The Monaco ePrix Roundup: Da Costa reigns in the principality

Formula E returned this weekend, after a two week break to what is considered the glittering jewel in the motorsport crown, the glamorous and iconic streets of Monaco. Although it was familiar territory to the drivers, the venue boasted a new track layout, with the cars able to use the full track for the first time in the electric series’ history. Nyck de Vries headed into the weekend as the championship leader, but for him and Mercedes, it threw up heartbreak for the German manufacturer.

Reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa claimed a dominant pole position in the streets of the principality, beating Envision Virgin’s Robin Frijns by a mere whisker. Mitch Evans started in P3 in the Jaguar, who ran just a few tenths shy of the pole time. Former champion Jean-Eric Vergne and Max Gunther lined up in P4 and P5 respectively, whilst Oliver Rowland rounded out the top six, having his laptime deleted as he left the garage too late, a factor not aided by Sergio Sette Camara’s late crash in group 4 which brought out the red flag and forced Sebastien Buemi and Tom Blomqvist to reattempt their flying laps. Title favourites Mercedes again struggled in the conditions, forced to start near the back of the grid, as was Jaguar’s Sam Bird who started in a lowly P16.

Credit: Formula E


Da Costa started well, getting the jump almost immediately on Frijns and Evans, however, the Dutchman was able to stay with the reigning champion and the pair of them began to pull away from the rest of the field whilst Wehrlein and Sims got tangled together in a bizarre incident at the famous Mirabeau hairpin. Within five minutes, Frijns closed in on Da Costa and snatched the lead away. Da Costa responded by taking attack mode, but it was to no avail. The pair of them headed at the front, as Bird and Di Grassi, both of whom had started down the order began to claw their way into the points-paying positions.

Da Costa and Frijns fought for the lead as the time ticked away, both swapping positions whenever their attack modes were taken, which allowed Evans to come back into play, bringing Gunther and Vergne with him. Vergne looked impressive in the Techeetah, but made a mistake and failed to activate his second attack mode, which allowed Gunther through to fight for the podium. Da Costa used his fanboost to great effect to fly past Frijns for the lead going into the famous tunnel, whilst Evans too began his charge using his second attack mode to sweep past Frijns a lap later. Evans soon disposed of Da Costa for the lead with fifteen minutes left on the clock and everything looked in order, until Rene Rast’s Audi stopped on the climb up towards Casino Square bringing out the safety car and with it, the dreaded energy reduction.

Credit: Formula E


As in Valencia, Monaco showcased a thrilling sprint to the finish line in the dying stages of the race as Da Costa, desperate to shake off the demons of two weeks prior, swept past Evans for the lead for the race out of the tunnel, a move he had used previously to pass Frijns earlier. Evans was pipped to P2 by Frijns, after the energy reduction left him vulnerable and had to settle for the final podium position. The trio were followed by Vergne who just missed out on the podium, Gunther, Rowland and Bird rounded out the top seven. Due to the failure of Mercedes’ driver and championship leader Nyck de Vries to score any points, Robin Frijns inherited the championship lead as we head to Mexico in five weeks time.




 

A Tale of Two Halves: The Diriyah ePrix in Full

Season 7 of Formula E officially kicked off this weekend for the season’s first night race in history. Set in the sprawling desert of Ad Diriyah, the historical old city under carbon-friendly lights, the double header was certainly a tale of two halves with Mercedes driver Nyck de Vries heading to Rome as the championship leader, but by no means are Mercedes running away with their first potential title in the electric series.

De Vries had shown a strong start to the weekend in topping both practice sessions and took a dominant pole in qualifying, by six tenths of a second from his nearest rival, Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein. Rene Rast was able to line up in P3 in his first full season in Formula E, whilst Edo Mortara was able to put the Mercedes powertrain to good use and claim P4 in the Venturi. Alex Lynn and Mitch Evans rounded out the top six, the pair promoted to the final two slots of superpole by a bizarre timing incident in the initial qualifying stages in which Sergio Sette Camara crashed at the end of qualifying. Nick Cassidy, Tom Blomqvist and Nico Muller’s laps were deleted by the stewards and they were not permitted to run again. The qualifying format again mixed up the grid with the reigning champions Techeetah and Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne starting near the back having had to go out in the dreaded group one.

