It seems that Formula E has developed a win-win scenario for its races, attracting more and more spectators to the stands: a difficult track, a huge number of collisions, red flags and desperate restarts, overtaking in impossible places and fighting to the finish flag, so that in the seventh race a new of the season turned out to be the seventh new winner! Congratulations to Panasonic Jaguar Racing and Mitch Evans on their first ever Formula E win.
What happens outside the track?
The race in Rome marked the middle of the current season - six stages behind, six more ahead - and gave the go-ahead for the start of the European tour. Paris, Monaco, Berlin, Bern will take over the electro formula within the next three months, and this season will end with a double race in New York. And then - preparations for the sixth season, when two more factory teams - Mercedes and Porsche - enter the battle to win the fast-paced series. And if Mercedes actually replaces the HWA Racelab team, which is now Mercedes' deputy on the ground in Formula E, then the Porsches will come from scratch - although they also have quite a bit of experience with electric power racing.
Mercedes EQ Silver Arrow 01
Both Mercedes and Porsche are actively testing new cars that will be presented in the offseason. At the same time, if Porsche has already signed at least one of the two pilots (the factory pilot Neil Yani became them), Mercedes has not yet announced its roster, and it is not at all a fact that the HWA Racelab pilots will automatically go there. Rumor has it that Mercedes is now actively looking for big names and very fast pilots to enter as beautifully and victoriously as they used to.
We talk a little about any internal processes in Formula E, and this is probably wrong. The fact is that the series is developing very actively both in terms of its own globalization, and in the technical direction, and in the legislative. And the whole team is involved in this, including the teams.
For example, before the Grand Prix of Rome, the part of the regulations concerning the appearance of red flags was actively discussed. Until now, the regulations indicated that red flags do not stop the countdown of the arrival time, and the referees, at their discretion, can add extra time (like in football). In Italy, teams made the unequivocal decision that the red flags would stop the race timer, and this has already been tried out in combat.
Another issue for discussion was the twin-engine power plant of the Nissan concern, which they use in their cars. Several teams were very unhappy with this decision, as they believe it gives Nissan an edge in energy storage. In the regulations, this technical point is not spelled out, a similar approach to the design of the power plant was previously considered by two more teams, but then this idea was abandoned, so now Nissan is the only one who performs with two engines. They say that the organizers are ready to resolve this issue in favor of the majority in order to dampen the wave of indignation.
BMW I Andretti Motorsport and DS Techeetah brought several new aerodynamic solutions for their vehicles to Italy, tested them on Friday and were very pleased. Moreover, DS Techeetah even announced that now in Rome they are ready to fight again for the podium and victories. And the confirmation of their words immediately became the pole position of Andre Lotterer, and then the best lap in the race in the second car of the team, driven by Jean-Eric Verne.
After the race in China, the teams had two changes at once. Nelson Piquet, the first ever Formula E champion, has announced his retirement from the series. He was replaced in the Panasonic Jaguar Racing team by Briton Alex Lynn, who had played for Virgin Racing with Sam Byrd in previous seasons. Those seasons were unfortunate for Lynn, he came under pressure from Sam Byrd and was eventually replaced by Robin Freyns. Why Lynn is difficult to say, probably his origin also mattered; the important thing is that he got a second chance, which is not given to everyone. It is not known whether the Briton will continue playing for Jaguar in the next season - or is he just now closing the gap after the departure of Piquet. Usually such issues are resolved at the end of the season.
The second change came in the Geox Dragon team, but this change is definitely temporary. Felipe Nasr set off to conquer America behind the wheel of the IMSA body series, while Max Gunther took his place.
Qualification and race
If the difficulties associated with the E-Prix in Italy could only be reduced to a difficult track, narrow roads and reckless pilots, this would be nothing. But add rain, freezing temperatures and disgusting patched asphalt, slippery and uneven, and you get a complete picture of what awaited the riders on the streets of old Rome.
The length of the street track was 2870 meters, which is quite a lot for Formula E street racing. The track configuration includes 21 turns, several of them are at right angles. There were no long straight lines here, so the maximum speed of the cars was not high: about 210 km / h. At the same time, some sections of the track are quite wide, which implies opportunities for overtaking, and corners and chicane are narrow, which complicates the rivalry.
The qualification took place entirely in rainy conditions, many cars slipped, pilots made mistakes, so the lineup of those who made it to the superpole was rather unusual.
