Super Max! : Guenther wins in Berlin to move him back into championship contention

We’re at the halfway point in the Formula E’s super season finale in Berlin, and although the championship fight seems to have fallen by the wayside with Antonio Da Costa still holding an impressive lead, race three certainly was filled with fireworks. However, as the cars took to the original circuit layout, qualifying was not dominated by Da Costa but his teammate Jean-Eric Vergne. He’s been somewhat of the supporter to Da Costa’s heroics this season but he certainly showed otherwise by taking pole position by half a second from BMW’s Max Guenther who put in an impressive lap to line up second on the grid.

Mahindra seemed to be a team reborn as the Indian-based manufacturer managed to get both cars into Superpole, however, Jerome D’Ambrosio struggled with his overall pace to start P3, whilst Alex Lynn managed a scrappy lap to snatch P5. Stoffel Vandoorne continued his impeccable qualifying form, but his Mercedes struggled with grip in the hot conditions, leaving the Belgian P4 whilst Robin Frijns rounded out the top six, helped by the momentum of almost scoring a podium position in the last race.

Credit: Formula E

Vergne lead from the start, whilst Guenther became embroiled in a battle with the two Mahindras for the podium positions and he was passed by D’Ambrosio into turn one. However, Guenther soon reclaimed second place back from the Mahindra and began to cut into Vergne’s two second buffer.

Vandoorne was another big loser in the opening stages, dropping behind Lynn and Frijns but after the first round of attack mode was deployed, the Mercedes man managed to get back into P4 before his race ended prematurely due to a puncture. Compatriots Luca Di Grassi and Felipe Massa came together in the latter stages of the race, with Di Grassi trying to squeeze the Venturi into the hairpin at turn 1 but the move backfired and the former champion was left out of the points. Massa picked up a late penalty for the incident dropping him too out of the points.

Frijns continued his momentum by making quick work of Lynn before taking P3 from D’Ambrosio before the safety car was brought out for an incident in the mid pack which left Sergio Sette Camara and Neel Jani stranded in the middle of the track and the safety car deployed.

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As racing resumed, Guenther closed the gap on Vergne but when the second round of attack modes were deployed, Vergne managed to stay ahead of the chasing BMW but not for long as Guenther managed to get the Techeetah into turn seven with five minutes remaining.

Vergne lost momentum after the move, and struggling with energy management, he was forced to yield P2 to Frijns who began to chase the race leader Guenther in the dying stages of the race but it was too little, too late.

Guenther picked up his second win of the season to move to second in the championship standings ahead of Frijns and Vergne, whilst Da Costa had to settle for P4 with a stunning drive up through the order to add another glut of points to his own championship tally.

One Hand on the Title? Da Costa impresses with another masterclass in Berlin

Is there any stopping Antonio Felix da Costa on his charge to his first Formula E title? After the first two races in Berlin, it’s beginning to certainly look that way.  There was a sense of deja vu in Formula E’s second race of the season finale as da Costa continued his assault on the title with a stunning performance to put himself squarely in title contention.

The Techeetah man dominated qualifying again, pipping Nissan’s Sebastien Buemi to the pole position by three tenths. It was another masterclass from the Portuguese driver to hand himself another three points and secure his second pole position in two races. A surprise addition to superpole was Alex Lynn. Returning for the third time to the electric series into the seat vacated by Pascal Wehrlein, Lynn scored bragging rights over teammate Jerome D’Ambrosio and again highlighted the exceptional pace of the Mahindra over one lap. De Vries again featured in superpole but was only able to manage P4 after struggling with oversteer on his flying lap. However, it was a better day for Audi power with both Robin Frijns and Lucas di Grassi managing to slide into superpole, but ultimately, both drivers had scrappy laps and had to settle for P5 and P6 respectively.

Credit: Formula E

Da Costa led the race from pole and again looked unbothered by his competitors, with only a slight wobble when he took his first attack mode,  just managing to stay clear of Buemi in P2. He held off the Nissan man to take his third win of the season and extend his advantage on his title rivals, opening up the gap to a massive 41 points. On the other side of the garage, reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne struggled again with Max Gunther and Sam Bird both managing to jump him at the start. After scoring no points in the first round of the first race, he eventually had to settle for P10 after struggling with tyre degradation in the latter stages of the race, allowing both Edo Mortara and ex-teammate Andre Lotterer to get the jump on him.