Credit: Formula E

De Vries continued his dominance in the first race, pulling away almost immediately from a struggling Wehrlein at the start, and from there, he never looked back. The Dutchman controlled the race perfectly, dictating the pace even throughout two safety car periods. Behind him, Wehrlein and Rast fought for track position, but the pair never threatened De Vries’ building lead. Despite Mercedes’ dominance, the driver of the day was surely Mortara. Starting fourth, he pulled a stunning manouvre on Evans and Wehrlein – passing them both on the straight by darting past the Jaguar and squeezing himself into the gap left by Wehrlein. The Porsche faded in the latter stages of the race, with Evans able to claim P3 from Wehrlein. On the other side of Jaguar’s garage, Sam Bird’s first outing did not go to plan. The Brit was looking strong, battling for P6 with Alex Lynn when the two collided, bringing out the first safety car of the season. A second safety car followed to recover Max Gunther’s stricken car, allowing the battle for P2 to be ignited in the dying stages of the race, Mortara using his attack mode to sweep into the second podium position. But it was de Vries who claimed his first win for Mercedes, and all eyes were firmly fixed on the second race to see if the German team would continue their winning streak.

Credit: Formula E

If Race 1 was heaven for Mercedes, then Race 2 was almost certainly hell. A horrendous crash in the sole free practise session for race hero Mortara saw the Venturi driver taken to hospital for additional checks and all Mercedes-powered cars were banned from taking part in the qualifying session. It was later discovered that this was the result of a software issue leading to brake failure. With Mercedes and Venturi out, qualifying became a mixed grid. Evans and Rast failed to set a time in the opening group as they didn’t reach the start-finish line in time, leaving them at the back of the pack. But it was another Dutchman – Envision Virgin’s Robin Frijns who stormed the field by half a second, joined in superpole by ex-teammate Sam Bird, the Dragon cars of Nico Muller and Sergio Sette Camara, and the Nio 333 cars of Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Turvey. Ultimately, Frijns took the first pole of his Formula E career ahead of Camara who took an impressive front row in the Dragon and Sam Bird slotting into P3. Turvey and Blomqvist filled P4 and P5, with Muller taking the final spot in the top six after a scrappy run. It was an excellent boost to Dragon and Nio to have both cars inside the top six after their previous struggles over the past few seasons. 

With the likes of Mercedes and Audi starting further back, the second race was expected to provide fireworks and it certainly did. Frijns pulled away at the front, taking Sam Bird with him as Camara suffered an initial poor start – and the pair began their duel in the desert with Frijns leading the way. However, the Dutchman began to struggle with energy consumption and fell behind Bird on lap 21. However,  the ex teammates were not the only ones caught in a duel. The tension that had simmered between current reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa and former two time champion Jean-Eric Vergne was reignited as the pair began their rapid ascent through the pack in the opening stages of the race. However, after their initial harmony when arming themselves with attack mode, the pair came together at turn 23, narrowly avoiding an incident. Vergne never got to challenge Frijns for P2 after the race was red-flagged after a long safety car period with four minutes remaining on the clock.

Credit: Formula E

Mahindra’s Alex Lynn was involved in a massive incident with Mitch Evans in the latter stages in which his car became airbourne at one stage. Lynn was taken to the hospital and thankfully, has now been released. Due to the severity of the incident, the stewards deemed the order the cars were in behind the safety car the valid result – with Bird taking his first win for Jaguar, Frijns collecting his first podium of the season, and Vergne rounding out the top three. However, the Techeetah man’s podium was taken away a few hours after the race when he was served a penalty for not taking his second attack mode during the race. Rast and Blomqvist too were penalised for failing to use their attack modes, whilst Nick Cassidy who had finished an impressive P5 was handed a time penalty for speeding infringements.

Riyadh’s first night race served up some interesting fireworks, and it’s almost certain that the action will continue in Rome in six weeks’ time. 




