Formula E returned for another double-header event, packed with rivalries, redemption and regret. Oh and a whole bunch of penalties. Here’s what we learnt from a crazy couple of races in Rome…
JAGUAR’S DRIVER DUO ARE DOMINATING THE STANDINGS
When Sam Bird announced his move to Jaguar to partner Mitch Evans, we all knew what a powerhouse lineup this could be. Despite Evans helping shape the team into the highly competitive constructor they are today, he’s never quite had the right teammate to help equal his efforts. Until now.
Bird was that missing piece and for the first time in their Formula E history, Jaguar could seriously challenge for the title. They have certainly left Rome with a good impression, topping the teams’ standings for the second event in a row and with Bird and Evans sitting comfortably in the first and second spot in the drivers’ standings.
The team also secured their first-ever double podium during the Saturday E-Prix.
ZERO TO HERO FOR VANDOORNE
After securing pole position, Round 3 of the 2020/21 season should have belonged to Stoffel Vandoorne. After starting the race behind the safety car, Andre Lotterer pushed the Mercedes driver off the track when racing resumed – something Lotterer was later penalised for.
Vandoorne fell back as Lucas di Grassi took the lead with a stunning manoeuvre past Jean-Eric Vergne. However, the Audi of di Grassi completely conked out minutes before the end of the race. The sudden loss of power resulted in other drivers scrambling to avoid the slow-moving car, including that of pole-sitter Stoffel Vandoorne.
The Mercedes car sped off the racing line and made contact with a manhole cover, sending him spinning across the track and into the path of his teammate. Both drivers were forced to DNF, losing vital points for a team that were the bookie’s favourites after the Diriyah weekend.
Vandoorne was able to turn his frown upside down though, after a brilliant drive from fourth to victory in Sunday’s race. This was his first win this season, and the second for the Mercedes squad.
“Today’s a good today to take home the victory,” Vandoorne said after the race.
“I kept believing, and was confident in the car today. In the end it made my life easier to have that gap. I had my Fanboost left and I used that on the last lap to defend my position.”
FORMULA E REMAINS TOTALLY UNPREDICTABLE
Racing in Rome is always an adventure. The track is fun, feisty and has a load of elevation changes to keep the drivers on the edge of their seats. Despite some layout changes to the circuit this year, it still provided us with more unexpected teams and drivers on the podium.
In fact, Formula E has given us 10 different drivers on the podium over the last four races alone. Bird and Evans are the only two that have more than one podium finish this season, but elsewhere, it’s anybody’s guess who will make it onto the podium next.
Not a bad record to go by, and there’s no stopping there. With Sunday’s pole sitter, rookie Nick Cassidy, looking quick, as well as the likes of both Audis without a podium result yet, expect this number of different podium finishers to only rise over the season.
THE NEW SAFETY CAR GOT A LOAD OF USE
We all like the introduction of the cute new MINI Electric Pacesetter as the official Formula E safety car, however, Formula E certainly got their money’s worth over the Rome double-header.
With both races starting under safety car conditions due to the start location and a damp track – a bigger issue that needs to be resolved for future rounds – the races had their fair share of crashes and bumps. It got to the point where it seemed like we had more running under some kind of yellow flag or safety car period than actual racing.
POWER OVERUSE RUINS RACES
It seemed to be one of the most common penalties handed out over the weekend, but the overuse of energy derailed several big results for drivers in Rome.
Most notably, Venturi’s newest signing Norman Nato who was disqualified from his third place finish on Sunday, promoting Pascal Wehrlein to the podium as a result. An absolutely devastating decision for the rookie and the Monaco-based team, however, rules are rules.
Over the course of the weekend, Andre Lotterer and Oliver Rowland were other drivers to fall victim of the energy overuse rule, with the latter handed a drive-through penalty which lost him the lead of the race. This ruined any chance of victory for the Brit, especially given the length of the pitlane and how long it takes a driver to pit.