Jean Eric Bern!: Vergne claims victory in Switzerland

Jean-Eric Vergne cemented his status at the top of the championship yesterday by claiming a dominant third victory on the streets of Switzerland. Starting from pole position, the reigning French champion looked unbothered in the penultimate round of Formula E, managing to hold off an aggressive Mitch Evans to seal the win and extend his lead to 32 points over his nearest rival,  Techeetah teammate Andre Lotterer, with Evans and hometown hero Sebastien Buemi taking the last two podium positions.

Qualifying was again crucial as the drivers had limited track time yesterday in shakedown with the circuit nestled in the streets of Bern still being built. Di Grassi was the first man out on track, hoping to consolidate his second placed position in the Driver’s Championship, but it was Techeetah’s Vergne who impressed to scoop the top spot in the first group, ahead of his teammate Lotterer and Robin Frijns by three tenths. However, Vergne’s lead was soon eroded by Mitch Evans, winner of the previous ePrix held in Switzerland whilst Sebastien Buemi and Daniel Abt slotted into P3 and P4 respectively at the halfway mark. Edo Mortara, another local, on the other hand struggled and could only scrape into P14 in his Venturi whilst Pascal Wehrlein continued his excellent qualifying form by snatching P3, the rookie’s fifth appearance in superpole seemed inevitable. The final group could not challenge Evans’ lightning-quick time, bar Maxi Gunther who took P5, an excellent showing for the rookie hoping to impress ahead of the new season. Evans took the spoils in the initial stages, followed by Vergne, Wehrlein, Buemi, Gunther and Bird.

Photo by Alastair Staley / LAT Images

Bird set the initial pace with a decent time of 1.19.536 in the opening superpole stages, but his time was soon eclipsed by Gunther who found an additional one tenth in his Dragon. The track conditions continued to evolve as Buemi was the next driver to snatch the provisional pole away by two tenths of a second in front of a delighted home crowd. Wehrlein looked set to continue his excellent qualifying run, however, despite a brilliant first sector, the Mahindra driver locked up into turn 9 and had to settle for the provisional front row behind Buemi, beaten by just four thousandths of a second. However, it was Jev that continued his excellent form this weekend with a monster lap of a 1.18.813, three tenths clear of the other leaders. It fell to Evans to prevent Techeetah dominance, but the Kiwi just fell short of the mark, having to settle for P2 as Vergne took his first pole position of the season.

Vergne started strongly from pole, but there was chaos within the opening lap as D’Ambrosio shunted Frijns into the wall, putting the Dutchman out of the race and out of championship contention with driveshaft failure. The race was red flagged whilst Frijns’ car was extracted from the circuit and the race clock was reset. As racing got underway again, Vergne came under pressure from Evans and the Jaguar driver continued to press at the reigning champion for the remainder of the race.

Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images

On the other side of the Virgin garage, Bird fought his car through the order, first dispatching of Gunther for P5 before squeezing Wehrlein for P4 before the German rookie ground at a halt just before the attack mode zone presumably with a battery issue. Bird continued his charge, piling pressure on Buemi for P3 before the Swiss driver snatched it back a few laps later. Bird then fell victim to a hungry Lotterer, after a mistake caused him to lock up and the Techeetah driver was able to dive down the inside of the Virgin car. As the time ticked down, the top four were within seconds of one another but Vergne was able to hold off Evans’ attack to claim his third victory of the season and claim the voestalpine European race trophy. Evans had to settle for P2, with Buemi claiming the final podium position much to the delight of the Swiss crowd.

The final two rounds of the Formula E season takes place in New York on July 13th and 14th.

Another home run!: di Grassi hands Audi their consecutive second home win in Berlin

Lucas di Grassi gave Audi the bragging rights over rivals BMW and HWA by claiming his second win of the season at the team’s home race. Although it was not a mirror of last year’s dominant display with Daniel Abt and di Grassi’s 1-2, the latter swept past polesitter Sebastien Buemi and remained untroubled throughout the race to move up to second in the championship, with Buemi and current reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne claiming the remaining podium positions.

Qualifying was again crucial with group one again struggling to stay in the coveted superpole spots as the track conditions improved. Di Grassi was the quickest man in the first group whilst Andre Lotterer was hampered by the Brazilian Audi driver mistiming his lap, leaving his hopes of superpole increasingly slim. Robin Frijns also suffered with a problem with his Virgin car, coupled with a five-place penalty from the previous race to leave him dead last. HWA on the other hand, enjoyed an excellent qualifying session with Stoffel Vandoorne and Gary Paffett making their way into the top six superpole shootout. Alex Lynn also impressed to take his first appearance in superpole, but it was Nissan’s Buemi who took the spoils in the initial stages, beating out Vandoorne for the provisional top spot.

Photo by Malcolm Griffiths / FE Media

Di Grassi was the first man out on track in superpole and set the initial pace, slotting himself into P1, a position he would continue to occupy as Paffett, Lynn and Alexander Sims failed to topple the Brazilian’s time. However, it was fierce rival Buemi who continued Nissan’s impressive qualifying record to break the deadlock by four-tenths of a second. With again Vandoorne again showcased his impressive qualifying form by disposing of the Audi driver by three-tenths of a second, another excellent result for the Japanese outfit. It fell to Vandoorne and HWA to prevent the fourth Nissan pole of the season and net the coveted top spot for themselves at their home race, but Vandoorne could not match Buemi’s time, trailing the Swiss driver by three-tenths of a second. Buemi took his second pole position of the season with Vandoorne and di Grassi rounding out the top three.