Robin Frijns had a reversal in fortune as the Envision Virgin Racing driver managed to send it up the inside of Alex Lynn to snatch P4 in the opening stages of the race, before pouncing on de Vries for the final podium position a few laps later. However, his hopes of a podium were dashed by Lucas di Grassi who pounced during the first round of attack mode, taking advantage of Nyck de Vries’ stricken Mercedes who came to a halt, bringing out the full course yellow.

Frijns began to fight back in the dying stages of the race, but it was to no avail and the former champion held out for the final podium position. Vandoorne was also brought into the podium fight as he executed a stunning move, sweeping past both Oliver Rowland and Sam Bird. However, despite using his fanboost, he was not able to get past Frijns and di Grassi to record his first podium finish of the season, leaving Buemi and di Grassi to reap the benefits.

DAC is back! Da Costa reigns supreme for first race of FE finale

Driving a Techeetah, winner of Formula E’s constructors championship last year, Antonio Felix da Costa was always expected to achieve great things at the Chinese-based team. The Portuguese driver has had somewhat of an interesting journey in Formula E, starting out from the doldrums of Aguri, a team that couldn’t keep up with the financial demands of the electric series and folded in the second season. Da Costa settled at Amlin Andretti, but it wasn’t until the fifth season when BMW entered the fray full-time that the team began to really challenge for race wins. It wasn’t a shock last year when Da Costa was announced to be filling the seat alongside double world champion Jean-Eric Vergne. His previous season with BMW i Andretti had been one of his strongest showings and he had claimed victory in the first race at Riyadh before trailing off towards the latter end of the season. Da Costa entered this season, hungry and eager to prove himself – and he has so far. Before the covid-20 pandemic put the season on pause, Da Costa had taken his first win with the team in Marrakesh and had two second place finishes in Santiago and Mexico.

Credit: Formula E

It was critical that he kept the momentum going and pressure on his other title rivals after a lengthy break as Formula E returned to Berlin for a blockbuster six race season finale to be held over the next nine days. The Techeetah man did his job by taking a dominant pole position, beating out his teammate and defending champion Jean-Eric Vergne by a margin of three tenths. Andre Lotterer put in a decent first two sectors to slot into P3, whilst Nissan’s Sebastien Buemi too held promise but fell just short in the final sector, having to settle for P4. Nyck de Vries had to settle for P5 after a costly mistake in sector 2, a disappointing result for the Dutchman who had been the quickest in the final practise session and Jerome D’Ambrosio was finally able to lift his struggling Mahindra into P6.

Da Costa held his position at the start of the race, whilst Lotterer made a poor start and was immediately pressured by Buemi. The Nissan man was forced to yield, but after a few laps, the train of cars behind Lotterer became difficult to ignore as the two Techeetahs of Da Costa and Vergne began to build a gap. However, it was soon wiped away as Robin Frijns was punted into the wall by Max Gunther, bringing out the safety car to erase the time the two Techeetahs had carved out.

Credit: Formula E

As the race restarted, Da Costa got away with no problems as Sam Bird managed to pounce on D’Ambrosio for P6 and began to pressurise fifth placed de Vries as Lotterer began to mount a challenge on his ex-teammate Vergne for P2. His hard work was undone as he missed the attack mode marker and fell victim to de Vries, before snatching the final podium position back a few laps later by pressurising the Dutchman into a mistake. Massa was the second casualty of the race, the Brazilian locked up on the approach to turn one, stranding for Venturi at the corner and bringing out a full course yellow as the time ticked down. The racing soon got underway once again and Da Costa just held onto the lead when deploying his final attack mode to stay ahead of teammate Vergne, as Lotterer and Bird battled for the final podium position, it was a fight that would continue into the latter stages. Vergne soon began to drop down the order in the final stages of the race, presumably struggling with energy consumption issues before any hope of points was wiped out as Audi’s Lucas di Grassi hit him on the penultimate lap, sending the reigning champion back to the garage to lick his wounds.

Da Costa cemented his status as championship leader and looked relatively unbothered for the majority of the race, despite a nervy last half lap where he looked in danger of running out of energy, claiming his second win of the season, ahead of Andre Lotterer and Sam Bird who finally got his championship hopes back on track. However, despite this seemingly easy win, Berlin threw some sparks out in the form of the building pressure between Da Costa and teammate Vergne, the Frenchman not impressed by what he felt was overconsumption of energy needed to make sure he kept up with his teammate. Only time will tell in the next nine days as Formula E will return tomorrow.

