Drivers discuss challenging conditions ahead of Diriyah E-Prix double-header

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Drivers discuss challenging conditions ahead of Diriyah E-Prix double-header

The dirt and dust made for a tough first Free Practice for the Formula E grid.

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Driving around the fast and furious Diriyah street circuit is challenging at the best of times, but sandy conditions made things even more tricky for the Formula E grid in Free Practice 1. Nissan’s Oliver Rowland topped the timesheets in the delayed session, but drivers were quick to reference the lack of grip when it came to their lap times. 

FULL FP1 REPORT: Nissan and Rowland go quickest in Diriyah desert

Rowland set a time of 1m15.400s, but laps were five seconds off what the GEN3 cars managed here last year. Luckily, this track is rapid for track evolution, so it’s expected for times to only improve across the Friday and Saturday race day! 

“Let’s see, it’s only FP1,” Rowland said on being quickest after the Thursday evening session. “I always enjoy driving here and it was a bit of a challenge as the track is so far off in the beginning. We managed to make a few changes during the red flag and were pretty happy with the car, still the track has a long way to go so it’s quite irrelevant for tomorrow right now.”

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Envision Racing’s Sebastien Buemi brought out the red flags just over halfway through the session as his car showed an urgent stop message displaying an issue. The current Teams’ Champions will have overnight and Friday morning to make sure everything is back to normal ahead of FP2 at 13:00 local time in Saudi Arabia. 

“Grip is so slow, it's incredible,” TAG Heuer Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein added after practice. “It was driving like it was in the wet! Usually we analyse the data and we change the car according to the balance. But now we are so far off in terms of grip and I am sure that tomorrow in FP2 it will change again, so I am not sure we will actually change a lot tonight.”

ONES TO WATCH: Will we see another Diriyah double?

Wehrlein won both races here last season, and after his strong performance in Mexico with the Julius Baer Pole Position and then victory, he is one to watch. 

“First couple of laps it was very sandy, no grip at all,” Buemi’s teammate Robin Frijns later added when asked about the track conditions. “It is easy to look from the outside and say that we’re slow, but it is difficult to stay out of the wall in the first place. But the track is gripping up all the time and you clearly see there is one line going, so if you put one wheel off that line you’re off. That is what makes it tricky here but that is also why I like it!”