Buemi managed to hold the lead in the opening stages of the race, as Vandoorne was disposed of by di Grassi for P2. Six laps later, di Grassi performed the same manoeuvre heading into turn six to snatch the lead away from the leading Nissan. It was a position that di Grassi upheld for the remainder of the race, relatively untroubled by his racing rival and spurred on by the contingent of Schaeffler and Audi fans in the grandstands. Lotterer made ground in the opening stages, fighting his way up through the order after a poor qualifying, whilst his teammate Vergne followed suit, a podium very much on his mind, carving through the field from P9. BMW’s Antonio Felix da Costa was equally spurred on to claim his second win of the season as after starting from P8, he had managed to force his way through the field to pressure Buemi for P2. Buemi conceded the spot, only to activate his attack mode and claim the position back from the BMW, leaving da Costa in P3.

Photo by Sam Bloxham / LAT Images

As the time ticked down, Vergne began to pressure da Costa for the final podium position, with Abt and Vandoorne battling behind. Vergne eventually got the job done into turn 10, snatching P3 away as Lynn’s Jaguar forced the racing to neutralise when his car stopped on the start-finish straight with what appeared to be a hydraulics issue. It was a shame for the Jaguar driver who had been running in the points when his car stopped, bringing out the full course yellow. Another driver to be hit with bad luck was Lotterer who after storming up the standings, was forced to retire his Techeetah due to an overheating battery issue, ending his home race moments before the end.

Buemi held off a hungry Vergne in the closing stages of the race to keep hold of P2, his first podium since last season’s Marrakesh ePrix, whilst di Grassi held firm under pressure and sailed to victory, sealing a home win for Audi for the second consecutive year. The win also catapulted the Brazilian up the standings, but it was not enough to disturb current championship leader Vergne whose P3 finish allowed him to extend his lead at the top of the standings.

Formula E will return for the inaugural Bern ePrix on May 23rd.

IndyCar Indy GP Report: Pagenaud masters the rain in hectic race

Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud has ended his winless streak in the most exciting fashion possible, passing defending champion Scott Dixon on the penultimate lap to take his first win since 2017’s season finale at Sonoma. The Frenchman was certainly an unexpected winner, but Jack Harvey’s third was equally as remarkable.

Pagenaud started the race in eighth and was only making very steady progress until the rain started falling, and from there on in he excelled. With seventeen laps to go Pagenaud embarked on his charge, first passing the duelling Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones before moving onto the then third-placed Matheus Leist. The Brazilian was unable to fend off Pagenaud who then set his sights on Harvey in second, and race leader Dixon.

He dispensed with Harvey with relative ease, however in doing so he used up the last of his Push to Pass. It didn’t take long for the #22 to catch Dixon but, with no P2P, getting through on the #9 was always going to be tough. It didn’t look like he was going to be able to do it but, on the penultimate lap, Dixon made an uncharacteristic mistake, running wide and giving Pagenaud all the opportunity he needed to take the lead and with it his ‘sweetest win ever’, one which catapults him into fourth in the championship.

Dixon was the more consistent of the two over the race, leading the most laps of anyone at 39. The #9 took the lead from teammate Felix Rosenqvist after the first restart, passing both Harvey and Rosenqvist in one corner and forming a comfortable lead for there. Rosenqvist had no such luck and was unable to convert his first pole into anything meaningful.

Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe and Patricio O’Ward all looked to be minorly threatening mid-race but their hopes on the alternate strategy were dashed by the increasing rain, causing the strategies to merge as they all pitted for rain tyres. Once the rain had set in, Dixon held firm in the lead, though was unable to match Pagenaud’s blistering pace, conceding the race lead but moving to within six points of Newgarden’s championship lead.

Credit: Doug Mathews/IndyCar

Newgarden himself had a troublesome race with any hopes of a good result ruined first by the rain and then by a penalty for an uncontrolled tyre when he was changing to the wets. That penalty dropped the championship leader to the back of the pack, and he was only able to recover to fifteenth from there, salvaging something out of what could’ve been a complete disaster.

Speaking of disasters, Alexander Rossi’s race was doomed from the get-go when he got hit from behind by O’Ward, sending the #27 into the inside wall on the main straight and damaging his right-rear suspension. O’Ward took a drive-thru penalty while Rossi went four laps down due to the repairs; the incident was partially a legacy of Rossi’s poor qualifying as starting down in the pack is always a risk, but that result couldn’t have been much worse for the American’s title challenge.

Away from the title contenders, part-timer Harvey finished third to take his first ever IndyCar podium, much to the delight of his Meyer Shank with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsport team. Harvey took second at the first turn having qualified third and looked set to finish there once the rain came but, like so many others, he could do nothing to stop Pagenaud’s charge, meaning he had to settle for third.

