Oliver Rowland FINALLY managed to secure his first Formula E victory in a controlled win from pole position around the new Berlin E-Prix layout.
LONG TIME COMING
Rowland has been flirting with the chance of becoming Formula E’s newest race winner for quite some time. When he was drafted in to replace Alex Albon, yes THAT Albon, at pre-season testing in Valencia at the start of the 2018/19 season, there was no guarantee he would be rewarded with a full-time race seat with the Nissan Formula E outlet.
He proved his worth almost instantly, both on-track and off-track, and so it was a no brainer to sign Rowland. He raced with the team for the 2018/19 season and then renewed his contract for this season. After his performance today, it seems likely his future with Nissan is a done deal but let’s see what happens in the final race tomorrow.
Last year Rowland managed to secure three pole positions but failed to convert them into wins, but today was his day. After a colossal failure from group 1 in qualifying – more on that later – he chucked his car into Super Pole and got pole position. From lights out, he put on a dominating performance to lead from lights out to the chequered flag holding back P2 of Robin Frijns.
This victory also places Rowland second in the drivers’ championship as we head into the final race tomorrow, a dramatic jump from ninth position which he previously held. The quick rise up the ranks is an identical promotion that Race 3’s winner Maximilian Günther experienced.
WOSRT QUALIFYING FAIL EVER?
If you’re in group 1 of qualifying, it is likely that both you as a driver and your team are working in harmony and getting good results. The best of the best you could say. Which is what made today’s balls up so shocking and embarrassing for all involved.
Recently crowned drivers’ champion Antionio Felix da Costa, two-time Formula E Champion Jean-Eric Vergne, and former Formula E champions Sebastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi ALL missed the opportunity to set a qualifying time because they left it too late in the session.
Fortunately, the FIA let them start the race but from the back of the grid. Di Grassi even believed the Techeetah’s to have pulled the stunt deliberately so prevent him from setting a time, something Da Costa strongly denied.
Da Costa and di Grassi even collided in the qualifying session which led to some spicy words exchanged about each other afterwards on the TV feed.
Overall though, a monster of a bad call from all involved and shocking to see such experienced drivers and teams get involved in such an embarrassing situation. Great for racing, chucking all the favorites for second place in the championship standings at the back of the grid though and made for a unusual selection of drivers in Super Pole.
GREAT DAY FOR THE NEWBIES
As well as the likes of Rowland and Frijns finishing first and second respectively, it was also an amazing day for the new kids on the block.
Rene Rast, Audi’s latest signing, finished in third and battled with a competitive Andre Lotterer on the last lap to earn his place on the podium. So much of a fight for a podium slot, the overtake was investigated after the race with no further action taken. Taking a podium so early on in his Formula E career will no doubt of helped his chances of being retained for next year, but with Audi having such a large talent pool to pick from, it is no guarantee of a race seat for the 2020/21 season.
Alex Lynn also showed great promise during the penultimate race in the Berlin Finale, managing to get his Mahindra in P5 – a noble effort considering Mahindra’s performance struggles in recent races. Although not a rookie in Formula E, he was drafted in as a replacement for Berlin with Pascal Wehrlein’s departure from the team.
Tom Blomqvist made their Formula E return during race 5, replacing James Calado for the final two races of the season. He did a fantastic job getting the Jaguar into Super Pole and ran in the top ten for most of the race, before slipping out the points to finish P12. Not bad when he hasn’t been involved in a race ‘weekend’ in two years.
ALL TO PLAY FOR IN FINAL RACE
Okay, so the drivers’ and teams’ championships might be decided, but there is still a huge pick of drivers who could cement the second and third place spots in the championship tomorrow. With such an unpredictable field, it really is impossible to pick out a favourite. Just look at Rowland. Before race 5, he was P9 in the standings. He now sits P2. Same for Maximilian Günther after race 3, projected up to the second spot after his surprise victory.
Race 6 is the final race of the season. Everyone will be keen to go out with a bang, so expect lots of action and battles to get the ‘best of the rest’ title.