Double-header, night race and desert sand: The Hankook iON Race is ready for the Diriyah E-Prix
- Hankook is heading to the desert of Saudi Arabia, ready for the real challenges of night races under floodlights
- Mastering all the challenges with strong and reliable performance in the desert last year, the Hankook Motorsport Director shows his expectation towards another spectacular Hankook iON Race
- Maximilian Günther shows confidence in a night race in the interview, saying “There is no room for error”
Seoul, Korea, January 23, 2024 – The desert is calling – just two weeks after the season-opener in Mexico, Hankook and Formula E are heading to Saudi Arabia for the first double-header of the season. A special highlight for the fans, and a real challenge for the Hankook iON Race: races two and three of Season 10 on the 26th and 27th of January are night races and will take place under floodlights. The street circuit in Diriyah, on the outskirts of the capital Riyadh, takes the drivers around the historic city walls. The dramatic changes in temperature between day and night, desert sand on the track, and the narrow circuit with a total of 21 corners make round two of the season a major challenge for the Hankook iON Race.
“Our tire impressed in the desert last year when it mastered all the challenges with its strong and reliable performance. The Hankook iON Race allowed the drivers to produce some spectacular driving and overtaking maneuvers, even towards the end of the race. This year, the drivers will again be able to rely on our tire and push for the full race distance, thanks to its high grip level,” says Manfred Sandbichler, Hankook Motorsport Director.
Germany’s Pascal Wehrlein from the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team, who won the opening round of this season at the Hankook Mexico City E-Prix, dominated last year’s race weekend in Saudi Arabia, bagging himself a brace of victories. “I am obviously mega-happy with both races. I came through from ninth on the grid on a Friday. The tire played a major role in allowing me to do that. I was able to really push on every lap, although I was overtaking a lot of cars. Despite that, I still had enough grip at the end. The tire worked very well again on Saturday. From my side, absolutely everything was perfect in the races,” said Wehrlein, summing up his successful weekend.
No other Formula E circuit has as many corners and winding sections. In total, the drivers must navigate their way through 21 corners on each 2.495-kilometer lap. The direction of travel is clockwise. While the sheer number of corners makes the first half of the street circuit very technical, the second half primarily consists of two longer straights. The straights ahead of turns 1, 18, and 21 should offer good overtaking opportunities.
Maximilian Günther from the Maserati MSG Racing team in the interview asking about the special features of the circuit in Diriyah, answered, “The track in Saudi Arabia is very technical, with many fast and blind corners, particularly in sector two. The sand and track evolution also plays a major role.”
To the question asking what challenges there are for night races, he said “Personally, I really like the atmosphere at night races. However, there are a lot of little things that you have to get used to, particularly the dazzling light conditions. It is very important to select the right visor. One important factor is the big difference in temperature between the day and night sessions in the desert.”
Asking “How much strain are the tires put under, and how do they influence the way you drive?” He answered, “The tires play a big role in Diriyah. Confidence is very important at this circuit, as is the ability to generate sufficient grip despite the slippery asphalt. That worked very well last year.”
To the question of how the desert sand affects his performance, he claimed “A lot. The track consistently becomes faster over the course of the weekend and there is only one ideal line – anything off that line is like black ice. It is crucial not to stray from that line all weekend. There is no room for error.”
Oliver Rowland (GB/Nissan Formula E Team) was the driver who made the most progress through the field in Mexico, thanks in part to the high level of grip provided by the Hankook iON Race. The Brit gained a total of eight positions on his return to Formula E. He was followed in this statistic by Nyck de Vries (NL/Mahindra Racing) and Jake Dennis (GB/Andretti Formula E) with six and five positions respectively.
Wehrlein’s fifth E-Prix victory makes him the German Formula E driver with the most wins to his name. He has also scored more points than any of his compatriots: now with 399 points under his belt, he moved ahead of Daniel Abt, who amassed a total of 390 points during his career.
Jean-Eric Vergne (F/DS Penske) picked up eight points for finishing sixth in Mexico. That makes him the second driver, after Lucas di Grassi (BRA/Abt Cupra Formula E Team), to score more than 1,000 points in his Formula E career.
Nick Cassidy stepped onto the podium for the 13th time in his Formula E career at the Hankook Mexico City E-Prix and made it into the top ten for the 26th time. The New Zealander is one of just three active Formula E drivers to have celebrated at least half of their top-ten finishes on the podium. Only Lucas di Grassi (40 podiums from 77 top-ten results) and Jake Dennis (17 podiums from 32 top-ten results) have also achieved this feat.
A perfect start to the season: more than 40,000 fans in the sold-out grandstands at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, in the metropolis that is Mexico City, celebrated a winning drive from Germany’s Pascal Wehrlein. The 29-year-old took full advantage of the performance of the Hankook iON Race to record his fifth victory in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. Second place went to Sébastien Buemi (Envision Racing), ahead of Nick Cassidy (Jaguar TCS Racing) in third.
The most colorful, exciting, and impressive scenes from Mexico can be found here in the Hankook Highlight Clip.