The podium (L-R) Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Jack Harvey. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

Harvey’s SPM teammates, however, both had days to forget. Marcus Ericsson caused the first caution by losing the rear of his car at Turn 14 and hitting the wall, breaking his right-rear suspension and bringing a premature end to his first race at Indianapolis.

Hinchcliffe’s race unravelled in the carnage that was the first restart; Colton Herta had already been spun around by Harvey when Hinchcliffe tagged Ryan Hunter-Reay, spinning the Andretti and landing the #5 with a drive-thru penalty.

Leist almost got a surprise podium but instead finished fourth, which was still by far the best result for A.J. Foyt for what seems like years. Teammate Tony Kanaan tried his luck by switching to the wets first, a call that proved to be just a bit too early meaning he finished well down the order.

Matheus Leist celebrating with his team after his fourth-place finish. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

Next up for IndyCar is the big one, the 103rd Running of the Indy 500. The action starts with qualifying on the 18th and 19th May when we will find out who will make the race and who will get bumped.

Full Race Results:

  1. Simon Pagenaud
  2. Scott Dixon
  3. Jack Harvey
  4. Matheus Leist
  5. Spencer Pigot
  6. Ed Jones
  7. Will Power
  8. Felix Rosenqvist (R)
  9. Graham Rahal
  10. Santino Ferrucci (R)
  11. Sebastien Bourdais
  12. Zach Veach
  13. Marco Andretti
  14. Takuma Sato
  15. Josef Newgarden
  16. James Hinchcliffe
  17. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  18. Max Chilton
  19. Patricio O’Ward (R)
  20. Tony Kanaan
  21. Helio Castroneves
  22. Alexander Rossi

DNF – Colton Herta (R) (collision), Marcus Ericsson (R) (crash)

Championship Top 5:

  1. Josef Newgarden
  2. Scott Dixon
  3. Alexander Rossi
  4. Simon Pagenaud
  5. Takuma Sato

Featured Image Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

First for Frijns! Dutchman scoops maiden win in rainy Paris

Robin Frijns scored his first ever win in Formula E, becoming the eighth different winner this season and keeping the winning streak intact as he triumphed in adverse weather conditions at the Paris ePrix this weekend. Frijns, the first Dutchman to win a race in the series, started from P3 but took advantage of the failures of both Nissans and fought off an attacking Lotterer and damage to his front wing from contact with Sebastien Buemi to claim his first well-deserved win of the series and subsequently took the championship lead.

Qualifying proved critical due to the significantly narrowed streets that make up the Paris circuit. The first group again struggled to extract performance on track with previous race winner Mitch Evans languishing at the bottom of the timing screens due to a scrappy lap. The second group did not fare much better with hometown hero Jean-Eric Vergne only managing to grasp P5 and Sam Bird scrapping into P8. BMW’s heartache continued as Antonio Felix da Costa could only manage P9. However, it was Envision Racing’s Frijns who managed to snatch the top spot with a super-aggressive lap that left him as the man to beat.

Group three benefited from improving track conditions as Oliver Rowland soon claimed the top spot by one-tenth of a second with teammate Buemi, Pascal Wehrlein and Felipe Massa all slotting themselves into superpole contention. The final group failed to threaten the top six drivers, with Dragon’s Jose Maria Lopez the only promise only to run wide at turn 3, ruining his lap, leaving Rowland, Wehrlein, Buemi, Frijns, D’Ambrosio, and Massa to snatch the pole away.

Credit: LAT/Formula E

Massa took to the track first in superpole, earning himself an impressive time of 1.01.217. D’Ambrosio followed, but struggled and had to settle behind the Brazilian after a scrappy lap left him adrift by a hundredth of a second. Frijns continued his impressive run of form with another aggressive lap, slotting himself into P1 before he was disposed by Buemi on his run.

However, as the time ticked down, it once again became a battle of the rookies as Wehrlein again showed his impressive form, moving into the coveted top spot by a margin of four tenths. Only Rowland could challenge the Mahindra man, but fell short and had to settle for another front row start, leaving Wehrlein to claim his second pole of the season. However, celebrations were short-lived as both Wehrlein and D’Ambrosio were demoted to the back of the grid after failing scrutineering due to tyre pressures, leaving Rowland to inherit the top spot.

Due to rain showers just before the start, the race began under safety car due to the adverse track conditions causing unfair disadvantages. Rowland held the lead as racing commenced and Lotterer began to pile pressure on Maxi Gunther for P5, eager to move up the standings. However, Rowland’s luck soon ran out as the Nissan rookie locked up, sending him flying into the barriers at turn 10 as his teammate Buemi moved into the lead.

With Frijns moving into P2, he began to pressure Buemi for the lead of the race, forcing the two to make contact as Buemi attempted to activate his attack mode. Frijns expressed concern over his front wing which had become dislodged during the incident but was told to continue as Lotterer soon disposed of Gunther for P4, as the German rookie too armed himself with attack mode and immediately began to chase after Massa.

Credit: LAT/Formula E

Like his teammate before him, Buemi locked up two laps later on turn 8 allowing Frijns to force his way past and into the lead of the race as the heavens opened over the circuit. Rain battered the course as Lotterer forced his way past Massa and began hunting down Frijns for the lead. However, he was hindered by a series of full course yellows as the drivers struggled in the difficult conditions including a nasty shunt for BMW’s Alex Sims and Jaguar’s Alex Lynn, who was taken out by Edo Mortara in the dying stages of the race. Massa held P3 for much of the race, only to spin out losing his podium spot with Daniel Abt able to capitalise on the Brazilian’s mistake. As the rain continued, Frijns held firm from Lotterer’s attack and claimed victory at the first wet race in Formula E history.

