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Hong Kong Formula E track layout unchanged for season four opener

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The street course used for the Formula E race in Hong Kong will remain unchanged for this December’s opening round of the all-electric series’ fourth season.

Hong Kong hosted Formula E for the very first time last October with a course in the Central district of the city state, with Sebastien Buemi becoming the maiden victor.

Just days after the conclusion of Formula E’s third campaign in Montreal, the series kicked off proceedings for its fourth season with a launch event in Hong Kong.

Despite facing some criticism for the disruption caused for locals in Hong Kong, officials confirmed at the event that the layout would remain unchanged for the double-header race weekend, taking place on December 2-3.

Efforts were made to adapt the circuit and make it longer in order to pose more of a challenge to drivers, but the compact course used in season three will remain unchanged.

“We tried many ways working with all the Hong Kong departments to see how we could lengthen the track. Unfortunately, we couldn’t,” Alan Fang, chief executive of Formula Electric Racing, told the South China Morning Post.

“It’s very difficult to widen the track to four lanes. The circuit will pretty much stay the same but there a few turns and things that the FIA is working on to refine it and make it safer and more competitive.”

The race promoters are set to open up the fan eVillage for free this year, giving more fans the opportunity to sample Formula E, as well as more than doubling the capacity for fans.

“We sold quite a number of tickets over two days. Each day there were about 10,000 fans in the eVillage,” Fang said.

“We had comments that the people going to eVillage didn’t get a view of the track and it costs money [to get in] as well.

“Unfortunately, due to the large number of spectators coming in, it’s difficult to open up all the tracks. It’s not like a circuit track where we actually can leave space between the fence and the audience.

“So we will keep it that way, but we’ll let them enjoy the eVillage for free.”

Hong Kong will act as the curtain-raiser for a 14-race calendar for Formula E’s fourth season, finishing up in Montreal once again in July 2018.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.