De Vries wins as energy shortage brings Valencia race to farcical end

Formula E

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Nyck de Vries has won a farcical Valencia EPrix which ended with car after car either crawling to the finish or running out of energy.

The rain-hit race was interrupted by a series of Safety Car periods. Under Formula E’s rules, the amount of energy each driver may used is reduced by 1kWh for every minute spent behind Safety Car.

As the final lap began, only a handful of drivers were reported as having more than 1% of energy left. De Vries led Nico Müller and Stoffel Vandoorne to the flag.

Among the 12 drivers listed as finishing the race, more than half came in over a minute behind, despite a late restart. Nick Cassidy took fourth ahead of Rene Rast and Robin Frijns. Antonio Felix da Costa was a minute behind in seventh, Alexander Lynn and Sam Bird behind him another 20 second back.

The Safety Car was kept busy in Valencia
The remaining finishers – Lucas di Grassi, Jake Dennis and Jean-Eric Vergne – were two, three and four minutes behind respectively.

Vandoorne had taken pole position, before being disqualified from qualifying due to a technical infringement. He was permitted to start the race, in 24th, while pole was inherited by reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa. Max Guenther started alongside him.

With rain pelting down on the grid the race began with the first of many Safety Car periods, which lasted just one lap. However, the newly-branded Mini Safety Car was quickly back out as Andre Lotterer and Sebastien Buemi collided halfway around the restart lap.

After Buemi’s car was retrieved and Lotterer issued a drive-through penalty, a relatively long period of racing ensued during which Nyck de Vries, who had started eighth, hunted down second place to chase Da Costa.

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Guenther was one of several who went off
A third Safety Car period was required when Max Günther went into the barriers. Following a brief resumption, a series of collisions between Mitch Evans and Sergio Sette Camara, and then eventual podium finishers Vandoorne and Müller, left more cars in the gravel.

The fifth Safety Car period was occasioned by Lotterer clattering into Mortara, sending them both skidding over a painted kerb to beach in the gravel at turn one.

The race restarted with two laps remaining. But, with 19kWh of energy cut from the starting battery capacity of 52kWh – one lost for each minute of the 45-minute race spent behind the Safety Car – only a handful of cars had enough usable energy remaining to complete a final lap.

Several cars stopped on-track as their energy ran down and some managed to crawl to the finish. Mercedes judged the situation well, and De Vries finished with sufficient energy to seal his first Formula E win, and team mate Vandoorne in third, the pair separated by Müller’s Dragon.


1Nyck de VriesMercedes
2Nico MuellerDragon/Penske
3Stoffel VandoorneMercedes
4Nick CassidyVirgin
5Rene RastAudi
6Robin FrijnsVirgin
7Lucas di GrassiAudi
8Jake DennisBMW Andretti
9Jean-Eric VergneDS Techeetah
NCOliver Turvey333
NCTom Blomqvist333
NCNorman NatoVenturi
NCEdoardo MortaraVenturi
NCPascal WehrleinPorsche
NCAndre LottererPorsche
NCMitch EvansJaguar
NCSergio Sette CamaraDragon/Penske
NCMax GuentherBMW Andretti
NCSebastien BuemiNissan EDAMS
DQOliver RowlandNissan EDAMS
DQAlexander SimsMahindra
DQAntonio Felix da CostaDS Techeetah
DQAlex LynnMahindra
DQSam BirdJaguar

NB. The race result has been updated to reflect the final classification.

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Author information

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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60 comments on “De Vries wins as energy shortage brings Valencia race to farcical end”

  1. I’m going to try not to be too negative because this is a historic moment. The most ridiculous end to a race in the history of motorsport. It was shambolic and farcical, but I will try to enjoy the moment and hope it doesn’t affect the championship.
    But sadly, Formula e has made a mockery of itself once again, and there needs to be some changes at the top. Based on the fact that De Vries was told he was underconsuming, I don’t think the teams are to blame; I think Mercedes and Dragon just got lucky. The error came in the extra energy taken away. I’m sure it was that Formula e had the wrong number for how much energy is used in a lap because of the rain. But what a joke that was!

    1. As you said, this was totally farcical and it’s really not a great look for the championship status to have a situation like this one.

      Formula E is on it’s 7 year of existence, it has become a FIA championship but it still has a tone of issues to fix

    2. Derek Edwards
      24th April 2021, 15:33

      Yeah, it was all pretty silly. It may well be that the rules are the rules and everything was as it should be, but it looked like a miscalculation and, in any case, to have most of the field stopping on the last lap is not a good look.

