What the top drivers need to stay in Formula E title contention
Image: ABB FIA Formula E

What the top drivers need to stay in Formula E title contention

Antonio Felix da Costa, in taking pole position for race two at Formula E’s Season Six Tempelhof finale, is the first driver to breach 100 points this year – and takes a 44-point lead, the largest ever at this point in a Formula E season.

With his rivals mostly failing to collect points yesterday while he put in the perfect run, Da Costa was already in a strong position following the first Tempelhof event. Taking pole only extends that and in a session where most of his closest rivals in the standings continue to struggle.

Image: ABB FIA Formula E

Mitch Evans

Jaguar’s lead driver had looked to be having a really strong season until the COVID break. He came to Tempelhof just 11 points behind Da Costa, an easily coverable distance over 6 race events but after being spun in the race yesterday, he finished a miserable 13th, well outside the points.

Things have gone from bad to worse today, with Evans suffering from a lack of pace in qualifying that saw him only make 17th. Although it’s not impossible to weave up a Formula E field, especially with a car as efficient as the Jaguar has shown itself to be at points this year, the sort of result Evans needs is pretty much nothing short of a win.

Formula E isn’t like that, however and the most important thing Evans can do is maximise whatever returns he can get from the race. A top-ten finish might be a big ask but it’s plausible, especially as at least one of the cars ahead (Oliver Turvey’s NIO 333) cannot match the Jaguar for race pace and another driver’s penalty will see him actually start 16th. If Evans can get a clean finish and collect a few points he might not be able to reel Da Costa in but will at least keep himself somewhere in the running for the next four races.

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Image: ABB FIA Formula E

Alex Sims

Alexander Sims is the man most regularly talked about in a tone of surprise that he’s in title contention. Which is ridiculous given up until today he’d taken the most pole positions of the season and been a very sensible contender in all the rounds, bar retirements for mechanical failures in Santiago and Mexico. So arguably should actually be much higher up the ranking.

The mild-mannered BMW drivers’ dark horse status aside, however (I said people would probably still be surprised if he was in title contention by the finale and here we are) third-placed Sims is on less than half Da Costa’s points total, 48 points putting him well within reach of second-placed Evans on 56 but a long way back from the leader’s triple figure score.

If Da Costa wins today then on 125 points he wouldn’t quite punt Sims out of the mathematical running, even with a DNF but it would be marginal with a remaining maximum 120 points on the table and a potential 77 point lead on him.

Sims really has to get in the points – and probably ahead of Evans – to keep himself anywhere near the fight and having qualified 15th, he’d hardly have an easier job ahead than the second-placed man. However, a 20-place grid penalty for a battery change means that he’ll start both dead last and with a 10-second time penalty, which might well effectively put paid to any hope at all of a points finish.

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A clean race and a good car for the next four rounds might, realistically, be what’s salvageable today.

Image: ABB FIA Formula E

Stoffel Vandoorne

The fourth-placed Mercedes driver missed a potential F1 return (after Sergio Perez was diagnosed with COVID-19 and ruled out of the British Grand Prix) as Mercedes identified the Formula E finale as more important than his reserve role with the hope he’d secure the championship.

So far, that hasn’t gone well – although Evans and Sims’ worse luck has definitely put him in comfortable line for some socially-distanced silverware at whatever will be filling in for the end of year gala, only two points behind Sims and 10 behind Evans.

Vandoorne has the highest starting position of the three but that’s possibly not much comfort giving he’ll be lining up 13th. He’s much more within the reach of points than Evans or Sims but also stuck in the messy midfield of the pack and vulnerable to any turn one chaos, should yesterday’s almost surprisingly clean racing not get maintained.

As with Sims, he wouldn’t be out of contention totally if he didn’t move forward but Vandoorne needs a points haul. Max Guenther and Sam Bird are both on 44 points and just ahead of him on the grid in 11th and 9th. Vandoorne’s wrung two third-place finishes out of the Mercedes and made a furiously impressive charge up the grid yesterday from 16th to 6th so if he can make an equivalent leap, he’d be back on the bottom step at least.

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In reality, this has become Da Costa’s event to throw away. But don’t underestimate the risk of doing so – he’s just one point further ahead than Buemi was at this point in Season 3, when Lucas di Grassi took the title. Although admittedly he won’t be missing the next two races for a WEC clash, much though his rivals might be wishing he was.

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Written by
Hazel Southwell
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