Lewis Hamilton’s team, X44, won their first Extreme E championship title in Uruguay last month.
The British team, who were 17 points behind leaders Rosberg X Racing (RXR) going into the weekend, pulled off an unlikely comeback to take the crown from their rivals.
In the first round of the season in Saudi Arabia, it was RXR who looked the strongest. The German-team continued their performance from the previous season by claiming maximum points for the weekend. X44 had a decent race, finishing third.
The next two rounds in Sardinia seemed to confirm RXR as the title favourites. Despite finishing fifth in the first Sardinian round, they won the second. X44 continued to be slightly off the pace, ending round three fourth in the standings – one point behind Acciona Sainz in third. Chip Ganassi came first in the second round.
But round four in Chile was when X44 started to show themselves as title protagonists. Despite picking up a 10 second penalty in the Semi-Final for knocking over a waypoint marker, they made the final and went on to win it. With RXR finishing sixth overall, the gap between them was seventeen points.
Going into the final round in Uruguay, X44 still had a lot to do to overtake RXR in the standings. If the British team were hoping for a miracle, it didn’t initially seem like they would get one. During Qualifying One, X44 driver Cristina Gutierrez crashed, leaving the team too much work to fix the car in time for Qualifying Two. They were allowed to use the spare car, but had to serve a five second time penalty in the Crazy Race the next day.
In Qualifying Two, Sebastien Loeb used all of his experience to help the team get the points they desperately needed. Sensing X44 were destined for the Crazy Race regardless of where they finished, Loeb dropped back from the pack to give himself space to go quickly through the Continental Traction Challenge. His plan worked as his and Gutierrez’s time through the section combined to put them quickest and gain the five bonus points.
To win the championship, though, X44 still needed to make it to the final and then finish at least third. Making the final wasn’t made any easier when championship leaders RXR also had a poor qualifying. Only one team could progress from the Crazy Race.
With it all on the line, and with the time penalty looming over them, X44 put in a great performance to see themselves through to the final. Even better for them, RXR were disqualified from the Crazy Race when they had too many engineers in the Switch Zone trying to repair damage sustained on the opening lap. RXR would only pick up one point the entire weekend.
The final approached and X44 were still in with a chance of winning the championship. When nobody was able to beat their time in the Continental Traction Challenge, X44 knew third was enough to win.
It was a slow start for the championship hopefuls, as they entered the switch zone in fourth place. They would remain there until the very end when it was revealed that Andretti United, who were only two seconds up the road, would receive a seven second penalty for speeding in the switch zone.
The stars had aligned and X44 had won the title. Meanwhile, ABT Cupra won their first ever race, and McLaren claimed their first podium.
Championship Standings after Round 5:
- X44 86 Points
- RXR 84 Points
- Acciona Sainz 66 Points
- Chip Ganassi 63 Points
- McLaren 52 Points
- ABT Cupra 46 Points
- Andretti United 45 Points
- Xite Energy 33 Points
- JBXE 27 Points
- Veloce 18 Points
Another crazy season of on-track action in Extreme E has come to a close. But, of course, Extreme E is about more than what happens on track.
Off-track Extreme E have been involved in a number of legacy programmes aimed at leaving a positive impact on their race locations.
This year they have supported the protection of the Green and Hawksbill turtles in Saudi Arabia, restored seagrass habitants and areas hit by wildfires in Sardinia, rebuilt habitats for the Loa Water Frog in Chile, and are working with the Organisation for Cetacean Conservation in Uruguay.
Now the teams look ahead to next season, where we will see a new race location (Scotland), and potentially some new driver line-ups too. The 11th March can’t come soon enough.