and that is quite a rare occurrence in Formula E.

“While we scored points with Max, the results show that if we had started at the front, we could have finished at the front, and I think that is the key thing to take away from this weekend.”

Although there was little change in position in Race Two, Max fought hard to finish eighth and as such, added four crucial points which will help our long-term World Championship efforts.

“There are a lot of positives that we can take from Shanghai,” adds Cyril.

“Although we didn’t achieve what we hoped, we showed good pace, and we also learned a great deal about the peloton, and this knowledge will be helpful for our next race this season in Portland.

“Before Portland, we have a small break in the schedule, and this will give us a good opportunity to recharge and reset as a team after a very intense run of races since São Paulo.

“We’ll examine our recent performances, regroup and press forward to make sure that we finish the season with a very strong set of results.”