Such is the challenging nature of the Ancol Beach Circuit and the stifling, unparalleled heat and humidty that the Gulavit Jakarta E-Prix throws drivers' way, that NEOM McLaren's Jake Hughes declared he has “never been so happy with a point in my life” after rising from 20th to 10th in the first part of the Indonesian double-header.
Hughes' climb meant that he was the ABB Driver of Progress winner in the opening Jakarta race, as he turned a difficult qualifying session - where he failed to capitalise on his Monaco pace and pole - into an unlikely point.
He had said pre-race that he'd hoped the Berlin blip would indeed be just that, however, he had a harder time of it than he'd hoped converting what appeared to be a Monaco return to form come Saturday in Jakarta; zero progress out of the groups and 20th on the grid was less than ideal.
Fast, flowing circuit and a real overtaking challenge
Overtakes are tricky at such a punishing circuit. Minimum speeds and momentum are both critical, meaning big stops and opportunities come at a premium. We saw a total of just 54 passes in Round 10 and 80 in Round 11.
Contrast this even with Monaco - a circuit where other series' particularly struggle with overtaking - and we saw 116 moves over Round 9. Berlin saw more than double Jakarta at 190 and 172 manoeuvres in Rounds 7 & 8, respectively.
An added change for the weekend in Indonesia saw race one run two laps shorter than race two - energy saving was not critical enough to be the sole factor in Hughes’s progress.
The McLaren driver gained three places on the opening lap and three more in the first half of the races as the likes of Dan Ticktum (NIO 333), Nissan's Sacha Fenestraz and TAG Heuer Porsche's Antonio Felix da Costa activated ATTACK MODE.
Through this phase, Hughes was banking energy. By Lap 13 he had a 2% advantage over the frontrunners and more than those around him, which meant he had the call over Team Radio from his engineer to start to close the gap to car ahead as each rival dived into ATTACK MODE; Hughes could push.
For much of the race, the Nissan-powered McLaren was able to live with the energy efficiency of those out front, in fact.
Aided by his fastest speed of the race up to that point far (230km/h), Hughes slashed a gap of around three seconds to the group in front to just over one. His teammate Rene Rast was in that group and while his average speed per lap was 111kph, 112kph and 112kph, Hughes averaged 114kph every lap.
This time gain guaranteed Hughes some vital track position - allowing him more time to dictate rather than force the issue. By the time he activated his own ATTACK MODE for the first time he only lost a position to da Costa - Ticktum and Fenestraz stayed behind.
A short, solid and energy-replenishing sequence of laps before activating ATTACK MODE for the second time without any position loss set Hughes up for an attacking run to the finish. All the while, the Brit was able to string together a competitive run of average speeds.
Between laps nine and 24, he remained consistently a couple of km/h quicker than those ahead. Duly, he was able to catch Nico Mueller's ABT CUPRA, da Costa and the sister ABT of Robin Frijns, nipping inside Mueller when the German ran deep into Turn 1 on Lap 24.
Once clear, Hughes could stretch his legs and push on. The 236kph Hughes clocked on Lap 30 was easily his highest top speed of the E-Prix and spending the remains of his energy advantage put him in direct competition with those around him until the flag, but he had enough in reserve to run flat-out to the finish from Lap 32.
The final four laps were Hughes’ highest average speed of the race – 114.5kph over those four laps, with Rast’s 112.5kph in the group a few seconds ahead again a useful point of comparison.
This speed meant Hughes was in a prime position to benefit from a messy end to the race for some of his competitors. First Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) was nudged into a spin by team-mate Sam Bird, then on the final lap Bird was hit into a spin of his own by Rast.
Hughes had been catching this group but needed this incident to gain more ground, and he pulled off a fine move on Rast to capitalise on the late chaos and steal the final point.
Rast would ultimately get a five-second penalty that meant Hughes would have been promoted to 11th anyway. But Hughes wasn’t to know that, and an on-track pass meant he rounded off his charge with a flourish.
Ticktum's charge goes unrewarded
While Hughes’s burn from the stern earned him a solitary point, Sunday’s ABB Driver of Progress winner Dan Ticktum left empty-handed despite his own valiant effort.
A lack of grip with his second set of tyres in qualifying resulted in Ticktum’s worst grid position of the season but the NIO 333 driver was much happier with his car than in race one, and this set up an attacking drive.
Ticktum was extremely patient in the first half of the race, moving up to 14th by mid-distance. Initially he had not been able to bank much energy in reserve while doing this, although he compared reasonably well to the leaders.
Then came Ticktum’s most impressive spell of the E-Prix, six laps in which he rose from 14th to 11th while managing his energy just as well as race leader and eventual winner Maximilian Guenther.
It put Ticktum on the brink of the points and he surged into the top 10 over the next few laps to run ninth all the way until the final lap. But then he had to pay the energy debt he quickly racked up with what his team said was the “front powertrain derating in the last few laps".
The Brit had been frustrated throughout the encounter - very vocally over Team Radio. He couldn't get the car stopped in the way he wanted to, perhaps related to the late-race powertrain issue, and his forward progress was stifled as he extracted the maximum from the ailing car beneath him.
As Ticktum compared so well to Guenther for most of the race, the final 10 laps present a striking contrast. He dropped 2% of battery compared to the German while moving into ninth and was 1% below where he would have ideally been on target with just a couple of laps remaining.
Ticktum did well to recover some of that before the flag, but it was not enough, agonisingly falling out of the points to finish 11th – an unfortunate end to a fine drive, which his ABB Driver of Progress award reflects.