In part two of our Formula E Season 6 driver ratings, we’re continuing with a look at the drivers who raced this season for newcomers MERCEDES EQ and series veterans ENVISION Virgin Racing…
- MERCEDES EQ
Stoffel Vandoorne 🇧🇪
2nd in the championship with 87 points
If anyone deserved success this year, it’s Stoffel Vandoorne. After being unceremoniously chewed up and spat out of F1, Vandoorne landed in Formula E last season determined to prove that spark that shone so brightly in his junior formulae days had not been distinguished.
A year with HWA prepared him well for this, his first properly competitive tilt at Formula E with the full works Mercedes team, and boy have the hard yards paid off. Back-to-back podiums at the opening race weekend in Diriyah maybe raised expectations a little high early on, but as the season progressed, Vandoorne appeared to grow in confidence, a mid season hiccup aside, to emerge as one of the standout performers from the six race season-finale in Berlin.
A black mark on Vandoorne’s season – if you were to look for one – might be found in his qualifying, as he’s given himself too much to do at times to fight for the big results his race pace implied might be possible, but at 4.2 positions gained on average from his starting position, he’s hardly been sat around waiting for those points to fall into his lap.
He may not have been the quickest qualifier in the team (more on his team-mate in a moment) but Vandoorne’s intelligent racecraft and considered energy management ensured he was able to deliver points in seven of 11 races – three of those being podiums.
His win in the final race was a masterclass in energy management and perhaps the biggest compliment he could be paid for that, is that it was genuinely astonishing to discover that a driver of Vandoorne’s ability hadn’t won a single-seater race for almost four years.
Second place in the championship is an enormous achievement for Vandoorne, and you’d be a fool to bet against him adding more wins next season.
Nyck de Vries 🇳🇱
11th in the championship with 60 points
Jean-Eric Vergne heaped praise on Nyck de Vries for his decision to join Formula E, saying it was a “big step” for the championship to attract a bright young talent (and reigning F2 champion) such as he, and in fairness, he’s right – de Vries is exactly the kind of driver FE should be eager to entice.
It won’t be immediately evident from a glance at the final standings, but in fairness, de Vries had a pretty stellar debut campaign. But for a spate of early season penalties, his season might have been viewed very differently in retrospect.
He was stripped of sixth in Diriyah (overtaking under the safety car) and was demoted from third to fifth in Santiago (a battery cooling infringement) before completing his unwanted hat-track with a drive through penalty while running third in Marrakesh (overpower during regen) that dropped him outside of the points.
Perhaps the shutdown came at a good time for de Vries, as he appeared to return refreshed and re-energised in Berlin, delivering four top-five qualifying performances before playing a superb supporting role to Vandoorne as the pair delivered an impressive 1-2 finish for Mercedes in the final race.
He may have placed only 11th in the final standings, but there are some statistics buried a little deeper within that to suggest he might have challenged for a top four placing had he enjoyed a more straightforward season.
His average starting position of 8.3 across 11 races was bettered only by Sebastien Buemi, who coincidentally was also the only driver to have bettered de Vries’ record of seven superpole appearances this season.
If Mercedes start next season as they ended this one, de Vries should be right on Vandoorne’s tail and that first win likely won’t be too far away.
- ENVISION VIRGIN
Sam Bird 🇬🇧
10th in the championship with 63 points
What can you say about Sam Bird? He desperately wanted this season to be his year, and *whisper it* we did too. Everybody loves an underdog, and it seems Bird has built his reputation on being exactly that in Formula E. You often can’t take your eyes off him, and the wisest drivers on the grid rarely do.
But sadly this wasn’t to be the fairytale season for Bird, or actually anything close to that. A win in the season-opener proved to be a false dawn, but it did ensure he kept up his incredible record of being the only driver to have won a race in every Formula E season so far.
After briefly leading the championship post-Diriyah, it quickly fell apart for him thereafter. He left the second Diriyah race point-less after a tangle with (future team-mate) Mitch Evans, and could only recover to 10th after a poor qualifying at the next race in Santiago. Perhaps his lowest point though came in Mexico when he ran offline and into the wall while battling for a top-five position with Antonio Felix da Costa – pretty much ending his race there and then.
It was perhaps this weekend when it dawned on Bird that the season just wasn’t going to be the one he’d hoped for, and as Inside Electric co-founder Hazel Southwell can testify, the sight of him slumped, dejectedly in the media pen after the race was tough to watch.
There was some small improvement in Berlin where Bird picked up three top-six finishes including a podium in Race 1, but he was again hampered by the Virgin car’s poor qualifying pace as he started no higher than 14th in each of the final four races.
He outscored Frijns 63-58 in the final standings, but that will be scant consolation to Bird who ends the 2019-20 campaign with comfortably his lowest points tally since joining the series. It was far from a vintage season for Bird, and not the way in which he’d have wanted to depart a team he’s experienced so many highs with over the past six years.
Robin Frijns 🇳🇱
12th in the championship with 58 points
Looking back, it’s been quite a bizarre year for Robin Frijns since he picked up his second Formula E win in New York, and from memory, we can’t quite recall a driver having such contrasting first and second halves to a season as Frijns’ experienced this time around
It’s difficult to fully understand what changed between the two – perhaps maybe Robin isn’t even sure – but either way, there’s quite a bit to pick apart.
After a strong end to last season, Frijns’ start to this one was messy, and he ended up with 33 points fewer after five rounds than he did at the same stage last year.
Fifth was a respectable result from the season opener (even though team-mate Bird won the race) but from there on, results went downhill. He threw away points with a clumsy spin in Diriyah Race 2, and failed to score in Santiago after picking up a puncture through contact on lap one. He then got caught up in Nyck de Vries’ accident in Mexico City before a penalty for an power infringement during qualifying ended his hopes of points in Marrakesh.
His form in the final six races though was spectacular, which does beg the question – what happened? Perhaps his Season 7 contract extension helped to concentrate his mind, but whatever it was, it appeared to be a brand new Robin Frijns on display in Berlin.
Despite suffering race-ending damage in two of the final six races and a pre-race powertrain failure in one of the others, Frijns was the sixth-highest points scorer in Berlin, owing to his fine second place in Race 3 and a brace of fourth place finishes in the other two.
His qualifying was pretty damn good too as he made superpole four times in Berlin and delivered the best average starting position of any driver on the grid – in contrast, he’d been outqualified 5-0 by Bird prior to the break.
A slightly baffling end then to Frijns’ season and certainly a stark contrast to the beginning of it. He’ll need to raise his game next season to improve on 12th in the final standings.
Coming up: Part 3 featuring BMW Andretti and Audi Sport
Part 1: DS Techeetah and Nissan e.dams