      Also we are going to have to sit around for a while to find out what the result of the race was, presumably.

    3. Coventry Climax
      25th April 2021, 12:01

      A Mini for safetycar? Really? Surely that is the biggest joke of all.

  2. This was really poor,i mean really really ugly for the look of a FIA championship. There were 3 or 4 cars with energy on the last lap……..

    This energy reduction under SC is repeatedly catching out most of the teams.

    As for the race itself, the grid generally behaved(despite 5 SC periods) and somehow we didn’t have a shunt at turn 13-14. I feel sorry for Da Costa who did an awesome race but also for Buemi who got taken out by Lotterer.

    1. A person somewhere
      24th April 2021, 15:36

      Someone was taken out by Lotterer? Really? That never happens, completely without precedent! /s

      1. Yeah i wasn’t surprised as well,he has a bad habit of taking out his opponents quite often.

        Lotterer has had a torrid season thus far, he is still pointless after 5 races

      2. No doubt Lotterer’s driving style is not without Russian CB-ing, if you know what I’m referencing to.

        1. I think I can get the reference 😂

      3. He actually took out someone else too later in the race (I forget who exactly).

        1. I think it was Edo Mortara into turn 1

  3. After that, I might just go rewatch San Marino 1985 😆

    If you ignore the multiple safety cars, the racing was actually pretty good up until the last restart.

  4. I really enjoyed that race. It was interesting to watch them on an open circuit and the racing still seemed pretty good. The end was chaos and you’ve got to sympathise with those that lost out but the rules were the same as the other safety cars and it was definitely entertaining.

  5. Victor (@victorandrei1999)
    24th April 2021, 15:39

    This is why I can’t take Formula E serious. I really wnated to see how the cars will behave on a normal circuit, but they put a stupid chicane in the middle of the straight. It was exciting to see it was raining, but they used a SC start again, third time in a row. Somehow, it was still interesting, until half of the cars had no energy left, because they really need to do that wired stuff with energy after every safety car.

    I have nothing anainst electric cars or Formula E, but it is not even close to what Formula 1 is.

    1. The chicane in the straight was there to give the cars an additional heavy braking zone as a recharge opportunity. I mean it didn’t really work considering the ending but that is more down to the safety cars than a lack of regen opportunities

  6. I truly dont understand why they take the usable power away for safety car periods, are they afraid a race will break out?

    Imagine doing this in F3, MotoGP, LeMans, Nascar – any other reputable series (sorry theres been a safety car – can we syphon your fuel tank please) – if you save your fuel under a safety car you have the chance to possibly race harder.

    I am truly trying to like FE, and have persevered from the first FE race, but it’s doing it’s hardest to make me just shake my head and walk off.

    Apologies – rant over.

    1. They started taking power out because a single safety car took out the most important element in FE racing: battery power management. The problem today was that the SC was deployed one too many times.

      Going forward i think the energy reduction should remain but maybe take less energy out so close to the end of the race or reduce fraction of the field average/minute of SC driving rather than a set value. That way they still have to manage but you won’t have 15% reduced when the whole field has got some 17% battery left.

      1. Maybe the most important element in FE racing should be, you know, racing, rather than battery power management.

        1. Same goes to F1. Now it’s moe about tyre management and lift-and-coasting.

        2. Yeah I would have thought the same thing, especially at this track when the racing was actually pretty decent.

          I never rip the series, the cars, or the drivers, but some of the decisions drive me nuts, like Vandoorne’s DQ for what seemed like a silly typo, and of course the insistance to keep Fanboost. So I can’t say I’m surprised this happened.

    2. This does kind of happen in NASCAR when they have ‘overtime’ laps (they can add up to 2 laps on to the end if there is a very late SC). As a result, some of the cars on very tight fuel strategies have to come in and lose a load of positions to refuel under the SC.
      And tbf, while I understand why Le Mans has its 3 split safety cars over the full lap I don’t really think it’s fair to call it a model SC system

  7. Taking energy away under the SC was always going to result in a situation like this if they had a race that featured a lot of laps under the SC as they did today.

    The end of today’s race was a farce created not from teams/drivers miscalculating anything & using too much energy, It was a farce created purely as a result of a completely unnecessary rule which once again makes the series look like a complete joke.

    It’s a series I want to enjoy & I do actually enjoy the racing sometimes. But there is always all the other stuff that surrounds it, Be it artificial/gimmicky nonsense like fan boost & attack zone, Regular bumper cars, constant penalties after almost every session/race & safety car periods or absurd rules like taking energy away under a SC that results in a farce like the end of the race today.