IndyCar Long Beach Report: Rossi delivers Andretti’s 200th win

Alexander Rossi dominated the race at Long Beach for a second year running, making him the first driver to win back to back races at the track since Sebastien Bourdais’ run of three wins from 2005 to 2007. Rossi’s win also marks the 200th race win for his Andretti Autosport team, prompting huge celebrations.

Rossi’s performance was even more dominant than it was last year, leading from the start and forming a five-second lead before the first stops. His lead only increased after that, hitting ten seconds after forty laps and then staying at around that mark for the rest of the race.

The only time Rossi’s win looked anything but certain was when he was having to deal with traffic after the second stops and got a bit too close for comfort to Marcus Ericsson. This proved to not be an issue and Rossi took his first win of the season, putting him into second in the championship, 28 points behind leader Josef Newgarden.

Newgarden extended his championship lead by one point after finishing in a comfortable second place. The #2 Penske’s race was made by the first stops where they took the risk of staying out later than all the other leaders, putting Newgarden at real risk of getting caught out by a caution.

This nearly came to fruition when Santino Ferrucci spun at Turn 1, but a caution was avoided and Newgarden dived into the pits the following lap, jumping Will Power and Scott Dixon in the process. After that, his second place was unchallenged and Newgarden took his third podium of the year.

Dixon finished in an unexpected third after Graham Rahal was penalised for a marginal block on the final lap. It looked like a third Long Beach podium would be out of reach for Dixon after he had a fuel probe issue during his second stop which meant he was stationary for nearly twenty seconds. After this, Dixon fought back and caught up to fourth-placed Ryan Hunter-Reay with ten laps to go, passing him with just a handful of laps left. He then set about Rahal and probably would’ve passed him without the block from the RLL driver anyway.

Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

For Rahal’s part, the block was on the edge; he moved across to the right just as Dixon did. Race direction called him out for blocking, meaning he lost his third-place finish. Rahal had only got into a podium position through Dixon’s pit stop mishap, so fourth-place wasn’t too much of a disappointment for him – though he did want to make up for his lost podium at Barber.

Simon Pagenaud ran a fairly quiet race with the only minor incident in his race being a slight touch with Hunter-Reay on the first lap. Both drivers got away with it and Pagenaud went onto have a clean race, delivering his best result of the season so far in sixth. The other Penske of Power had a less clean race, spinning at Turn 1 while trying to fend off an overtake from Dixon. This dropped him down to eighth, and over the rest of the race, he only managed to gain one place, finishing seventh.

Last week’s race winner Takuma Sato didn’t have the best of races, finishing eighth after a fairly uneventful race buried in the midfield. COTA race winner Colton Herta had an even worse race; the #88 Harding driver got sideways at Turn 9 and hit the wall, breaking his front left suspension and front wing, putting him out of the race.

Credit: John Cote/IndyCar

Herta was the only non-finisher, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t drama elsewhere. Spencer Pigot and Zach Veach got together on the first lap, as did Jack Harvey and Ericsson. All drivers were restarted under the caution and continued in the race with Harvey losing three laps and Pigot and Ericsson losing one – though Ericsson also encountered a drive-thru penalty for avoidable contact. There were no clear replays of what happened, but Harvey ended up in the hedge below the iconic Long Beach fountain!

Next up on the IndyCar schedule is the IndyCar Grand Prix on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 11, which kicks off the Month of May for the series.

Full Race Results:

  1. Alexander Rossi
  2. Josef Newgarden
  3. Scott Dixon
  4. Graham Rahal
  5. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  6. Simon Pagenaud
  7. Will Power
  8. Takuma Sato
  9. James Hinchcliffe
  10. Felix Rosenqvist (R)
  11. Sebastien Bourdais
  12. Patricio O’Ward (R)
  13. Marco Andretti
  14. Max Chilton
  15. Matheus Leist
  16. Ed Jones
  17. Zach Veach
  18. Spencer Pigot
  19. Tony Kanaan
  20. Marcus Ericsson (R)
  21. Santino Ferrucci (R)
  22. Jack Harvey

DNF – Colton Herta (crash)

Championship Top 5:

  1. Josef Newgarden
  2. Alexander Rossi
  3. Scott Dixon
  4. Takuma Sato
  5. Ryan Hunter-Reay

Featured Image Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher/IndyCar

IndyCar Birmingham Report: Sato dominates proceedings at Barber

Takuma Sato converted a slightly unexpected pole position into a dominant win at Barber Motorsports Park, in a race that could’ve seen a one-two for his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team.

Sato ran an almost faultless race to take his first victory of the season and in turn the first of the season for RLL. His win only looked in danger once or twice during the race, with the first scare from Sebastien Bourdais’ two-stop strategy and the second from an off-track excursion from Sato with only five laps to go. Even so, Sato took the win with a two-second gap over second-place Scott Dixon to elevate him to third in the championship.