 



 

Why McLaren entering Formula E is no surprise

image courtesy of Formula E

Today, it was announced that McLaren will branch out of their already extensive motorsport catalogue, with the news that they have secured the option to enter the 2022-2023 Formula E season ahead of the launch of the Gen3 electric car. Although it’s uncertain yet as to what role they will take in participating, whether as a full manufacturer outfit or otherwise, the signs are clear that they intend to make a move into the rapidly growing electric series.

“We’ve been closely observing Formula E for some time and monitoring the series’ progress and future direction,” Chief Executive Officer Zak Brown said in a press release issued by Formula E earlier today. “The opportunity to take an option on an entry, together with the completion of the McLaren Applied supplier contract with the FIA at the end of Gen 2 gives us the necessary time to decide if Formula E is right for McLaren as a future competition platform,”

McLaren is no stranger to Formula E, having been a part of the spec car back in the series’ infancy. The first version of the electric car contained an electric motor, transmission and electronics all created by the Woking-based manufacturer. Despite the fact that there is more creative freedom within Formula E in terms of the powertrain and gearbox in latter seasons, McLaren Applied Technology has supplied all the batteries that power the cars since 2018 – allowing them for the first time to complete the entire race distance without the need for pit stops or car changes. With the contract expiring at the end of the 2021/2022 season, it comes as little surprise that McLaren would choose to branch out into one of the fastest growing series in motorsport, particularly as they have been at the heart of the action since the very beginning.

Their pledge to take an option with Formula E has particular significance, BMW and Audi have chosen to bow out of the series and McLaren may have sensed an opportunity to further their own prospects. With an already well established role within the NASCAR and IndyCar market in the United States, McLaren may have seen Formula E’s potential of bringing electric sustainability and racing to the heart of cities, particularly within places such as Jakarta and Seoul, lucrative markets which McLaren could potentially tap into. Mercedes and Audi have used their participation in Formula E with great effect, using it to promote their electric road cars and McLaren may well do the same – especially as they plan to launch their first hybrid road car in 2021, with the hopes of developing a roadworthy EV by 2025. McLaren as a motorsport constructor are now flourishing under Brown’s rule – a more relaxed approach than that of his predecessor Ron Dennis, and after several years of disappointment, are beginning to reap the benefits. It remains to be seen if McLaren will join Formula E in any capacity but the signs of them wanting to branch out beyond F1 are there.

Formula 1 is broken!

Formula 1 is broken!

It’s not the fault of Hamilton or Mercedes but instead the strict formula that teams have to work to. If there’s to be a constructors championship then we need looser regulations so designers and engineers can have more freedom, different engine types and different aero design. Then, lets go racing!

If not, we might as well have a single construction championship like Formula 2 where the racing is much closer and more exciting, even if admittedly some of that is because young drivers make more mistakes.

Formula 1 should be open. I bet that if it was, you’d have more than just hybrid engines! We’d have the possibility of an electric car racing a combustion engine in the not too distant future. I’m afraid that if huge changes aren’t made then F1 will be left behind. If we had those kind of regulations would Formula E even have got up and running? Look how exciting the races are. Guess what? They are all driving the same car!

I’m not advocating that F1 should be a single constructors championship, but if they are to all build their own designs completely then they need to take the shackles off. Budgets have been cut now going forward which can only be a good thing, but all of the teams working towards a single design framework will lead to almost identical cars again.

2020 Styrian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Somehow, like in football, the richer teams like Ferrari and Mercedes will find a way to attract the best people even on a restricted budget. We need to make room for initiative, give a chance to the next Adrian Newey or Colin Chapman, whose ideas revolutionised the sport. With tight regulations these kinds of ideas are harder to find.

If they really want to save money then Friday free practice should go! Other than a cheap day out to watch Formula 1 cars I can see little need for it.

Here’s my road map for the sport.

You probably have your own ideas on how to fix F1. These are just me spit balling mine. We’d love to hear your ideas.