    The story coming away from Formula E weekends is never about the racing.. It always tends to be about how many penalties were applied, How much contact occurred or some other weird occurrence taking place & so it just always ends up coming across as a bit of a joke rather than a serious world championship level category & that is a shame given the potential the series has.

    1. You’re definitely on to something, and maybe the powers that be might need to have a good long look at what’s making news from every race.

      Too often there seems to be some incredibly technical breach that alters the outcome of qualifying.
      Too many times there seems to be some kind of event that alters the race outcome.
      Definitely too many times there are cars crashing into each other. These are supposed to be among the worlds best drivers yet they clatter into each other like they’re teenagers on a PlayStation.

      As for Fan boost – I’ve yet to hear anything positive said about it but still they persist with it.

      I was so happy when this race was held at a real track and had hoped, and still do, that it would be a sign for the future, but keep being fairly underwhelmed by what they call “racing”. The concept is great, the cars are amazing, but generally the tracks and the execution are somewhat lacking. I’m sure it will improve, but improvement and change seems to be coming very slowly in what I thought would be a very dynamic sport.

  8. A joke yes, but not much different than watching painfully slow cars that sound like dentist drills every race. Long live ICE racing.

    1. From the absolute bottom of my heart: why are you watching or reading content about something you hate? Your criticism of Formula E is utterly irrelevant to any discussion about it, you have no nuance of opinion and you will never be persuaded.

      So maybe let the rest of us have a conversation.

      1. I agree Hazel. I think people need to realise FE isn’t F1, nor is it trying to be. It is different and that’s what makes it good fun. While I agree there are still some issues to be ironed out, it is only their 7th season (and and Formula 1 World Championship didn’t exactly have a smooth first 7 seasons). Whether electric cars are here to stay, or just to fill a gap before hydrogen (I’m more inclined to think the latter, although it may well be an electric/hydrogen split similar to petrol/diesel), Formula E is (in my opinion) doing a good job of promoting electric cars to consumers and brands (I think ~1/2 the grid is now signed up for season 3), and while some manufacturers appear to be pulling out, the fact they entered in the first place, along with the fact it appears there is plenty of interest from other brands (McLaren and Kia both seem quite interested) is surely a victory for FE at a time when F1 is struggling to attract manufacturers.

      2. Let me explain – this is one form of trolling. A controversial comment aimed at getting a reaction. You responded – they win. Some people just love to see the world burn…

      3. Agree, Hazel. We shouldn’t want to compare it 1 on 1 with F1.
        I found it an enjoyable race, except the mess up in the end. They must have made somre kind of error in the kWh reduction as @Alesici is mentioning.
        I do wonder why we have this reduction at all. Surely we should we happy that the cars have more kWh left to spend after a safety car? Does anybody know?

      4. @hazelsouthwell 99% of readers here tune in for F1 news. Having two articles up to discuss a farce race that nobody watched will always draw such comments

      5. Thanks @hazelsouthwell. I was just enjoying many people having pretty decently thought trough arguments about what went wrong, what to change, how farcical it was etc. All of those make sense.

        Hating FE – sure, Don, your choice. Just don’t bother the rest of us with it if you don’t have anything more insightful to add.

      6. F1oSaurus (@)
        26th April 2021, 7:14

        @hazelsouthwell I think the annoyance comes from the way FE is presented as something that on the same level as F1 and/or something that could replace F1. It’s just not. It’s F3 level at best.

        It’s like when the Le Mans presenters would keep on repeating that Le Mans was so much better than F1 and that all the car manufacturers were lining up to enter Le Mans while F1 was clearly dying. With the irony that not long after the LMP1 class completely collapsed.

        I actually liked FE from the start. Sure they were slow and sure it was ridiculous that they had to swap cars during the race. But it was like F3 with a lot of action with some dropped out F1 drivers that perhaps deserved a second chance. In fact because the cars were so slow, they could actually even race each other on street circuits.

        The comparisons with F1 (how they are really better than F1 in their mind) and the total farce the series has become over the years has turned me away though.

        1. @f1osaurus just out of interest do you send Dieter messages like this? Do you do it during weekends he’s obviously had to criticise the paddock? Do you do it when it’s probably more distressing for him than you?

          Just asking because it seems like people are QUITE happy to assume I have lots of time to sit here and be like ‘oh no a Race Fans commenter thinks some detail of a series I dedicate my whole life to isn’t quite ‘for them’ I shall sit on the ground and cry now’

          Did you actually like F1 from the start? Is it worth anyone bothering with? Or shall we all pack up and go home?

