Gary Paffett in action for first time in Formula E race
Double DTM champion Gary Paffett contested his first-ever ABB FIA Formula E Championship race on Saturday, as his HWA RACELAB team made their debut in the all-electric series.
The 2005 and 2018 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters title-holder from Clare was flying the rookie flag for the first time in a new series since 2003, having enjoyed a 15-year career in the European touring car series.
But the 37-year-old did not have an inauguration to remember as he failed to finish the race in the opening round of the 2018/19 season at the Ad Diriyah E-Prix in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Despite starting the race in ninth position on the grid, a ‘technical’ issue just 12 minutes in forced the driver back to the pits, where he then retired.
The team struggled for speed in their first competitive outing, with Paffett’s fastest lap well off the pace at 1:16:654, compared to the race’s fastest lap time of 1:12:591.
The race has a new format this season whereby there are no more lap counts – instead, the winner is determined after 45 minutes of racing. When the time is up, there’s one more lap to complete before the chequered flag falls.
And, after five minutes, the Attack Mode activation zone opened up for the first time in Formula E’s history. In the race, the drivers must activate the higher power mode twice during the race, with each burst lasting four minutes.
It was won by BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Antonio Felix Da Costa in a time of 46:29:377.
Paffett said: “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 (the next round). I am already looking forward to getting back into the car.”
Ulrich Fritz, team principal at HWA RACELAB, added: “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.”
Paffett’s teammate Stoffel Vandoorne qualified in fourth position for the start of the race but eventually finished in 17th position in a race completed by 19 drivers.
The Championship will now take a break for the Christmas period and return for Round Two in the new year. The Marrakesh E-Prix will take place on the streets of one of Morocco’s most famous cities on January 12.