 

 

Legendary Races Week: 2014 Beijing ePrix 2014

The proposal for a city-based electric car championship was initially conceived by Jean Todt, and presented before politicians Alejandro Agag, the eventual CEO of the sport, and Antonio Tajani in Paris on the 3rd March 2011. However, it would be over another three years before the series would actually come into fruition. The first Formula E race was held on 13th September 2014 in Beijing, the capital city of China. Twenty cars, all of the same specification lined up on the grid, all run by different teams, with some household names such as Renault and Audi amongst the mix. Many of the drivers involved too were familiar to people in motorsport – with the likes of Sebastien Buemi, Jaimi Alguersuari and Nick Heidfeld all participating in the inaugural race.

Nico Prost of Renault e.dams snatched pole position, ahead of the Audi Sport Abt cars of Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt, taking three valuable points for the coveted position. It was a sign of things to come – of the dominance that Renault would hold over the championship for the next three years, and the fierce rivalry between themselves and the Audi Sport Abt team. Prost held off pressure from the two chasing Abt cars at the start to keep hold of his lead, whilst Nick Heidfeld managed to get an excellent start off the line, picking off Franck Montagny and Karun Chandhok to place himself directly behind the leading trio. Contact on the opening lap lead to a broken suspension for Bruno Senna who found himself out of contention whilst Jarno Trulli was forced to stop after battery issues. The technical problems faced by the drivers and their teams were to be expected in a newly-fangled championship in which much of the technology had not been subjected to true racing conditions.

Credit: LAT/Formula E

Senna’s stricken car brought out the safety car on the second lap, where it remained for three laps before racing resumed. Montagny was immediately aggressive on the restart, forcing his way through on Alguersuari in the exit of turn 19 for P6. The Spaniard also fell victim to teammate Sam Bird, who monopolised on the opportunity to snatch away P7. Montagny continued to push as he disposed of Chandhok in the final corner on lap 10 before moving onto Heidfeld as the race approached half distance. However, Heidfeld held firm as the two cars entered the pitlane to jump into their second cars. The car-swap pitstop is another indicator of how far the battery technology Formula E has come within the last few years, with the Gen 2 cars lasting a maximum of 45 minutes without the need for a second car.

As the pitstops were completed, Prost continued to lead as Heidfeld got the jump on the two Audi Abt cars ahead of him slotting himself into P2, with Montagny beating Abt into P4. Heidfeld began to be pressured by Di Grassi almost immediately, allowing Prost to pull a gap of around 3.5 seconds, extending to just under 4 seconds on lap 16. However, within the next three laps, Heidfeld began to gain vital ground on the race leader, slashing Prost’s advantage to just under a second. The German continued to apply pressure on Prost until the final lap. Heidfeld swung to the right as they approached the final corner at turn 20, only for Prost to turn into the Venturi at the last moment, sending Heidfeld careering off the track and into the barriers. Prost sheepishly pulled over, allowing di Grassi to take the lead of the race and win the first ever Formula E race. It was almost apt in a way – di Grassi was sought out by Agag to become the official test driver for the first Formula E car and was heavily involved in aspects of its development. He was joined on the podium by Montagny and  Bird after Abt was penalised for exceeding the maximum amount of permitted energy, demoting him from the final podium position.

Credit: LAT/Formula E

However, as Heidfeld crawled out from underneath his stricken car, he probably never thought that he could have been the one to make history, his mind no doubt was clouded with anger towards Prost for ending his race. Looking back on the race now, and the strong position that Formula E finds itself in, with arguably the largest number of manufacturers in any single-seater motorsport series and the highest pedigree of drivers now pushing for careers within the championship, it showcases how far the series has come in a few short years – both in terms of technical development and public opinion.

Formula E is becoming a well-known brand, a far cry from the days where it was written off as a graveyard series for ex-F1 drivers – it now flourishes, bringing the concept of sustainable energy into the heart of cities with competition for seats in the series fierce and manufacturing giants such as Mercedes, Porsche and Audi actively creating programmes to race in the series. But every legend has to start somewhere – and for Formula E, it was in Beijing, where twenty cars lined up on the grid, not knowing that in a few short years, they would help to forge the beginnings of a new championship that grows from strength to strength. It is for this reason, that the Beijing ePrix will be remembered as a legendary race and for sparking the beginning of a new, exciting motorsport series that would continue to divide opinion.