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Formula E Diriyah ePrix I

Van der Linde pleased by Diriyah FE despite "uphill battle" debut

Kelvin van der Linde was buoyed by his Diriyah E-Prix qualifying performance after minimal running, although felt his first Formula E race was an "uphill battle".

Kelvin van der Linde, ABT CUPRA Formula E Team, M9Electro

The South African was named as Robin Frijns' replacement at the Abt team for the foreseeable future while the Dutchman recovers from his hand and wrist fractures sustained in a collision with Norman Nato in Mexico.

Although DTM race winner van der Linde spent time in the simulator preparing for his first race in Formula E, he only had two practice sessions in the real car ahead of qualifying for the opener in Saudi Arabia's double-header.

Explaining his race, van der Linde said that he had not been able to experience any race simulations during practice as it was spent getting up to speed in the Mahindra-powered car, and that it was a tough challenge to face.

"It was tough; it was a bit of an uphill battle," van der Linde told Motorsport.com.

"We didn't really have the chance to try any of the race simulations, purely because of the limited track time. We decided to focus on learning how the car works and just trying to understand how to drive it.

"First of all, we only had let's say an hour in the car before qualifying. So it was a tough one. And then to be expected in the race, the first 10 laps, I was just kind of finding my feet.

"The energy profile was not really optimised from our side in terms of team and and manufacturer side.

"All the Mahindra cars look like they struggled in the race today, but more than in qualifying. So we definitely have a lot of work to do as a team to come back and see if it can be a bit better.

"And also my side, obviously I know what I need to improve, especially in qualifying and we can have a better crack [on Saturday]."

Kelvin van der Linde, ABT CUPRA Formula E Team

Kelvin van der Linde, ABT CUPRA Formula E Team

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

Van der Linde added that he was under no illusions that it was going to be a baptism of fire, but the combination of limited track time and the parameters of a street circuit meant that he "couldn't explore the limits" compared to a permanent track.

He was pleased with his qualifying performance, however, underlining that he was just 1.1s away from Sam Bird - who went through to the duels semifinals - in the group stage.

"I knew it would be tough, but the circumstances make it even tougher than it probably should have been," he explained.

"Like I said, I've been in the actual car for one hour of total track time before qualifying. In relative terms, that's nothing.

"In terms of learning a car on a street circuit, you can't really explore the limits as you would on a normal grand prix circuit. The learning curve is a lot slower than it traditionally is.

"That said, being one second off [the pace] in the group phases against Sam, who was very competitive also in the duels, is something I'm actually quite proud of given the limits of running time.

"[On Saturday] I think there's clear amounts of time we can find in qualifying, so I'm pretty sure we can get a lot closer."

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