A. Loosen the restrictions to allow for innovation in both engine and chassis design.

B. Cut costs by cutting out Friday free practice sessions.

C. Teams should be allowed to race three cars but the third driver must be a young driver or a guest with enough super license points. The team would lose the points of the third driver.

D. Tyres should only be one small element of the teams strategy, so maybe another tyre manufacturer should come in.

If the Formula 1 changes that are scheduled now for 2022 – when in all likelihood Lewis Hamilton will be an eight-time world champion – do not make the significant difference that they promise, F1 will not attract enough new young fans to make it viable and, in my opinion, Formula E will become the de-facto pinnacle of motorsports. 

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.

Credit: Formula E

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.

 

 

Formula E history made as Gunther snatches win in Santiago

Last year, Max Günther’s days in Formula E looked numbered. Despite an impressive start with Dragon, the German looked set to lose his seat to ex-F1 driver Felipe Nasr. Indeed, he was forced to sit out three rounds before he was reinstated in Rome, repaying the team’s trust one race later by finishing in an impressive P5. When BMW lost António Félix da Costa to current champions Techeetah, Günther’s ability to fill the gap left by the Portuguese driver was questioned. But Günther silenced the critics with a hard-fought win in Santiago last weekend, taking his first career win and becoming the youngest driver ever to win a race in the series. In doing so, he solidified BMW’s stronghold at the top of the constructor’s championship.

Mitch Evans started the race in the top spot, claiming his and Jaguar’s second pole position, beating out Günther by a mere two tenths of a second. Pascal Wehrlein posted a half decent laptime to start in P3, with Felipe Massa matching the Mahindra’s time to the exact second. The biggest surprise was that of Oliver Turvey who managed to make his first superpole appearance in over a year, slotting his NIO into a respectable P5, whilst Sébastien Buemi failed to hook it up and had to settle for a disappointing P6. Mercedes again looked strong in qualifying with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries both slotting into the top ten whilst Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara used the Mercedes powertrain to great effect and merely missed out in a spot in the superpole shootout. The Swiss driver managed to pull out a superb time after an amazing recovery to avoid Robin Frijns who lost control of his Virgin on the approach to turn one. Other casualties included Jérôme d’Ambrosio who suffered powertrain failure, leaving him to nurse his Mahindra to the finish line whilst Oliver Rowland, who was fastest in practise, made contact with the wall at turn 5, ruling him out of contention.

Credit: Formula E

Evans maintained his lead at the start of the race, as Wehrlein took advantage of Günther’s scrappy start to snatch away P2, whilst further down the field, championship leader Alexander Sims began his climb up the order, by forcing his way past the Porsches of André Lotterer and Neel Jani. However, the BMW picked up damage during the confusion and came to a stop on the track. It was to be a disappointing end to the weekend for Sims, after such a successful start to the opening campaign in Riyadh. Sam Bird also suffered more bad luck as he was spun around after an incident between Oliver Rowland and Daniel Abt into turn 11, dropping out of points contention and down to a lowly 19th place. Rowland was the next casualty as he lost part of his front wing, forcing him into the pits as Mortara passed Turvey and upped the pressure on the leading pair of Günther and Evans.

Santiago soon turned into the battle of the teammates as Felipe Massa joined his teammate at the front battle, and soon sparks were flying as the pair jostled for the top spot. Massa was forced to yield at turn 7 after being forced wide, opening the door for Techeetah pair Da Costa and reigning champion Jean-Éric Vergne to slip through. With just over twenty minutes left on the clock, Günther used his last few remaining seconds of attack mode to snatch the lead away from Evans. Vergne disposed of Wehrlein to secure P3 before disaster struck as the Techeetah’s front left tyre began to rub against the bodywork. Vergne tried to hold off his advancing teammate, but was forced to give up the position and pull into the pits, another unfortunate end to a poor opening campaign.

Credit: Formula E

Da Costa on the other hand, began to chase down the leaders. He managed to pass Evans with just over five minutes remaining, before he hunted down Günther. As the two cars approached turn 10, Da Costa forced the German wide, passing the BMW on the inside with more force than was necessary. As the time ticked down, with both drivers struggling with battery temperature, Günther sensed an opportunity and in the dying moments of the race, retook the lead into turn 9 and ultimately, the victory – his first career win and BMW’s second win of the campaign. He was joined by Da Costa in his first podium appearance for reigning champions Techeetah and poleman Evans, who was forced to settle for P3.