Two cars of the Geox Dragon team turned out to be here - Jose Maria Lopez showed the third time, and Maximilian Gunther became the fifth. Stoffel Vandoorn again managed to show a good result and became fourth, Sebastian Buemi closed the six, but two pilots fought for pole position at once: New Zealander Mitch Evans (Panasonic Jaguar Racing) and German Andre Lotterer (DS Techeetah). Lotterer went to his lap last and almost to the finish line was inferior to Evans' time, but then he still managed to show the best time, pretty fraying on the nerves of his team and the Jaguars. However, within a few hours this rivalry was transferred to the race itself: right up to the finish line, the head of the Panasonic Jaguar Racing team, James Barclay, clutched at his heart in the most acute moments of the struggle between the two pilots. And there were more than enough such moments.
The race started without rain, although the asphalt was still wet. For Formula E, this moment is not fundamental: there is no division into slicks and rain tires in the series - the teams use the same Michelin tires with a tread in all weather conditions. And because tire tactics or pit stop tactics are absent here, the organizers were forced to come up with other tactical tricks to exacerbate the struggle on the track, for example, attack mode, fan-boost, and more. Actually, it is the tactics of the correct and timely use of the attack mode that became here an important link in the struggle for victory. Throughout the race, which lasted not the prescribed 45 minutes + 1 lap, but much longer due to the prolonged red flag regime, the two pilots who started from the first line did not stop fighting for a second. And it is precisely the competent use of additional energy,which gives the activated attack mode, and the correctly calculated strategy allowed the Jaguar pilot to literally shoot at the right moment and overtake Lotterer, who was leading more than half of the race.
Evans activates the mode first - around the middle of the race. Driving along the activation line required Evans to deviate from the ideal trajectory and waste time, as a result of which he was inferior to Stoffel Vandorn, who was pursuing him, but then quickly regains his position and begins to close the gap to DS Techeetah Lotterer. Evans practically hangs on his tail, taking advantage of the slipstream and biding his time. And this moment has come. Evans passed the German pilot in another chicane, as they say, on a thin one, and still, in the excitement of the struggle, the pilots had two light contacts, for which both then received a warning from the race director. Nevertheless, Lotterer had no complaints about Evans, admitting that he still left him enough space.
- I will need to check by telemetry what happened in the middle of the race, because I had problems with the tires - it seems that the pressure in them suddenly increased. I hoped that Mitch would not notice this and was afraid to overtake me, but he still managed to squeeze into the left gap and at the same time did everything completely correctly, leaving me space on the track.
“I just needed to get the timing right, use the energy when Andre couldn't use his, and take advantage of the power difference,” Evans said. - I managed to overtake, and it was he who became the turning point of the race. And at that moment, when I saw his car in my mirrors, I realized that everything worked out for me, and now the main thing is to be able to take this lead to the finish line.
Lotterer tried to counterattack Evans twice in attack mode, but both times he could not get close enough to him to take advantage of his advantage. As a result, the pilot DS Techeetah was again only the second.
Stoffel Vandoorn managed to maintain the third position in the race and for the first time took the podium in Formula E in his first season and also brought the first podium to the HWA Racelab team. Robin Friens managed to improve his position in the race and finished fourth, overtaking Sebastian Buemi.
Jérôme D'ambrosio's four points for eighth place were enough for the Belgian to lead the individual competition again, ahead of Antonio Felix Da Costa. Now the Top 9 pilots share only 13 points.
Reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne was unable to repeat his success in China and failed to score points as he was involved in an incident on the first lap with Jose Maria Lopez and Gary Puffett, which eventually led to a red flag regime that lasted 43 minutes! And later, Vergne also received a penalty for overtaking Da Costa in Full Course Yellow, and this threw him even further in the standings.
In general, the reigning champion this season is catastrophically unlucky: for three races in a row he finished outside the points zone altogether, until he finally won a victory in China. And here again the problems in Rome. Now Vergne takes only seventh place, but at the same time, only 11 points separate him from the leader, which means that the French pilot will be able to make up for lost time in one race - with a successful combination of circumstances.
And it is precisely this small difference in points and the fact that everything can change in the blink of an eye that makes the battle in Formula E so hot and exciting!
7 races - 7 winners
The next E-Prix will take place in Paris on April 27th.
Best lap: Jean-Eric Vergne - 1: 31.016
The best moments of the race: