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.

What We Learned From Formula E Testing

image courtesy of Sergio Sette Formula e

Earlier this week saw the return of Formula E, as the teams took to the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia to test their cars ahead of the 2020/21 Season. BMWi Andretti’s Maximilian Guenther was the quickest of all over one lap, but what can we actually learn from Formula E testing? Let’s find out!

Changes to Testing

Last year, the Ricardo Tormo circuit implemented a tight chicane into the first corner, in order to try and replicate some of the characteristics of Formula E’s famous (or infamous) street circuits. This year, though, that was removed in an attempt to minimise the risk of the cars sustaining damage. That wasn’t the only change either. Due to the somewhat creative interpretations of where the track limit was last year, it was decided that this year they would monitor it using sensors. The increased awareness of track limits also helped with the batteries’ operating temperatures. Unfortunately, because of all the changes to the track, comparing times with last year would not give an accurate representation of how the technology has developed since then.

Rookies Impressed:

Every year the quality of the Formula E Grid seems to get better and better and this year is no different. The new faces this year, Venturi’s Norman Nato, Andretti’s Jake Dennis, and Virgin’s Nick Cassidy, sprinted out of the starting blocks, posting competitive times almost immediately. By the end of testing, their quickest laps were all within 4 tenths of the overall fastest, Max Guenther, with Cassidy and Nato both quicker than their more experienced teammates.

NIO Resurgence:

It’s fair to say NIO have struggled to be competitive in recent years, often being the slowest car on the grid. However, that seems to have changed this year, as an all-new powertrain helped Oliver Turvey finish testing 10th quickest. NIO also completed the most laps of anyone with a total 535 across all three days; valuable data to help get to grips with the new system. As spectators, we can but hope that the clear improvement in one-lap pace, also means an improvement to their long run pace.

As Tight As Ever:

One of the best things about Formula E is the closeness of the racing, and this year it’s set to be the closest field ever. At the end of testing, all the drivers were covered by a little over half a second. The young Max Guenther lead the pack, but Audi’s Lucas Di Grassi brought up the rear just a mere 0.578 seconds behind. Audi themselves seemed to be a tad behind the others, perhaps as a result of their decision to pull out of the all electric series after this season, so that they can focus on Le Mans. With a field covered by so little, however, this season is going to be as close as ever. Any championship hopefuls will need to be incredibly consistent.

So now that testing has concluded, we have learned many things about what to expect in this coming season. NIO look like they can be competitive again, and anybody can win any race. We look destined to witness one of the best seasons of Formula E to date: you won’t want to miss it when it kicks off in Santiago on January 16th.

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. 

Formula E champion Da Costa may make Portimao F1 debut

Back in 2014, former Audi WEC driver and three-time Le Mans winner André Lotterer made a one-off F1 appearance with the struggling Caterham team for the Belgian Grand Prix. After not making it very far into the race, Lotterer turned down an offer to race in the Italian Grand Prix and has since made his home in Formula E with Porsche.

That was the last time a driver made a surprise appearance in a one-time race deal. Many others have tried, including rally legend Sébastien Loeb who attempted to acquire a super licence to race for Toro Rosso in the 2009 F1 season finale at Abu Dhabi, but that didn’t happen. But now we have the prospect of another high profile one-off race cameo.

In the midst of the frantic motorsport rescheduling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,  a country that has benefitted handsomely from this is Portugal. Both F1 and MotoGP haven’t had an event there since 1996 and 2012 respectively, both at the Estoril circuit.

But now their other prominent motor racing venue Algarve will host the two top level championships, with F1 going there on October 25th and MotoGP hosting their season finale there on November 22nd.

In MotoGP, Portugal already has a hero. In the most recent MotoGP race, Miguel Oliveira won in a stunning last lap, last corner move at the Red Bull Ring to win on his Tech 3 KTM. However in F1, Portugal hasn’t had a representative driver since Tiago Monteiro and no realistic prospects in the lower formulae. However with the news of F1 returning to Portugal, there is a very strong likelihood that we could see a home driver at Algarve.

Courtesy of FIA Formula E Media

António Félix da Costa is no stranger to the F1 paddock. Having previously come close to a Toro Rosso seat for 2014 after Daniel Ricciardo’s call-up to Red Bull, he ultimately lost out to reigning GP3 champion Daniil Kvyat.

Da Costa had looked like the more likely candidate. He was expected to win the 2013 Formula Renault 3.5 championship, but finished third to future F1 drivers Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne, and despite Formula Renault 3.5 being closer to F1 performance than GP3, it was Kvyat who got the call-up. Undeterred, Da Costa became a BMW factory driver and has competed in the likes of DTM, the World Endurance Championship and Formula E.

Da Costa won a few races in DTM and even took a second victory at Macau in 2016. But it was Formula E where he made his name, having competed since the series’ inception back in 2014 and won races for Team Aguri, BMW i Andretti and DS Techeetah. It was this season though that Da Costa proved his potential, finally claiming that long awaited first Formula E championship.

Under the management of Monteiro, Da Costa is apparently in high demand after his Formula E title win. He’s been approached by teams from WEC, IndyCar and also F1. Two F1 teams according to Monteiro have approached him about a drive for Da Costa, although it is unknown as to whether that will be for an FP1 appearance or maybe even a race drive in front of his home crowd.

Courtesy of FIA Formula E media

Having had the majority of F1 races behind closed doors this year, the Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello will mark the return of fans on a reduced scale and Portugal is allowing spectators too. FOM are said to be very keen to see Da Costa compete which will guarantee filling the spectator stands (again on a smaller scale).

Which F1 team could it be? You would think having had previous connections with Red Bull, perhaps Alpha Tauri could be a realistic option. It would be very poetic if he ends up taking the place of Kvyat, the same driver who leapfrogged him to the F1 drive in the first place.

It would be very interesting to see how Da Costa will perform if this comes to fruition. I remember back when he lost the seat believing that it was the wrong decision, and that Da Costa had been robbed. Nevertheless, the Formula E champion will undoubtedly relish this unprecedented opportunity to race in F1 at his home Grand Prix, if it does indeed come to happen.

Toto Wolff reflects on his future at Mercedes

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team Steve Etherington.

There has been, and continues to be much speculation over the future of Mercedes-AMG F1 team principle Toto Wolff, who is perhaps infamously out of contract at the end of the 2020 season.

Toto has confirmed that he is in talks with Mercedes’ parent company, Daimler, however it doesn’t appear that any formal decision has been made as yet.

Unfortunately, the fact that the decision hasn’t been made so quickly, given Mercedes’ sheer domination with Wolff at the helm has, inevitably, set tongues waggling through the paddock and the wider F1 community.

But is this speculation valid?

There’s absolutely no denying that, under Wolff’s management, Mercedes have gone from being a team filling up the middle/back positions on the grid (circa 2011/2012, while Schumacher still had a drive), to hoovering up championship after championship for 6 years running. Other teams’ inability to match Mercedes’ pace has inspired regulation changes, and has even endangered viewing figures as fans protest the sport has become too ‘predictable’ as a result.

For Toto, it seems the team’s success is one of the reasons behind him carefully considering his future at Mercedes. Speaking before the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, he admitted he was ‘in a moment of reflection where F1 is heading to’. Wolff continued, ‘I really enjoy the role and my plan is to continue but I never want to be in a situation where you are becoming from very good to good.’

It’s an interesting approach from Toto who, you would imagine given the vast success, would be quite happy to sign up for another few years. It is also interesting that Wolff’s decision to take time and reflect comes as we turn our attention to the Renault garage, who have famously signed Fernando Alonso for two more championship seasons.

You’re probably wondering how Alonso could have anything to do with Wolff’s decision to stay at Mercedes. The truth is it doesn’t, however, as there has been speculation about Toto’s future, there has been far more (for far longer) about whether Alonso should return to F1 or concentrate on other projects.

One could argue that it shows considerable level-headedness (essential for the role of team-principle, you’d imagine), and an absence of narcissism, to be aware that your track record doesn’t necessarily guarantee the same success going forward, and that it might even be a hindrance to those waiting in the wings to be given their opportunity to progress.

Depending on which side of the argument you’re on, it seems like Wolff is removing pride from the equation, something that doesn’t seem to have happened when Alonso signed with Renault. (Poor Hülkenberg!)

This is, of course, the first opportunity for Wolff to really consider his future in the team after the sad loss of his fellow team boss, Niki Lauda, whose absence is felt not just in the Mercedes garage, but in F1 as a whole.

Like Niki, Toto is quite the entrepreneur, with a keen eye for driver talent (he famously manages Esteban Ocon, who some of us expected would be filling Bottas’s seat last year), as well as having small stakes in Aston Martin and as of June this year, Williams F1. Perhaps he could give Dr Helmut Marko a run for his money, and turn his attention to making further investments, and manage new drivers coming up through the formulas.

Personally, I find this unlikely, however I would like to see Wolff move to another team, or even another formula that needs a little bit of development. An advisor for Williams F1 maybe? Or, working with the Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E team, and boosting its profile even further.

Whatever he decides, I’m certain the Wolff name will remain an enormous part of F1, and if all else fails, I’m sure Sky Sports F1 will be waiting in the wings with a decent contract for him, just in case.

Da Costa and Techeetah Champions In Thrilling Season

image courtesy of Formula E

Another gripping season of Formula E has finally come to an end, almost a month later than originally planned, and it will be Antonio Felix Da Costa and DS Techeetah who are happiest with their performances. After a difficult start for our 2019/20 champions, they sealed both of the teams and drivers championships with two races left to run. Dominant by Formula E’s standards.

image courtesy of Formula E

Envision Virgin’s Sam Bird started the season strongest in Ad Diriyah, continuing his streak of being the only driver to take a victory in every season to date after starting from 5th position. The Brit made some great overtakes as he carved his way to the top step, heading out Andre Lotterer for Porsche and Stoffel Vandoorne for Mercedes. Both Porsche and Mercedes achieving a podium finish in their debut races.

