Antonio Felix da Costa has taken a never-before-seen, gigantic lead in the Season 6 championship but with four races still to go, is it all over already?
There are a lot of things that are weird about the six-race Berlin finale to this season of Formula E but maybe the most stand-out is that with just over half the season gone, Da Costa has a 68 point lead.
On 125 points, he could DNF the next two races while Stoffel Vandoorne or Lucas di Grassi (in joint-second place with 57 points each) swept two perfect days for a maximum 30 and still have an eight point lead going into the final double-header.
Of course, that’s not impossible in Formula E – Da Costa’s lead is so gigantic, in part, because Mitch Evans has had an absolute disaster of a start to the finale and scored nothing, after being only 11 points behind the Techeetah driver on coming to Tempelhof. And with cars under severe strain by the intensity of races, it’s very possible to fall prey to technical issues like previously-third-placed Alexander Sims and take massive grid penalties for replacement parts.
So it’s not all over. But Da Costa deserves praise for putting in an extraordinary performance over the last two races. His car control has looked simply in a different field to the rest of the grid, with rivals struggling to even come close to his qualifying times and using a unique v-line manoeuvre to minimise how much time he loses in Attack Mode activations that no other driver seems able to replicate.
Formula E cars are difficult to drive – without downforce they corner trickily and the road-style tyres have very little grip compared to racing slicks, with a heavy back end from the battery and powertrain that, unlike a fuelled car, gets no lighter in the race. Finding the perfect setup window is a rarity but clearly Techeetah have provided Da Costa with the ideal car and unless something happens to disrupt that, it’s hard to see how anyone else can even come close.
Sebastien Buemi (a man who surely knows about dominant performance in the series) dubbed the situation as “Formula E.5” because of the gap to Da Costa from the rest of the field, after coming second yesterday.
Sad French noises
Da Costa’s teammate, double Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne, is not having a good time in Berlin. He was trailing Antonio in the championship before arriving there, having only secured one podium finish this year during an admittedly extraordinary drive through the field while incredibly unwell in Marrakech.
He got agitated during yesterday’s race about Da Costa’s energy usage, prompting speculation that JEV was unhappy to be relegated behind his teammate in the standings. Really, assumptions that JEV is annoyed not to be the number one driver in Techeetah are a bit daft – not only has he publicly supported Da Costa but
Vergne is notorious for getting a bit tired and emotional on the radio during races but frantic messages are the norm in Formula E. What he is annoyed about are two incidents with Lucas di Grassi during race one and Edoardo Mortara during race two, which Vergne said yesterday in a post-race press conference need looking at by the stewards, unable to understand why they hadn’t been.
Vergne isn’t particularly used to having to race in FE’s tight midfield – and is known as a very robust defender himself – which is getting him riled at incidents other drivers might ignore. Unless he finds a setup to match Da Costa’s pace, though, his engineers might want to find the mute button for the next four races because he doesn’t look to be getting out of there any time soon, currently…
The Audi-powered Formula E cars had a difficult start to the season. Slightly disguised by Sam Bird’s win in Riyadh, all four cars in both the Audi factory and the Virgin customer teams struggling for qualifying and race pace.
Robin Frijns taking fifth yesterday is his first points-finish since the season opener and all cars but the inexperienced Rast ending in the points yesterday, the powertrain took its best result so far. Di Grassi has made massive comebacks from partway through the season before and he and Bird have both gone from relatively low in contention to front runners for, if not the title then, the second and third-placed silverware.
Alex Lynn qualifying comedown
Finishing 11th after starting 3rd might seem a little bit disappointing but Mahindra, who’ve struggled a lot this season, should definitely feel encouraged that Lynn was able to put together a really mighty lap in both group qualifying and Super Pole.
His fight with Nyck de Vries showed the Mahindra able to keep pace with the Mercedes and although ultimately Lynn dropped down the order due to some poorly-timed Attack Mode attempts, that the car can actually fight at the front is no small improvement from earlier in the season.
If the team can carry on the momentum then what had turned into an almost disastrous season, ahead of only straggling Dragon and point-less NIO 333 in the championship, could be very much salvaged on the Tempelhof runway.