Rosberg X Racing win first round of Extreme E

Rosberg X Racing winner extreme e Johan Kristoffersson Molly Taylor

Rosberg X Racing team won the first round of the new Extreme E off-road series while Lewis Hamilton’s X44 outfit hit problems and finished third in a cloud of dust in the Saudi desert.

Retired 2016 Formula 1 champion Rosberg was in Al Ul to celebrate the Desert X Prix victory on Sunday with triple rallycross champion Johan Kristoffersson from Sweden and rally driver Molly Taylor from Australia in Rosnerg X Racing colours.

Andretti United, run by Michael Andretti and McLaren F1 boss Zak Brown, were second in the three-car final with Swede Timmy Hansen and Britain’s Catie Munnings 23.73 seconds off the pace.

Hamilton’s team of nine times WRC champion Sebastien Loeb from France and Span’s Cristina Gutierrez had been fastest in Saturday’s qualifying but suffered steering problems.

The seven-time F1 world champion, who did not attend, sent a good luck message on Instagram before the race expressing his pride in what they had done so far.

Jenson Button, Britain’s 2009 Formula 1 champion, finished sixth after his JBXE team failed to make the final while triple Dakar winner and Spain’s ralll legend Carlos Sainz was fourth.

Time trials had started on Saturday, around a sandy and rock-strewn track that also featured a plunging drop amid the dunes.

Kristoffersson made the best start in the final, leaving the others trailing in the dust, before Taylor put in a solid run after the handover to seal the win.

The pair had been fastest also in the semi-final when the identical ODYSSEY 21 cars went wheel to wheel for the first time.

Sunday saw the first multi-car collision, with Chip Ganassi’s Kyle Leduc and ABT Cupra driver Claudia Huertgen coming together.

Extreme E, using electric-powered, purpose-built buggies, aims to highlight climate change and promote sustainability by racing in remote parts of the world affected by global warming or suffering environmental damage.

There are five rounds ranging from locations in the Arctic to the Amazon and every team must field a male and female driver.

The next race is in Senegal in May. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)