Vergne victorious as Vandoorne hits manhole cover in race of drama

Formula E

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Jean-Eric Vergne scored his first victory of the Formula E season after his team rebuilt his car following a practice crash.

The two-time Formula E champion had scored no points in the first two rounds in Diriyah, then was involved in a bizarre collision with Oliver Turvey at the end of first practice this morning, which left his Techeetah team having to frantically repair his car for qualifying.

The race started in relatively cold conditions, for Formula E; just 15ºC air temperature and 17ºC track temperature. Additionally, mixed conditions meant the race started behind the safety car. After five minutes the race began and pole-sitter Stoffel Vandoorne was able to get away with the lead with André Lotterer in hot pursuit.

Lotterer and Vandoorne collided, clumsily, into the TecPro barrier at turn four, both slipping down the order and handing the lead to Oliver Rowland, who was himself under investigation for power over-use. He managed to get a slight lead but was rapidly under pressure from Lucas di Grassi.

Rowland was given a drive-through penalty with 33 minutes to go. Di Grassi inherited the race lead but with Jean-Éric Vergne and Robin Frijns hot on his heels. Vergne made a bold move on Di Grassi into turn four, the same place that Lotterer and Vandoorne had collided but the two escaped unscathed, Di Grassi breaking away with the lead while Vergne fell into battling with Frijns.

Sergio Sette Cåmara also received a drive-through penalty for energy overuse, after having stopped on track with what suspected powertrain problems.

The Safety Car was kept busy
Vergne was the first to go for Attack Mode, with the activation having serious consequences here, in a close train of cars. He slipped from second to fifth but knowing that the cars ahead of him had to do the same thing shortly. Di Grassi and he swapped the lead back and forth, between their respective Attack Mode

Jake Dennis retired from the race with 11 minutes to go, creating a brief yellow flag period but it failed to tone down Di Grassi and Vergne’s tussle. Both out of Attack Mode activations, they were still close to each other by the time Sam Bird – who had started the race tenth – managed to pass Nyck de Vries for third place.

Di Grassi dove up the inside of Vergne at turn four, in a move that looked impossible to complete but he managed to avoid the barriers and hold the lead, despite Vergne continuing close behind. The pack had never spread out and the gap from first to fourth was only just over a second and a half, with six minutes to go.

With just under five minutes to go, however, Di Grassi suddenly slowed, slipping backwards down the order on the uphill straight. Almost simultaneously, Vandoorne hit a manhole cover that sent his car off-course and the Mercedes drivers both collided, Vandoorne ending up embedded in the wall and a Full Course Yellow procedure starting.

Vandoorne’s car could not be retrieved and the race ended behind the safety car for the second time this season, Vergne taking his first win of the season and with Jaguar’s Sam Bird and Mitch Evans behind him, taking Jaguar’s first double podium.

Formula E’s next round is tomorrow, on the Rome street circuit again. Sam Bird has taken the lead of the championship, from Nyck de Vries.

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1Jean-Eric VergneDS Techeetah
2Sam BirdJaguar
3Mitch EvansJaguar
4Robin FrijnsEnvision Virgin
5Sebastien BuemiNissan e.Dams
6Rene RastAudi
7Pascal WehrleinPorsche
8Alex LynnMahindra
9Max GuentherBMWi Andretti
10Nick CassidyEnvision Virgin
11Tom BlomqvistNIO 333
12Norman NatoVenturi
13Oliver RowlandNissan e.Dams
14Nico MuellerDragon Penske
15Sergio Sette CamaraDragon Penske
16Andre LottererPorsche
DNFNyck de VriesMercedes
DNFLucas di GrassiAudi
DNFStoffel VandoorneMercedes
DNFAntonio Felix da CostaDS Techeetah
DNFJake DennisBMWi Andretti
DNFEdoardo MortaraVenturi
DNFAlexander SimsMahindra
DNSOliver TurveyNIO 333

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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13 comments on “Vergne victorious as Vandoorne hits manhole cover in race of drama”

  1. What a brilliant race that was, making up for the farce that was the Ad Diriyah eprix. Lucas Di Grassi, Sam Bird and Stoffel Vandoorne were pure class from start to finish, particularly Di Grassi; that move on Robin Frijns was sublime. Bird also made some great moves. Such a shame how it ended for Di Grassi and Vandoorne. Rene Rast also had a super, unnoticed drive from the back of the grid. Still not perfect from the rulebook, though, with Oliver Rowland getting a drive-through for one of those silly ‘power overuse’ spikes. I don’t know what the penalty could be instead, but that seems too harsh. Also Vandoorne hitting a manhole cover is never nice to see.

    1. Agree – brilliant race, a really unpredictable and close battle for win.

      A drive through seems so ridiculously over the top, I’d like to see them just apply some sort of power-related penalty – spending 10 seconds with 15kw less power or taking off 10kwh from the total available for the race or something.

    2. Indeed, it was super harsh. I think they should just review them on a case by case basis, if it’s obviously a blip over a bump then they shouldn’t dish out the penalty (as the extra fast spinning wheel is not making the car go faster!). Thought it was a bit silly too. As for Di Grassi, I love the guy but not sure I would go as so far as saying pure class for this race at least, he seemed to nudge the other drivers around like touring cars! Think he would have gotten a penalty had he not broken down at the end.

  2. How can air temp be only 15 degrees in the Arabian Peninsula at this time of year when daytime highs can be well into the 30s and even night-time in the 20s, LOL?
    Hitting what Vandoorne hit is something that has happened more than once before in Motorsport.

    1. Don’t pay attention to anything I wrote regarding temps as I got misled by the mention of Diriyah in the second paragraph. How silly of me.

      1. I mean its snowing in April where I live I the UK. I don’t think traditional averages can be taken as a given any more these days. Weather has never been more unpredictable

  3. Thanks for the article.
    Note: the location of the race wasn’t mentioned until the second to last sentence…

    1. It’s definitely the first thing I the first photo tho!

  4. That was a great race. Shame they started it behind the safety car for a slightly damp track, but anyway that was the best FE race I’ve seen in a long while. I would also like to point out the use of static cameras that gave a real sense of speed, something the Formula E has lacked in previous seasons – I hope this was a conscious choice and not just for this race. As for the bumps, they also helped to give a real sense of speed and were fantastic (manhole covers aside of course).
    I watched the race with my young daughter on BBC2 and she was also entertained which is a good sign. The attack zones worked really well here. Just need to get rid of the ghastly fanboost, thankfully they didn’t mention it much in the commentary. It’s such a shame the series has that, otherwise great race and looking forward to tomorrow.

  5. Not gonna lie, I laughed hard when the safety car turned out be a Mini.

    Like could they have picked a less cool pace car than that? Maybe an electric Seat Mii?

    1. @aiii Maybe an electric vespa ;)

  6. Sweet looking itty-bitty safety car ;-)
    Caught myself smiling reading this:

    under investigation for power over-use.

  7. Really enjoyed the racing today.
    I think for Vergne to win after missing P2 this morning is a great achievement for both him and the team. Great race for Bird and was a great comeback drive for Vandoorne until the final incident.
    I hope they do something about that manhole before Sunday’s race. Gunther hit it and spun too, so this is not a one off. Only one safe racing line in one of the fastest points of the track is a bit awkward.

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