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Hyderabad E-Prix review!



 



The 2023 Formula E Greenko Hyderabad E-Prix was held on 10-11 February of 2023, in the capital city of the Indian state of Telangana. This marked the return of a major FIA sanctioned motorsports event to India after a gap of nearly a decade, since the 2013 Formula One Indian Grand Prix, which was held at the Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida.



I had the privilege of attending the E-Prix, which was my first time attending any major motorsports event, so it being Formula E, where I even had the opportunity to support the homecoming team, Mahindra Racing, was quite a big deal for me.


Formula E races are not at all like your typical motorsports events. For starters, Formula E EXCLUSIVELY hosts its races on street circuits — not dedicated tracks — which is a two birds, one stone situation for the series. For one the overall cost of hosting a race on a street circuit is much less, compared to hosting, and in some cases, including the construction of dedicated race tracks, which works towards Formula E’s sustainable racing goals. Secondly, it also achieves for Formula E a massive marketing campaign, as the blocking of roads, and re-routing of traffic, while frustrating for the public, provides massive amounts of publicity to the series, which inevitably markets Formula E incredibly quickly.


The racing itself in Formula E has started to make a name for itself, by being unpredictable and incredibly thrilling at every single lap, and at every single turn. It truly is spectacular to witness a high-level racing series with this level of close racing, which truly provides drivers the opportunity to display their incredible, sheer driving talent. Although the early days of Formula E were subject to very large amounts of ridicule, owing mainly to having mostly either unknown drivers, or drivers in the very late stages of their careers, such as Karun Chandhok, and Felipe Massa to name a few. The cars too were not exactly too impressive, but over time, evolution of the car into its Gen2 form, and now the newly unveiled Gen3 car, have gradually increased the level of competitiveness of the Formula E cars, and they have become an absolute joy to see be chucked around narrow street circuits, and being pushed to their absolute limits.


Hyderabad would come to serve as a perfect playing-ground for the new Gen3 Formula E cars. The newly-unveiled Hyderabad Street Circuit, built around the famous Hussain Sagar Lake, and passing through NTR gardens, provided for a spectacular show of racing at its best. The circuit was also praised by the various teams and drivers for its fun, fast, and technical layout.

Hyderabad would come to serve as a perfect playing-ground for the new Gen3 Formula E cars. The newly-unveiled Hyderabad Street Circuit, built around the famous Hussain Sagar Lake, and passing through NTR gardens, provided for a spectacular show of racing at its best. The circuit was also praised by the various teams and drivers for its fun, fast, and technical layout.


Arriving at the Track

I arrived in Hyderabad in the early hours of race day on the 11th, and made myself at home in my area of accommodation. I did miss the first two practice sessions, but made it in time for qualifying and the main race. The weather was expectedly hot and dry, but thankfully we wouldn’t have to travel far, while being exposed to the elements. An electric, shuttle-bus was present my designated drop-off point near Jal Vihar (Gate-2), which took us to the Allianz Fan Village near the track, about 3.6 km away. The Fan Village was filled with a lot of fun activities and showcases, including those from Mahindra and Porsche. There were sim-racing seats at each showcase and they were quite fun to operate. I had the opportunity to buy some Mahindra Racing merchandise to support the team, which came to total of ₹6400. Following this I had to walk a little bit further to where I finally arrived at the track and I took my seat at my designated grandstand.


While arrival at the track wasn’t really much of an issue, personally it was a bit of an issue for me as i had to nearly circle the entire lake to find Gate 2. The shuttle bus facility, while operational during the morning pick-up failed to be so immediately after the race (around 5:00 PM), which forced us to walk nearly 3.6 km to the original drop-off point near Jal Vihar, as personal vehicles were not allowed beyond that point. Small, but significant management lapses such as this would have nearly ruined the entire experience for me, had the race not been so brilliant.


Rating

4 / 10


The Grandstands

The E-Prix offered a total of 6 accommodation options:

  • Grandstands (₹1,000)

  • Charged Grandstands (₹3,500-₹4,500)

  • Premium Grandstands (₹6,500-₹7,000)

  • Ace Grandstands (₹10,000-₹10,500)

  • Greenko Lounge (₹65,000)

  • Ace Lounge (₹1,20,000)

I had gone for the ₹10,000 Ace Grandstands, which in my opinion provided the best and closest viewing experience for the fans. The grandstands were extremely well made, however the lack of a true shade in the boiling Hyderabad sun stuck out like a sore thumb. Jokingly enough, the only cool air I felt during the weekend, was the wind generated from the passing cars. The walk-ways in the grandstands also left a lot to be desired as there was just barely enough space for people to walk through, which only became narrower and narrower as the grandstands began to fill up.


Another annoyance, specifically with my grandstand was the positioning of the titantron showcasing the live telecast of the race. It was very obtusely oriented which made it painful to look at to keep a tab of the race, while cars were not passing by us. The positioning of the grandstands, however, provided for some spectacular views of the race and was filled with high-energy divebombs, and lockups, which were all quite enthralling.


Overall, the seating area, while positioned perfectly, definitely need a revamp, and a more careful thought into their design.


Rating

6 / 10


The Amenities

Provided to the fans were food and beverage stalls, where people could purchase coupons to order their desired meals. However, as flawed as the concept was, the implementation of the same turned out to be a whole lot worse, and once again, the large-scale mismanagement at the E-Prix was on full display.


