Smooth circuit and plenty of overtaking await drivers at Marrakesh E-Prix

Felix Rosenqvist leads the field during last season's Marrakesh E-Prix LAT Photographic/Formula E via Getty Images

The Formula E Championship returns on Saturday for the third race of the season and first of 2018 with the only race of its kind on the African continent, the Marrakesh E-Prix.

The Track

As was the case with the inaugural race in Morocco last season, the Marrakesh E-Prix will once again be contested on the International Moulay El Hassan Circuit, a 2.971km counter-clock-wise track which takes the drivers through the sights and sounds of the vibrant city.

The circuit is one of the smoothest on the Formula E calendar, and is somewhat unique in that it has been a regular venue for other racing series, most notably the World Touring Car Championship.

The track starts with a curved section leading up to the medina, before various chicanes and sharp corners lead the drivers back towards the long start-finish straight.

Expect overtaking aplenty here, with two long straights, there will be plenty of opportunities for drivers to dart into the clean air behind a rival leading up to a pass, but that could be a double-edged sword -- use too much of your battery power on forcing overtakes on the straights and you run the risk of not completing the race. Power management is of the utmost importance here.

Circuit specifics

Track name: Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan
Track length: 2.971 kilometers Turns: 12
Top speed: approx. 200 km/h
Fastest/slowest turn: approx. 105/50 km/h
Previous winners: Sebastien Buemi
Lap record, qualifying: Jean-Éric Vergne, 1m 20.993s
Lap record, race: Loïc Duval, 1m 22.600s

What happened last in Marrakesh

Mahindra driver Felix Rosenqvist started from pole and pulled away from the rest of the field over the first couple of laps, and maintained a four-second advantage until his mandatory pit stop, when e.Dams-Renault driver Sébastien Buemi took the lead.

Rosenqvist regained the lead when Buemi stopped on the next lap, but was soon forced to start conserving energy over fears that he won't reach the finish line, having stopped a lap earlier than the rest of the field.

The Mahindra driver hung onto the lead until the 27th lap, before Buemi out-braked him and stuck the pass on the outside of turn 11.

There was no stopping Buemi at that point, and the e.Dams-Renault driver claimed his second successive win and eighth overall at the time. Meanwhile, Rosenqvist continued to race at reduced speed while trying to conserve energy, which allowed Sam Bird to finish second for the Virgin team.

Notable changes

Earlier this week, Formula E confirmed that it had teamed up with ABB, who will serve as title sponsor for the series until 2025, although the partnership can be extended past that date should both parties be satisfied with the advancements in electric mobility.

As such, the series has been officially rebranded as the ABB FIA Formula E Championship.

Meanwhile, a minor rule change has been agreed upon since the double-header opener in Hong Kong in December: the minimum pitstop time rule has been abolished, after organisers felt it didn't serve a purpose anymore.

Previously, the FIA defined a minimum time that had to be spent in the pit lane, from entering to exiting, with several seconds' grace allowed to ensure drivers didn't rush their changeovers.

Over time, as teams improved their efficiency, the limit was lowered, until the FIA deemed the entire rule superfluous.

One driver change has also taken place since Hong Kong, with Jose Maria Lopez returning to Formula E as the replacement for Dragon Racing's Neel Jani for the remainder of the season.

Lopez competed for the DS Virgin Racing team last season while competing in Toyota's LMP1 program in the World Endurance Championship, a drive he is expected to retain.

Jani left Dragon Racing after failing to score a point in either of the two races in Hong Kong, citing unforeseen changes which forced an end to their partnership.

Schedule (all times CAT)

10:00 - First practice session
12:30 - Second practice session
14:00 - Qualifying
14:45 - Super Pole
15:00 - Drivers' autograph session
17:00 - Driver Parade
18:00 - 2018 ABB FIA Formula E Marrakesh E-Prix (33 laps)
19:05 - Podium Ceremony