The only disappointment of the weekend for RLL was that Graham Rahal couldn’t convert his front row start to a decent finish. Rahal had the pace to stay with Sato and hold second, but his throttle started to stick on Lap 3, meaning he had to have a long pit stop to correct it. Just after halfway through the race, his car completely died, ending any hopes of a recovery drive and forming half of the reason for the race’s only caution.

Credit: Matt Fraver/IndyCar

The other reason for the caution was an incident between Tony Kanaan and Max Chilton at pit entry that left the latter stranded in the wall, though he did manage to re-join the race, albeit two laps down.

Dixon seems to be making a habit of finishing second at Barber, with his second place this race taking his total up to six, all without a win at the track. He ran a fairly uneventful race, with the only major drama coming as a result of Bourdais’ two-stop strategy. After the last stops, Dixon had got back ahead of Bourdais, but the Frenchman stayed with him throughout the final stint, though he was never able to make a move on Dixon, meaning they finished second and third respectively.

Bourdais was the only driver to make the two-stop work, with many others bailing out and sticking to the safer three-stop. Spencer Pigot and Jack Harvey were the only other two to try the two-stop, but they finished seventeenth and thirteenth respectively, though it could’ve been a different story for Pigot had he not got a drive-thru penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Bourdais was helped by the one and only caution which ended up merging the two strategies, meaning he was not at too much of a disadvantage tyre-wise in the final stint.

Championship leader Josef Newgarden had a very impressive recovery drive, finishing fourth despite having started down in sixteenth. He made up a lot of places through the first two stints and made steady progress after the restart, giving Alexander Rossi a taste of his own medicine with two laps to go as the pair banged wheels and, for once, Rossi didn’t come out on top. Penske struggled all weekend with pace and tyre wear, with Newgarden’s result a surprise compared to Simon Pagenaud’s ninth-place and Will Power’s eleventh. It wasn’t just Penske struggling though, all the Chevrolet cars were off the pace with only two finishing in the top ten.

Credit: Matt Fraver/IndyCar

Rossi made light of what was otherwise quite a disappointing weekend for Andretti, finishing a respectable fifth after getting the better of James Hinchcliffe on the restart. Ryan Hunter-Reay was the next best Andretti, coming home eighth while both Zach Veach and Marco Andretti spent the day buried in the midfield, eventually finishing twelfth and fourteenth.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports scored one of the best team results since Toronto last year with Hinchcliffe finishing sixth and Marcus Ericsson one behind him in seventh. Hinchcliffe had been in a solid fourth-place for most of the race but both Newgarden and Rossi passed him on the restart, and from there he was unable to stick with their pace. Ericsson, however, spent the whole race passing cars and making some Rossi-esque moves to finish seventh having started way down the order in twentieth.

Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

Having won the race last time out, Colton Herta was brought back down to reality with a thump. He’d had some engine issues throughout qualifying that his Harding team had hoped to be on top of by the race; the issues resurfaced early on and forced Herta to go behind the wall. The team managed to get him back out on track, but it was only for a test session as he was already 35 laps down by then, meaning he’s gone from hero to zero in the space of two races.

After an eventful race at Barber, IndyCar head to Long Beach next weekend for their first back-to-back of the season.

Full Race Results:

  1. Takuma Sato
  2. Scott Dixon
  3. Sebastien Bourdais
  4. Josef Newgarden
  5. Alexander Rossi
  6. James Hinchcliffe
  7. Marcus Ericsson (R)
  8. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  9. Simon Pagenaud
  10. Felix Rosenqvist (R)
  11. Will Power
  12. Zach Veach
  13. Jack Harvey
  14. Marco Andretti
  15. Santino Ferrucci (R)
  16. Patricio O’Ward (R)
  17. Spencer Pigot
  18. Tony Kanaan
  19. Ed Jones
  20. Matheus Leist
  21. Ben Hanley (R)
  22. Max Chilton

DNF – Graham Rahal (engine), Colton Herta (R) (engine)

Championship Top 5:

  1. Josef Newgarden
  2. Scott Dixon
  3. Takuma Sato
  4. Alexander Rossi
  5. Colton Herta (R)

Featured Image Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

Vergne victorious in Sanya: Reigning champion kickstarts claim to reclaim his title

Jean-Eric Vergne finally ended his pointless run and the miserable start to his championship defence by claiming victory in a dominant display in the inaugural Sanya ePrix this weekend. Starting from the front row, the reigning champion pounced on Nissan’s Oliver Rowland on lap 19 and held firm against the rookie’s attack to clinch his first win since last season. The race also saw another change in the standings at the top of the table as championship leader Sam Bird was forced out of the race in the early stages, allowing Antonio Felix da Costa to clinch the coveted position as we approach the halfway point in the season.

BMW’s da Costa continued his dominant form in qualifying, initially claiming the top spot whilst his championship competitors struggled with Bird slowest in the first group, seventh tenths off the pace and di Grassi also half a second down on da Costa’s time. Jaguar’s headache continued with Evans tagged the wall and collected part of the sponsorship on his 200kw lap, leaving him at the lower end of the table whilst teammate Nelson Piquet Jr also struggled. Vergne finally managed to slot himself into the coveted superpole positions just behind da Costa and Audi’s Daniel Abt but it was Nissan that impressed in the initial session with both Sebastien Buemi and Rowland both managing to get into superpole, with Buemi snatching the top spot from da Costa by two tenths of a second. The Nissan drivers were joined in superpole by da Costa, Sims, Vergne and Abt.

