The two-times Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne brought the first win of the season home at a highly-contended Rome E-Prix.
By Daphne Seberich
JEV is back! The two-times French Formula E champion with DS-Techeetah was back on the podium after two sub-par races held in Diryah in February.
The third round of the 2021 ABB FIA Formula E championship, held in Rome, Italy, was the first race after a six-week break from the sport. A new layout of the EUR-Circuit was the scenery of the European event.
Photo credits: Motor.es Motorsport.com & Diariomotor
After the qualifying session, Stoffel Vandoorne secured the Superpole position and the three extra points awarded towards the drivers’ championship standings.
Due to the less-than-ideal weather conditions, the race direction decided to kick off the race behind the safety car. As soon as the green flag was waved, which signaled the beginning of the competition, the battle for the leadership of the race began in a fiery way.
André Lotterer followed the superpolesitter Vandoorne closely. As soon as he saw an opportunity against the Silver Arrows driver, he dived into the apex, pushing the Belgian off-track. That caused a detrimental turn of events for the two top drivers, causing a collision and following an investigation of the race direction. German driver Lotterer was awarded a five-second penalty and a two-point deduction from his super license after the deliberation of the FIA.
Another driver who had to face the decisions of the FIA was Oliver Rowland. He was investigated for using more than the allowed 200kwh of power during the first minutes of the race. The FIA awarded a drive-through penalty to the British Nissan driver. Audi-Schäffler driver Lucas Di Grassi was served on a silver plate the lead of the race.
Jean-Eric Vergne, who was debuting the new DS-Techeetah powertrain, seemed to have incredible pace behind the Brazilian leader of the race. The battle to the top got fiery at every turn and straight between the two.
After his collision with Lotterer, Vandoorne had to completely start his race from zero. Although he lost many positions, the Belgian kept his head down and raced to the max. He managed to recover to the ninth position at the half-race mark. He was also awarded the Fanboost, which he then could deploy in strategic moments of the race.
The leader of the driver’s standing Nyck De Vries had the potential to make it to the podium position yet again, following the three top drivers closely from behind in fourth.
The real elephant in the room, although, was the obligation of use of the Attack Mode. The drivers can deploy this mode only by driving on a dedicated part of the track, which is not on the ideal racing line. Leader Di Grassi followed the smart strategy of keeping all the pack closely together so that his competitors following behind would lose as many positions as possible when deciding to use the Attack Mode.
Jean-Eric Vergne was the one who has suffered the most from this strategy, losing out on multiple positions from his original second. He then managed to recover all the way to the top, but Di Grassi and his brilliant strategy allowed him to dictate the course of the race.
The battle to the top was all between the DS-Techeetah driver Vergne and Audi-Schäffler racer Di Grassi. Back-to-back attack modes were deployed to combat fiercely with Nick De Vries in the mix. Meanwhile, Silver Arrow challenger Stoffel Vandoorne made it all the way to fifth place to reiterate a brilliant comeback performance from the disastrous way his race started.
With eight minutes left on the clock and one extra lap remaining, Jaguar racer Bird managed to overtake and dethrone the championship standings leader De Vries. Both drivers of the British team seemed to be driving at a different pace from the race leaders. Evans doubled down on the Dutchman bringing him all the way back down to fifth.
The battle between Di Grassi and Vergne was still highly the center point of the race. The Brazilian managed to recover the lead of the race after his second Attack Mode, but suddenly his challenger incurred a loss of power. Stoffel Vandoorne tried to avoid the slowing-down car but carambulared on the barriers, ending his winning chances and race prematurely.
Other Mercedes driver De Vries was involved in the incredibly dangerous crash as well and was forced to retire his car. Under Toto Wolff’s eyes, who came to watch the race as team owner, the Silver Arrows collected zero points towards the championships.
The thrilling race until that point had to, unfortunately, end under a regime of safety car, pronouncing Jean-Eric Vergne the winner of the first Rome E-Prix ahead of the two Jaguar drivers Sam Bird and Mitch Evans in second and third place.
One more race will take place in the Italian capital on Sunday. Who will come out on top?