Ulrich Fritz: HWA Racelab 'capable of springing a surprise' in Sanya
Ulrich Fritz believes that his HWA Racelab team could spring a surprise result on the Formula E paddock at the Sanya E-Prix, providing that the team does not encounter any reliability problems.
Joining Formula E for Season Five in preparation for the arrival of Mercedes in the 2019/20 campaign, HWA had a positive and encouraging weekend of racing in Hong Kong, with Stoffel Vandoorne securing the team's maiden pole position while Gary Paffett delivered the squad with its first top 10 finish.
While pole and eighth marked a positive result for the Venturi customer squad, the team continues to suffer from poor reliability, with a driveshaft issue for Vandoorne in Hong Kong removing the driver from podium contention while a blend of technical problems and driver error harmed the team's performance in prior events this season.
Should HWA be able to have a clean weekend, free of any problems in terms of reliability, it is in Fritz's belief that the team could deliver a surprise performance in Sanya - a location where Formula E has not raced before:
"We took a big step forward in Hong Kong," he said. "The pole position was fantastic and to score points in the race gave the whole team a big boost.
"It is obviously a shame that Stoffel [Vandoorne] was unable to finish the race, due to a technical issue, but the positives far outweigh that disappointment.
"For Sanya, we are working on improving the reliability of the cars. It would be nice to have a weekend without any technical issues. Should that be the case, I definitely feel we are capable of springing a surprise or two."
For Vandoorne, the layout of the 2.236km-long street circuit was a cause for concern, with a pair of long straights on the track having the potential to make energy management more complicated than on other circuits.
"I have never been to Sanya, but the location in a holiday resort seems to be very nice," said the Belgian.
"This is the first time a Formula E race has been held there, so the circuit is new to everyone. It is a circuit with several long straights, which could complicate energy management.
"We have shown that our qualifying performance is very good, particularly with the pole position in Hong Kong. I hope we can continue that trend, but there can be no guarantee.
"Our focus in Sanya is on improving our race performance and having a trouble-free weekend. Then we'll see what we can achieve."
Hong Kong points scorer Paffett, added: "We enjoyed some success in Hong Kong, which we can back up now. We exceeded all our expectations in qualifying on a wet track.
"Fourth place on the grid for me, pole position for Stoffel. That was fantastic for the whole team. It was the highlight of the season so far. The race was not quite as successful, but I did finish eighth to score my first points. Together with Stoffel's points, they were the first for our team.
"That is something we can really build on. We want to finish in the points again in China. The circuit in Sanya is new to everyone. That improves our chances, as none of the other teams have more experience of the track than we do.
"I hope we continue to make progress and close in on the front of the field."