Andrew Ferraro/LAT Images

Nissan’s dominance continued into superpole with Rowland taking his maiden pole position for the team, edging just ahead of Vergne by just over a second with the reigning champion having to settle for the front row. Da Costa looked promising but a messy mistake in the final corner proved costly and the Portuguese driver had to settle for third. Abt snatched P4 ahead of Sims and Buemi, with the former failing to set a lap time after suspected gear issues, whilst the latter made a mistake into turn 3, forcing him to abort his lap 25 seconds off the pace.

Rowland started well, managing to keep Vergne at bay in the opening stages as Abt began to pressure da Costa for P3 almost immediately. Bird’s misery continued after a clash with HWA’s Stoffel Vandoorne ruled him out of the race in the early stages, whilst Dragon also suffered with a double retirement as Felipe Nasr and Jose Maria Lopez found themselves out of contention after issues with their cars. Vergne continued to pressure Rowland, finally forcing the Nissan rookie into a mistake on lap 19 to take the lead. With his thoughts surely on his last victory in New York last season, Vergne began to put away from Rowland and the chasing pack.

Sam Bloxham/ LAT Images

Vergne continued to lead as a red flag forced a suspension of the race after Sims crashed out with just ten minutes left on the clock. His mood was dampened as the race resumed with the news that he was under investigation for incorrect full course yellow procedures but continued to keep Rowland behind as the clock ticked down. Drama continued in the closing stages as Buemi collided with Envision Virgin’s Robin Frijns, sending the Dutchman into the back of di Grassi, sending both drivers out of the points and saddling Buemi with a late penalty for causing a collision. Despite this, Vergne continued to hold the lead from Rowland and was informed that he had received a reprimand. Vergne’s victory was his first since last season and the first for the DS-Techeetah partnership, made even more special by the fact that it is the team’s home ePrix. Rowland claimed a respectable P2 ahead of Antonio Felix da Costa in P3, who claimed the championship leader position.

Formula E will return on 13th April in Rome.

IndyCar COTA Report: Herta becomes youngest ever IndyCar race winner

Rookie Colton Herta now holds the title of youngest IndyCar race winner of all time, at the age of 18, after winning the inaugural IndyCar race at the Circuit of the Americas. Herta held off 2017 champion Josef Newgarden to take the win, while pole-sitter Will Power’s race unravelled after Felix Rosenqvist and James Hinchcliffe came together.

Herta qualified in a remarkable fourth place, making him top rookie and giving him a chance at challenging for his first podium, in what was only his third race. The Harding Steinbrenner driver passed Ryan Hunter-Reay on the first lap to take third place, a position which he held for the majority of the race. He briefly passed Alexander Rossi for second but was then shuffled back to third during the stops and stayed there until the race was turned on its head at the final stops.

Herta pitted earlier than leaders Power and Rossi, taking the lead when Rosenqvist and Hinchcliffe caused the race’s only caution before Power and Rossi had stopped. Herta has proved all the doubters wrong in a race where he thought the podium was as good as it was going to get.

Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

Power had not put a foot wrong all weekend and had led all the laps up until the fateful final stops. Both him and Rossi were taking a risk by staying out in what is known as the ‘danger zone’, where a caution can ruin your race, and the gamble backfired. They both pitted during the caution and dropped back through the field – but Power never re-joined the race.

The Penske driver couldn’t pull away from his pit box and, despite the best efforts of the #12 crew, he was unable to get the car going, with what was presumed to be a driveshaft issue. As for Rossi, well he did get back into the race and, after some signature Rossi overtakes and saves, he came home in ninth, which was a good recovery but not what he was hoping for.

Unlike Power and Rossi, Newgarden and Hunter-Reay both benefitted massively from the timing of the caution and were shuffled up the order, despite being off the pace of the leaders all day. After fairly quiet and distant races, the pair filled out the final two spots on the podium, though they were unable to challenge Herta for the win.

Graham Rahal, Sebastien Bourdais and Marco Andretti also all lucked in with the caution and finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. None of them had a good time in qualifying and it was looking to be an unremarkable race for the trio, but their luck finally turned, and they scored some of the best results any of them have seen in a long while.

Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

Andretti’s race very nearly unravelled when Takuma Sato got a bit too close for comfort, but both drivers got away with it and finished the race. Sato came home in seventh after just getting past rookie Patricio O’Ward on the final lap. O’Ward’s race looked like it would end in something higher than eighth at certain points in the race, but a slow stop at the second round of stops hampered his progress, before he then struggled at the end of his last stint, losing two spots in the last ten laps.

Track limits, and the complete lack of enforcement of them, proved to be quite the talking point of the weekend and played a significant role in causing the race’s only caution. Rosenqvist and Hinchcliffe had been fighting in a group for a few laps after their third stops and both went very wide in the small straight between Turns 19 and 20. Rosenqvist went to turn back onto the track sooner than Hinchcliffe and they collided, sending the Swede into the wall just before pit entry and leaving the Canadian with a broken front wing and puncture. No action was taken by race direction, but the collision had huge consequences for the whole field due to the timing of it.

