It’s done! The racing year is officially over!
It’s a weird paradox to be celebrating the final event of the year with the first race of a new season. Alas, such is the nature of Formula E and its winter calendar, meaning the ‘break’ is really only five weeks or so.
Formula E’s second visit to Hong Kong was a memorable one, offering two of the craziest races in the electric championship’s short history. Saturday saw Sam Bird win for DS Virgin Racing after the race was stopped for 30 minutes following a crash that left the track blocked. Bird appeared to have thrown away victory after receiving a drive-through penalty for crashing into some pit equipment at the car changes, only for his lead to be such that he retained his position after serving the sanction. It was an unconventional way to win, to say the least.
Even more unconventional was Felix Rosenqvist’s path to victory for Mahindra on Sunday. Rosenqvist started from pole and led the field to the green flag on Lap 2 following a safety car start due to the lights failing. The Swede dropped his car at Turn 1, getting back into the pack P11, and produced a stunning fight through the field to finish second on-track behind Daniel Abt. Abt had run P2 for much of the race behind the dominant Edoardo Mortara – starting only his second Formula E race – only for the leader to spin with three laps to go. Abt took an emotional win on his 25th birthday, but was cruelly stripped of it three hours later after the FIA stewards found Audi had committed a paperwork infringement with its powertrain. As a result, Rosenqvist was declared the winner.
Formula E may get a lot of stick for its on-track product still lacking compared to F1 (even though comparing the two is a bit silly). But in terms of entertainment, it is ticking so many boxes. Both of the Formula E races in Hong Kong were wildly more interesting to watch than the F1 race in Abu Dhabi the previous Sunday. It’s pushing the boundaries of technology, and may have some way to go in a number of areas, but it is moving in the right direction. Hopefully Hong Kong is just the start of an exciting season to follow.
A mention must be made for Daniel Abt, who after so long looked to have claimed his maiden Formula E victory. The Audi factory driver has been luckless for much of his time in Formula E, as well as facing suggestions of nepotism given the team was run by his father, Hans-Jurgen Abt. His pace was solid throughout the Hong Kong weekend, and while he may have enjoyed a slice of fortune in his win, it had been a long time coming and acted to silence his doubters.
“I think it was not easy for Audi to stick with me coming into this season,” Abt said soon after winning the race. “Obviously when your last name is the same as the team, you always get looked at a bit different. There were a lot of people saying that I don’t deserve to be here, and I think this weekend was really time to prove them wrong.” Even with the disqualification, we need to give Abt the credit he deserves and recognise he is befitting of a top-line seat in Formula E.
The working week itself in Hong Kong was a bit of a mixed one, most likely down to it being the third week on the bounce my end diving between various hotels and race tracks. Things were tricky at times at the track – having print journalists share the media pen with TV crews and photographers made it a bit of a mess trying to talk to drivers, particularly when you’re waiting to speak to the race winner while someone in front grabs a selfie and asks said driver if they like Formula E…
There were a few funny moments though. A media team in front of our desks in the media centre rocked up with a full desktop iMac, complete with the box it came in to transport it home again. We were also given our cue to leave on the Sunday night while waiting for the stewards’ decision when the lights were literally turned off in the media centre and the chairs around us were packed away! If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.
That was probably the same approach Lewis Hamilton’s media team had after his Instagram post on Formula E had to be deleted. Hamilton said he wanted to learn more about other series and checked out Formula E before expressing his horror over a crash he saw in a clip. The crash was between Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld at the first ever Formula E race back in 2014 in Beijing. You can see the post below. Sure, it was a recently-uploaded video, and Hamilton may have not been aware of it happening before. But one would have thought a little more research could have gone into things before such a post went online… I tried re-reading it over and over to see if there was a way to give Hamilton the benefit of the doubt, but it just got worse, the best part being: “I hope Nick Heidfeld is OK?”
It was good to see a bit more of Hong Kong on my second visit, having been more fleeting over the single race round last year. Much of the trip was spent hanging out in Lan Kwai Fong, a cool area filled with bars and restaurants, as well as taking a couple of visits over to Kowloon, including checking out a night market. And it only took 22 and a half years, but I finally got to try some proper sushi as well while catching up with an old school friend after nearly six years. It’s a cool city; a grittier Singapore in many ways. Well worth checking out.
But now it’s time to head home. After three weeks, three race weekends, two season finales, one season opener, four races, four afterparties, some extreme jet lag and a couple of hundred-thousand words typed, I’m really looking forward to getting back to London, even if it is literally 0 degrees there right now.
This year will probably go down as both the best and, in some ways, the worst for me, both professionally and personally. Work-wise, it has been a brutal, brutal challenge at times, perhaps biting off a little more than I could chew. But I made it through. I’ve travelled more than ever before (I’m at the airport now waiting for flights 31 and 32 of the year), seen so much more of the world, and grown immeasurably as a journalist. The challenges have been tough, but I guess I’ll be thankful for some of them someday.
The key part will be spending some time with friends and family back at home after this year. So much has happened, not all of it good. Christmas is a good time to reflect and recover before diving headfirst into the new year. Let’s hope there’s more of the good and much less of the bad in 2018 – or, in millennial terms, more of the fire emoji and less of the poop emoji.
Even with the break, I’ll be aiming to keep the blog ticking over. Writing for nothing but pleasure without the constraints of a brief or deadline is something I enjoy greatly.