Firstly, a customer would have to buy an NFC-powered card, which would then have to be topped up with cash in order to make any purchases (an overhead of ₹25 was charged for the card itself). Then, they would have to move to the adjacent counter, which had a menu of all the available food items, which had been segmented based on the stalls which provided the same. Here is where it gets bad, and honestly, quite hilariously bad. Rather than keep a register at each stall, ALL the registers for each stall were placed at the exact same counter, and to make matters worse, were all being managed by just two, or at times, just one person. Added to this, the cards were extremely unreliable, and would sometimes never register a payment no matter how many times they tried. Standing in the blistering sun, tensions were bound to flare. I, myself had to wait nearly 20 minutes just for getting a simple ice-cream.


The food was painfully overpriced as well — ₹235 for a simple paneer roll, and ₹90 for a cup of coke. The quality wasn’t in any way mind-blowing either. Frustrating situations like these ruin great events, especially for large families who may have travelled a very long way to come and attend the Grand Prix in the first place. The utter lack of communication and effective management of the food stall, gets a massive, massive NO from me. For the prices that were paid for such a massive, and not to mention, international event, the organisers HAVE to do better next time around.


Rating

2 / 10


The Race

While petty issues threatened to ruin the experience of the E-Prix for me, any chagrin I felt was soon annulled once the racing came underway. It was my first time witnessing the Gen3 Formula E cars whizzing around, as it was for many, if not all the ones around me. The speed of the cars was frankly great, and the sound, while obviously incomparable to the visceral ICEs of F1, were a welcome change to the ears, and were nice to listen to. Formula E lived up to its reputation for close and brilliant racing. The drivers, while praising the track itself, also voiced concerns regarding certain aspects of its layout, specifically the Turn-1 chicane, which was often a site of track limit violations, and consequent lap-time deletions, which led to a lot of confusion during qualifying.


Even with these few shortcomings, the race itself was thrilling. Qualifying unfortunately saw both the Mahindras not making it to the duels in their home race. During the duels, BOTH René Rast, as well as Edoardo Mortara had their laptimes deleted in their duel against each other, resulting in neither driver qualifying for the next round of duels. Jean-Eric Vergne in the end simply set a standalone lap in his semi-finals and directly qualified for the finals, against Jaguar driver, Mitch Evans, with the latter winning the Julius Bär Pole Position.


However the race was not to be for the Jaguar team, as they went from all to nothing, with Sam Bird hitting teammate, Evans in the rear right, causing Evans to DNF, and ruining Sam Bird’s, and effectively Jaguar’s race. Both McLarens too had a nightmare run, with BOTH Jake Hughes, and René Rast not finishing the race due to on-track incidents. Once again, the Porsche works team and the Porsche-powered, Avalanche Andretti team, barring Jake Dennis, following an unfortunate incident with Rast, came out as the front runners, with a wonderful P4 for the, now, championship leader, Pascal Wehrlein, and a third place podium for teammate António Félix da Costa but unfortunately they were beaten to the top step of the podium by a stellar drive from DS Penske’s Jean-Eric Vergne. It was a lost opportunity for the Envision Racing team as Nick Cassidy failed to capitalise on a much higher charge level to make the move on a near-drained Vergne, while a stop-go penalty, converted into a 30-second time penalty at the end of the race for Sebastian Buemi, effectively ruined the race for the Swiss driver, who was at one point leading the E-Prix.


It was the return of the NIO333 Team to points as Sérgio Sette-Câmara scored a brilliant P5. After having a forgettable time under the Gen2 regulations, Gen3 seems to have given the Chinese team a new lease on life, as they finally find themselves with competitive machinery, and brilliant qualifying performances from the likes of Dan Ticktum, although converting it into a good points haul is yet to be seen.


Both Mahindras and the Mahindra-powered ABT Cupras suffered from massive brake issues, which seems to be recurring theme as the season progresses. It is crucial for Mahindra to sort out these issues, if they want to remain competitive, especially after their home race yielded points for Oliver Rowland, after almost sheer luck, due to the various DNFs at the front. The same could not be said for his teammate, Lucas Di Grassi however, who had another forgettable weekend after a disappointing two rounds at Diriyah. Another stroke of luck allowed ABT Cupra driver Nico Müller to score a point by finishing P11.


However, reliance on luck doesn’t get points, podiums, wins, and championships. Being the oldest team on the grid, It is only important that Mahindra display their experience in the sport by being more consistent with performance, as well as their development strategy.

Overall, an absolutely fantastic race to witness live, and is definitely a strong reason for its return to India next year, and my return to witness it again.


Rating

9 / 10


Conclusions

In my opinion, the 2023 Greenko Hyderabad E-Prix, was, for a first-time E-Prix, a grand success. The return of FIA sanctioned championship races has been a long time coming. With India’s growing push towards sustainability, it was only obvious that Formula E would be the top contender to mark the international racing’s comeback. The racing provided by the track was superb, and the fan village provided for a number of fun activities including sim-racing. However, this should not take away from the fact that there were many, and I mean MANY, things left to be desired at the end. The many management and administrative lapses cannot be ignored. Complaints were raised not just by the fans but even by the drivers and teams, which is not acceptable by any means. While the circuit layout has more than convinced teams to return to the city, it is equally the responsibility of the organisers to ensure that the experience of a great track and great E-Prix does not get ruined by partially or completely avoidable circumstances. Be it the letting of commuter traffic onto the circuit, to the wild animals found around the track, and lack of proper planning and communication between ticket vendors, and organisers, the 2023 E-Prix must serve as a wake-up call, in order to ensure an all-rounded enjoyable experience.


Final Rating

7 / 10


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