Reigning champion Scott Dixon was one of the drivers who fell foul of this, though he had struggled with pace all race – as had Chip Ganassi teammate Rosenqvist. Dixon was up to as high as third at one point, but ultimately came home in a rather disappointing thirteenth, a result that will do nothing to help his title defence.

That concludes what was a very eventful and surprising first race at COTA for IndyCar with the series next in action at Barber Motorsports Park on April 7.

Full Race Results:

  1. Colton Herta (R)
  2. Josef Newgarden
  3. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  4. Graham Rahal
  5. Sebastien Bourdais
  6. Marco Andretti
  7. Takuma Sato
  8. Patricio O’Ward (R)
  9. Alexander Rossi
  10. Jack Harvey
  11. Spencer Pigot
  12. Tony Kanaan
  13. Scott Dixon
  14. Ed Jones
  15. Marcus Ericsson (R)
  16. James Hinchcliffe
  17. Matheus Leist
  18. Kyle Kaiser (R)
  19. Simon Pagenaud
  20. Santino Ferrucci (R)
  21. Max Chilton
  22. Zach Veach
  23. Felix Rosenqvist

DNF – Will Power (driveshaft)

Championship Top 5:

  1. Josef Newgarden
  2. Colton Herta (R)
  3. Scott Dixon
  4. Alexander Rossi
  5. Graham Rahal

Featured Image Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

Hysteria in Hong Kong!: Mortara triumphant as Bird hit with penalty

Edoardo Mortara scooped Venturi’s first ever win in the team’s history at the Hong Kong ePrix this weekend. The Swiss driver benefited from a late post-race penalty imposed on Envision Racing’s Sam Bird who won the race, but was given a five second time penalty after contact with Andre Lotterer which forced the Techeetah driver out of the race.

Qualifying was blighted by the everchanging conditions of the Hong Kong climate, with Mahindra miscalculating the correct window in which to set a lap which left both Jerome D’Ambrosio and Pascal languishing at the bottom of the timing screens. Audi’s Lucas di Grassi was the first driver to make an impact, snatching P1 from under Sam Bird and Antonio Felix da Costa’s noses in the worsening weather.

Mortara showcased his experience on street circuits by claiming P1, followed closely by Lotterer who made a mistake in his final sector. Jean Eric Vergne’s misery continued as he repeated history by sliding over the final line backwards, but could only manage P6 and suffered cosmetic damage to his Techeetah. His lap was later cancelled due to the incident.

Times soon began to tumble as the session approached the halfway stage with Oliver Rowland and Felipe Massa slotting themselves into the top six. However, it was HWA that impressed in the storm with Stoffel Vandoorne taking provisional pole by over half a second from teammate Gary Paffett who managed to snatch his debut in superpole. They were joined in superpole by Rowland, Mortara, Lotterer and di Grassi.

Photo by Sam Bloxham/ LAT Images

The weather continued to wreck havoc on superpole as di Grassi set a time of 1.14.177, only to be displaced by Lotterer a few moments later by a difference of 1.3 seconds. Mortara thrived in the difficult conditions, claiming P1 with a time of 1.12.310, half a second up on Lotterer. However, after the session ended, he was hit with a three place grid penalty for ignoring red flag conditions and dropped out of contention. Times continued to tumble as the track conditions became more favourable with Rowland disposing of Mortara by two tenths of a second. The two HWAs remained and Paffett locked up into turn one, forcing him into P4 behind Lotterer, but Vandoorne impressed once again, claiming his first ever pole position for HWA with a 1.11.580.

Rowland wasted no time at the start of the race, snatching P1 away from Vandoorne in the opening lap who was then passed by Bird, dropping the HWA rookie down to P3. Mahindra’s terrible luck continued as Felipe Nasr tagged the wall into turn two, collecting both Wehrlein and D’Ambrosio along the way, sending both cars out of the race with suspension damage. The race was red flagged in order to collect all three cars stranded in a precarious position with Rowland still leading the race.

Photo by Steven Tee / LAT Images

As the race got underway once more, most of the drivers armed themselves with their first attack mode as Lotterer pounced on Vandoorne immediately for P3. Out of turn one, Rowland slowed and dropped down the order, losing the lead at the expense of Bird. Lotterer began to press Bird for the top spot, finally forcing the Brit into a mistake to snatch the race lead away. However, Bird continued to fight back and kept the pressure on the German who began to struggle with energy consumption in the latter stages trying to keep Bird behind. Whilst one Techeetah dominated, reigning champion Vergne’s bad luck continued as he cut the chicane at turn one, earning a penalty.

Rowland continued to carve his way back through the field muscling his way past Daniel Abt for P9, whilst Alex Sims tagged the wall, forcing him out of the race. Bird continued to press Lotterer, and attempted a move into turn two, passing the German for a moment, before Lotterer reclaimed the lead. The battle at the front as Vandoorne’s car stopped on track, whilst Buemi was forced out of the race with damage.

