Although Sir Lewis Hamilton’s outfit will need much to fall in their favour, two victories so far this season show that X44 Vida Carbon Racing still have that winning habit.
In the first of our five spotlights analysing our 2023 title contenders, we look back on X44 Vida Carbon Racing's performance across Season 3 and how they remain in the championship picture heading to the finale in Chile.
X44 Vida Carbon Racing kicked off its 2023 Extreme E season with a revamped driver line-up, featuring the addition of Jamaican racer Fraser McConnell alongside resident driver and reigning Extreme E Champion, Cristina Gutiérrez. McConnell had debuted in the series at the Season 2 finale for Jenson’s Button’s JBXE after a stint as Championship Driver, and replaced Sebastien Loeb at the team.
With pressure to defend their championship title, Gutiérrez and McConnell started the 2023 Extreme E season in NEOM with undisputed pace. Both drivers posted impressive qualifying times for Round 1 and took a Heat victory but, in the end, it was not to be X44’s weekend.
Technical issues prevented the duo from securing a podium spot across the weekend and, as a result, X44 Vida Carbon Racing left the Desert X Prix with only 23 points overall and a lot of work ahead after finishing fourth and sixth, respectively.
The tables seemed to be turning, though, as the series headed to Scotland for the Hydro X Prix for Rounds 3 and 4. Their strong Qualifying pace was retained in the opening race, ensuring their second Grand Final Appearance of the season.
Gutiérrez crossed the line in second place, but further reward was to follow as a penalty for the on-course winners, Andretti Altawkilat Extreme E, led to a first win of Season 3 for X44 Vida Carbon Racing, and McConnell’s maiden visit to the top step of the podium.
If it seemed that their first win of the campaign would kickstart X44 Vida Carbon Racing’s season, the next four rounds would be beset by issues that left their championship hopes hanging by a thread.
A ninth-place finish in the remaining round of the Hydro X Prix stalled their progress, while back-to-back eighth-place finishes in the series’ first visit to Sardinia in 2023 left them off the pace of the leading pack.
Nevertheless, their respectable showing from the opening three rounds ensured Sir Lewis Hamilton’s outfit remained in the top five of the Extreme E leaderboard.
It initially looked like X44 Vida Carbon Racing’s bad luck would continue when the series returned to Sardinia for Island X Prix II in September.
An eighth-place in Round 7 of the season left them with plenty of work to do, but come Round 8 the sun was shining on Gutiérrez and McConnell once more.
A feisty drive from the Jamaican in the Grand Final, passing Rosberg X Racing’s (RXR) Johan Kristoffersson, set the tone and that fast start would prove decisive. Gutiérrez kept her cool when taking over the reigns after the driver change, heading home RXR’s Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky to take the team’s second win of 2023.
It would take a number of results to fall in their favour at the Antofagasta Minerals Copper X Prix, but having come from behind in last year’s title battle X44 Vida Carbon Racing should not be discounted in the Season 3 finale.
Nevertheless, with a 52-point deficit to leaders ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team it will take a huge swing in fortune to secure back-to-back championships.
The team have proven pedigree in South America, though, and took the win when the series made its debut in the Atacama Desert in 2022 and will be looking to add to their two visits to the podium at the title decider next month.
The crowning of the 2023 champions will be live across ITV and STV in the UK, while outside of the UK please visit here for broadcaster details.