Formula E will return in Mexico City on 15th February.

Ad Diriyah ePrix: The tale of two different races

Season 6 of Formula E kicked off again this weekend and the double header certainly did not disappoint, treating fans to two action-packed races in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s capital. Ultimately, it would be BMW’s Alexander Sims who walked away from the weekend as the championship leader. The British driver snatched his second pole away in the opening race ahead of tough competition from Mercedes duo Nyck de Vries and Stoffel Vandoorne, with a time of 1.14.563, allowing him to claim the crucial three points as de Vries’s final sector fell just short and he fell to P3 as his teammate Vandoorne snatched away a front row position. Venturi’s Mortara solidified Mercedes’ strong start to their debut season as he bagged P4 for the customer team ahead of Sam Bird and Jerome D’Ambrosio who both made costly mistakes on their flying laps.

Sims made a clean getaway from the chasing Mercedes at the start of race one and held the lead, whilst further down the field, Bird became locked in a battle with Mortara and D’Ambrosio as the trio fought to chase down the two Mercedes ahead. Bird finally managed to slip past de Vries with fifteen minutes left on the clock and that set the wheels in motion. As Vandoorne was trying to protect his position from a chasing Bird, he managed to take the lead from Sims who dropped back to P3. Bird continued to pressure Vandoorne who was yet to use his attack mode and took the lead with ten minutes remaining. The Envision Virgin driver was pressured a little later in the dying moments of the race by a safety car brought out by Daniel Abt’s accident but he held firm to scoop his ninth win of his Formula E career, with Lotterer and Vandoorne rounding off the podium and taking Porsche’s and Mercedes’ first podiums respectively as poleman Sims slipped to eighth.

Credit: Courtesy of Formula E

Sims however, was determined to not make the same mistakes again, and took pole position once more in the second qualifying session, taking the record of most consecutive poles – three – along the way. The BMW driver fought off stiff competition from Buemi and di Grassi to take the three points for the second time that weekend as D’Ambrosio tapped the wall on his fast lap and Da Costa struggled in the early stages compromising his lap. It was not the start that DS Techeetah wanted, with reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne having a weekend to forget as he was forced out of race one and into the pits, and was hit with a grid penalty prior to the second race, leaving him at the back of the pack.

Sims again had a strong start holding off previous champions Buemi and di Grassi for the lead as Da Costa sensed the opportunity to snatch P3 away from di Grassi, eager to hand Techeetah their first win of the season. However, as he chased down Buemi, he made contact with the Nissan driver, forcing spinning off the track for which he picked up a drive through penalty. Bird also made gains as he and Evans began a duel that would last until a slight contact sent the Envision Virgin driver into the wall and out of the race, leaving Evans also with a time penalty for causing the collision. Virgin’s luck did not improve when Robin Frijns sent his car into the wall, leaving the championship contenders with no points in the second race, a marked disappointment from the first.

As one of two safety cars was sent out in order for Frijns’ car to be recovered, on the restart, Max Gunther slipped past di Grassi and into P3, a manouvre that cost him dearly as despite claiming P2, the position was stripped away a few hours after the race and the German was served with a time penalty. Da Costa peeled into the pits to serve his penalty as his former team seemed set for a 1-2 finish. Di Grassi passed Vandoorne for the final podium position in the closing stages of the race, but it was to no avail as Sims clinched his first ever Formula E win. After penalties were applied, Di Grassi was promoted to P2 and Vandoorne joining him in P3 for his second podium finish of the season. However, his teammate de Vries was handed a time penalty for overtaking during the safety car, an unfortunate end to a stunning drive up into the points whilst NIO’s Oliver Turvey had his points cruelly snatched away and was disqualified from the race due to energy overconsumption.

Formula E will return in Santiago on January 18th.

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.