As the race restarted with over ten minutes left on the clock, Bird continued to pile the pressure on Lotterer for the lead with Mortara holding di Grassi for P3 as Rowland’s hard work on climbing up the order was undone when he made contact with the wall, and stopped on track, bringing out a third safety car. With two minutes remaining, the race was restarted and the battle at the front came to a head as Bird made contact with the back of Lotterer’s car, causing a puncture which subsequently ended the German’s race. A subdued Bird claimed P1 but celebrations were muted after the announcement that there was an investigation of the incident between himself and Lotterer. After the race, Bird was handed a five second time penalty which dropped the Brit down to P6 and Mortara inherited the win, his and Venturi’s first win in the series. Di Grassi moved up to P2 and Envision Racing’s Robin Frijns inherited third.

Formula E will continue in Sanya on March 23rd.

IndyCar St Petersburg Report: Newgarden fends off Dixon to take first win at St Pete

Josef Newgarden took the first win of the 2019 season at St Petersburg, a win that marks his first around the demanding track and Penske’s first there since 2016. He held off a late challenge from defending champion Scott Dixon in what as an action-packed season opener.

After being shuffled back at the start, Newgarden didn’t come to the lead until the second round of pit stops, but there he out-foxed the rest of the leading group and emerged from the pits with a near five-second lead over Marco Andretti, who was doing a good job of holding up the rest of the field. With the help of Andretti once more in the closing stages of the race, Newgarden came under threat from Dixon with the lead dropping to as low as 1.2 seconds but, once Andretti was out of the picture, Newgarden rebuilt his lead to take the win.

Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

Dixon was forced to settle for second-place having not led a single lap of the race. He managed to pass Will Power during the first Andretti hold up, taking second place and allowing him to have a chance at fighting Newgarden for the win. However, the lead Newgarden had built up was big enough to act as an effective buffer, even when Andretti came back into the mix. It wasn’t quite the perfect start to Dixon’s title defence, but it was good enough.

For a while, it looked like the other Chip Ganassi of Felix Rosenqvist would be going for the win, but he got caught out and dropped back by the second round of stops. Rosenqvist passed Newgarden going into Turn 1 on the first lap, putting him in second and in a position to fight Power for the lead. The Swede took the lead after the first restart and went onto lead 31 laps in his debut race, the most bar race winner Newgarden. He came home in a respectable fourth place and showed that he’s ready to take it to teammate Dixon this season.

After starting on pole, Power had to settle for a podium in third with his nemesis, like so many others, being the second stops and Andretti’s rather wide car. He couldn’t clear Andretti after the stops and was passed by Dixon who then disappeared up the road, meaning Power was unable to improve his position in the final stages of the race, but he was still happy with his result, given how badly St Pete has treated him over the past two years.

Alexander Rossi was another driver who was forced to settle for a position probably lower than he was hoping for, especially after he came so close to the victory last year. Like last year, a rookie got the better of him, though this time it was Rosenqvist and not Robert Wickens, meaning Rossi couldn’t do much better than fifth having led two laps during the pit stop sequences.

Wickens attended the race with his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team to support their drivers and celebrate his thirtieth birthday with his fellow drivers. Attending St Pete was one of Wickens’ many goals on his road to recovery after his enormous crash at Pocono last season, with the Canadian a welcome figure in the paddock once more.

Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

On track, SPM didn’t have such a good weekend with James Hinchcliffe finishing in sixth after getting the better of Penske’s Simon Pagenaud in what was a race-long battle. On the other side of the garage, Marcus Ericsson didn’t even see the chequered flag with a water pressure issue cutting his IndyCar debut short. Their sort-of-teammate Jack Harvey finished tenth in the #60 Meyer Shank supported SPM entry, in his first of ten races this season.

Rosenqvist may have taken the title of top rookie but fellow rookies Colton Herta and Santino Ferrucci were not to be forgotten in the first race of the season, finishing eighth and ninth respectively. Herta’s the only Harding driver after they failed to get an engine lease for their second car and Ferrucci lost teammate Bourdais 11 laps into the race, meaning the two rookies had to go it solo, but still delivered more than respectable performances.

One recurring feature of the race was Honda engine failures, of which there were four with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato, Ericsson and Bourdais all suffering issues that led to their retirements. While Honda had four failures, their rival Chevrolet had none, meaning the former really needs to step up on the reliability side of things, otherwise the Chevy teams could be leaving them well behind.

That concludes the season opener at St Petersburg with IndyCar back in action on March 24 at the Circuit of the Americas.

Full Race Results:

  1. Josef Newgarden
  2. Scott Dixon
  3. Will Power
  4. Felix Rosenqvist (R)
  5. Alexander Rossi
  6. James Hinchcliffe
  7. Simon Pagenaud
  8. Colton Herta (R)
  9. Santino Ferrucci (R)
  10. Jack Harvey
  11. Spencer Pigot
  12. Graham Rahal
  13. Marco Andretti
  14. Zach Veach
  15. Tony Kanaan
  16. Max Chilton
  17. Charlie Kimball
  18. Ben Hanley (R)

DNF – Takuma Sato (gearbox), Marcus Ericsson (R) (water pressure), Ed Jones (collision), Matheus Leist (collision), Ryan Hunter-Reay (engine), Sebastien Bourdais (engine)

(Featured Image Credit: Karl Zemlin/IndyCar)