However, it was BMW’s Alexander Sims who took a pole to flag victory in the second race in Saudi Arabia. Our eventual champion, Da Costa received a penalty for spinning Buemi, who was slowing to take Attack Mode. Da Costa eventually climbed his way back up to tenth, whilst taking the fastest lap in the process to bring home his and Techeetah’s first three points of the season.

image courtesy of Formula E

In Chile it was BMW who took the lead of the constructors championship after their very own German, Max Guenther won the race from second position, overtaking the Pole man Mitch Evans who struggled with energy management. Da Costa made some lovely overtakes to climb eight position and finish in 2nd place. Showing the field that consistency was key in Formula E, Vandoorne took the lead of the championship despite being without a victory. Vergne’s poor start to the season continued, still with just 4 points to his name.

Redemption for Evans in Mexico saw him win fairly comfortably, with Da Costa taking his second podium of the season. Sims had a notable drive, gaining 13 positions to finish 5th! With that victory Evans now lead the championship (4 different leaders in 4 races). We were left waiting for someone to seize control.

And seize control Da Costa did, winning from pole by a whopping 11 seconds in Marrakech. Evans’ race was not to be scoffed at, starting 24th and finishing P6, an amazing race for the Kiwi. 3 podiums in a row meant Da Costa now lead the championship from Jaguar’s Mitch Evans and Techeetah made up for their slow start to head the rest of the teams.

Then disaster struck. A very contagious virus known as Covid-19 began to take over the world, halting everyone in their tracks for a few months. Tragically, millions of people have lost their lives as a result of the pandemic.

But nothing could stop Formula E for very long, starting up again on the 5th August with a revised calendar of three double headers in Berlin on three different layouts, setting us up for an incredible 9 days of racing. But did Da Costa’s momentum get hampered? Of course not! The Portuguese man took two victories in the first two Berlin races making it three on the bounce. By this point he had two hands on the trophy as his title rivals all failed to put up a consistent fight.

image courtesy of Formula E

Going into the next two races Da Costa just needed to get good points to seal the championship and he did so with two still to go, simultaneously winning DS Techeetah the team’s championship as well. But second was still up for grabs and nobody seemed to want it, Guenther put in a claim with his second win of the season, before being overtaken by Vergne with a fine victory the following day.

A new layout came for the final two races of the season with a redesigned second sector. After a strange incident in qualifying, none of the active champions put in a lap time, allowing Rowland to take a much deserved maiden victory from Pole Position. By now it should have become clear that this meant he now sat in 2nd place in the championship.

The final race came with a hint of sadness as Sam Bird finished a fitting final race for Virgin in P5. The Brit had been with the team since Formula E’s inception, always managing to pull a win out of somewhere and holding the record for the only driver to win in every season. He looks for pastures anew at Jaguar next season.

image courtesy of Formula E

However, it was Stoffel Vandoorne who took a dominant win for his maiden victory in the final race of the season, with his teammate, Nyck De Vries, edging out Buemi to seal 2nd position for both himself, and for Vandoorne in the championship. Buemi himself ended the season P3.

Despite some Techeetah dominance, Season 6 has been one of Formula E’s best seasons so far, despite the delay from Covid. We saw wall to wall action up and down the field, said hello and goodbye to some talented drivers, crowned a new champion, and even saw our first carbon neutral team. It has been one heck of a year, and Season 7 is set to be just as exciting. You’d be a fool to miss it!

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.

ENVISION VIRGIN FIRST CARBON NEUTRAL FE TEAM

Yesterday,  Formula E’s very own Envision Virgin Racing was certified carbon neutral by The Carbon Trust, making them the “Greenest team on the greenest grid”.

Alice Powell, Envision Virgin Racing (Courtesy of Formula E)

In order to achieve this certification, a team needs to take out as much carbon as they are putting into the atmosphere and they have a number of different ways to do this. Not only did they team up with Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin (who promised to plant 3,000 trees every time his team won a match), but they  also use 100% renewable energy. Other initiatives they’ve used include: installing EV charging points at their headquarters in Silverstone, and their “zero tolerance” for the use of single-use plastics and consumption of red meats at events. Considering up to 37% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from food systems, this is a very promising initiative.

This announcement marks a huge step in Formula E’s drive to help tackle climate change. It comes as Envision Virgin become the first team on the grid to have been deemed carbon neutral across their operational facilities in Silverstone and London, as well as business travel for up to 40 personnel. Jennifer Babbington, Envision Virgin Racing’s Operations Director challenged the other teams to “follow suit and prove how sport and sustainability can co-exist”. She also stated “every single staff member is immensely proud of our achievement.”

Sam Bird (Envision Virgin Racing), Valencia pre-season testing – Credit: LAT/Formula E

John Newton, Associate Director of the Carbon Trust, added “The influence a sports team has in this space should never be underestimated and by demonstrating their own action on sustainability they can inspire others, whether businesses or fans, to also take action.”

Robin Frijns, Envision Virgin Racing (Courtesy of Formula E)

Undeniably, this is a very impressive achievement from Envision Virgin Racing and a big step in tackling climate change. The pressure is now on the other eleven teams on the grid to follow in their footsteps.

Feature image courtesy of Nick Cassidy, Envision Virgin Racing (Courtesy of Formula E)

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.