Noor Amylia Hilda tells us about her weekend at the 2017-2018 Formula E season-opener on the streets of Hong Kong.
This was my second time attending the Hong Kong ePrix as a journalist and it never fails to disappoint. As the venue of the first race of the Formula E season for the second year running, there’s always more buzz surrounding the paddock than usual as everyone anticipates the new season; will we see the same rivalries unfold or will fresh new faces grace the podium? For me, it was also nice to see some familiar faces again after the long off-season break. This year, the 2017 Hong Kong ePrix features a double-header which means there’s loads more action packed into one weekend, meaning double the drama for the fans and also double the work for us journos!
It only takes about four hours flight from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong and I managed to get quite affordable tickets from Air Asia even though I only booked them about three weeks in advance. Getting around in Hong Kong is quite easy. Taxis and Ubers are quite affordable and if you’re planning on visiting Kowloon on the northern part of Hong Kong, the ferry is a very convenient and cheap mode of transport to get to and from the main island. This time, I stayed at The Dorsett in Wanchai as it’s only a 15-minute drive to the circuit in the middle of central Hong Kong. The hotel also offers a free hotel shuttle for guests which drops you off at the Central Station, just a five-minute walk to the circuit.
My Formula E activities began at the track on Friday from 9am. The atmosphere at the Hong Kong ePrix is unlike any other in the championship. It’s the only Asian race on the calendar this season and brings with it a unique atmosphere. This is mainly due to the location of the track in the middle of the buzzing city center, surrounded by a skyline of skyscrapers and dizzying tower blocks, with picturesque views of the harbor right next to the track.
Friday is known as the “media day” in the Formula E world because it is the only time we get to do one-on-one interviews before the race weekend starts. You can also see VIPs and guided tours of the pit lane, so the paddock is usually quite crowded. I managed to get an appointment with Roborace, the autonomous racing series, who gave me a first-hand look at the workings of their Devbot prototype. This is why I love being able to work on-site. I was also quite excited to find out that they installed simulators inside the media center. Let’s just say that I might have spent a bit too much time on them!
Rosberg + Round 1
It was a very early start, and a very busy day, in the paddock on Saturday. The first on-track action began at 7am and the media center was busy well before this. Fans also started to fill the grandstands as early as 10am ready for qualifying and the first round of the race at 4pm. Formula One World Champion Nico Rosberg visited and the big question on everyone’s lips was whether he will get involved with the all-electric championship now that he’s retired from Formula One. He still hasn’t ruled out the possibility.
Another big name in the paddock was Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Audi’s Head of Sport, in town to support the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team on his final race weekend before retiring after a long and illustrious career. For the record, Sam Bird won the action-packed first race for DS Virgin Racing, despite having to serve a drive-through penalty!
For the fans
The activities at the eVillage and elsewhere around the track in Hong Kong made for a great day out with the family, with everything from simulators and displays to merchandise booths and hawker stalls selling exotic local food. The most popular events for fans were the driver’s autograph session as well as the eRace where fans compete against the Formula E drivers. As always with Formula E, the fan access was spectacular! The Hong Kong ePrix circuit is one of the more challenging on the calendar thanks to the very tight hairpin at turn 1. If you are considering visiting the race in future, I recommend getting grandstand seats with a view of Turn 1; you are bound to see some action unfold there during the race and qualifying.
Round 2 controversy
There are plenty of milestone moments happening during the ePrix and the good thing about a double-header weekend is, if you can’t get enough of the action on Saturday, there’s a whole new day of racing on Sunday!
The crowds were even livelier on Sunday than during the first round. Maybe they saw all the action on Saturday and decided to come along? It was a late night in the media center on Sunday as we awaited the final results of scrutineering on the provisional race winners, the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team. It was heartbreaking for the German team when the news broke that they were disqualified due to a bar code error on the cars. What are the chances of that? Anyway, it’s all part of racing and in one month, they’ll do it all over again for the next round in Marrakech, Morocco.
After all the hard work, we rewarded ourselves with a visit to the buzzing nightlife of Lan Kwai Fong with its bars, pubs and clubs. I don’t have any pictures of that night; it must have been fun!