          I have lots of criticisms of Formula E. None of them are ‘hahahaha I think it’s really useless compared to F1’

          1. F1oSaurus (@)
            27th April 2021, 22:14

            @hazelsouthwell Well, you are the one who goes into a discussion. If you don’t want that then … don’t

            And OMG, what of your precious time. OMG! How could I waste it by replying to your reply. The humanity!!!! Of course you are the only one with a job in the whole world. And you have to reply on the weekend. Or whenever it is that you actually do some work during the week.

          2. @f1osaurus It’s on my post. Writers are generally obligated to moderate the comments on their own work, it’s the same on The Drive and other places I work for.

            Sorry if you’ve just discovered I’m a human with feelings, I know that must be shocking rather than considering me a fair game internet punching bag for whatever agenda you want to pin on me this week. Also FYI it is absolutely laughable to accuse a freelancer whose last day off was during the miserable workless period in 2020 of being workshy.

            I don’t suppose it occurred to you I was actually in Valencia did it? Did you think I magicked exclusive quotes out of thin air? Of course, FE is just a silly little thing that silly little people do, no one does it for a job. Grow up and treat me like an actual human.

      7. Well ibf i dont like FE either but I read this as how could I not? The headline alone demands the article gets read. Now commenting on the series and not the article…

    2. I would have said the same 5 years ago Don, but the cars, especially at some tracks, look pretty rapid to me. Think you need to update your opinions.

      1. They’re still hiding speed from TV graphics and using temporary chicanes and alternative track layouts to avoid embarassing comparisons with ICE cars, aren’t they?

  9. I can’t remember who it was, but someone on here pointed out that this would have happened in Rome if Vandoorne hadn’t slowed down massively on the restart. Further proof that the rule is to blame, not the teams.

  10. I’m not used to wathc F-E races. Not that is bad… I seldom watch Indy too. Maybe I’m just used to watch F1. But this race i really wanted to see. A proper circuit. But putting a chicane in the middle of the straight makes it strange. These are race cars.
    While I really understand the reason, as I’m an engineer, that is to make batteries last, is a bit frustrating don’t see the battles for positions at the straight. I really want F-E to be a top sport. And solving this is important. More permanent circuits where there’s enough space for 3 cars side by side will improve series ratings. Better natural battles too.
    Maybe in a few years those artificial chicanes won’t be necessary. :-)

  11. Can’t say I regularly watch Formula E but decided to watch this race, and it was pretty good for the most part, just the end of it was incredibly confusing, and to a casual observer, first thoughts were that they must have got the calculations wrong on how much energy to take away during those safety car periods since it made no sense how they were given almost no energy to do the last two laps. Bit of a farcical end, but I’m sure they’ll learn from this and make the necessary changes.

  12. Sorry to be the idiot in the room, but why do we remove charge under SC periods? Is it because the cars can’t harvest to the same extent? I really don’t understand the rule. As for the uproar about a silly finish, this happens when creating a new formula with exotic technologies, F1 struggled with turbo’s (as someone mentioned above) but just because something went wrong, doesn’t mean the whole thing needs thrown in the bin.

    FE will learn from this, just as every racing formula has learnt from all the daft stuff that has happened. Nothing quite replicates hard data, and running the series and learning from this is the only way to do it.

    But I still don’t really understand the rule.

  13. The meat of the sandwich was good, I really enjoyed some of the racing… but… the start behind the safety car and the end were both ridiculous. On the start, these are professional racing drivers, for what reason is the race starting behind the SC because of a wet track? Not a good decision as Chandok also mentioned on commentary.

    With regards the end, the official FE said it was about energy management but it wasn’t at all, it was just pure luck. Had the last SC not appeared, they would have all got to the end (well maybe not Nato, he wouldn’t have made it again). It was ridiculous for an FIA series.

    Then finally, during the race Da Costa could move away from De Vries using his fanboost, HOW can something that is meant to be a serious racing series have such an awful idea. It’s mickey mouse, we’re 7 years in now! I don’t expect FE to be F1, of course not, but it would be nice if it could be taken seriously – especially as some of the racing is so enjoyable.

    1. @john-h
      I agree, I don’t think they needed to start the races in Rome behind the safety car either. F1 listened to the complaints about somewhat wet races being started behind the safety car with no standing start, and I think FE does too.

      I’ve watched it pretty much since the beginning and I’m sure this safety car rule hasn’t always been there? Like you say, this wasn’t the teams’ fault as realistically they wouldn’t have factored in the huge number of safety cars in the race.

  14. Under Formula E’s rules, the amount of energy each driver may used is reduced by 1kWh for every minute spent behind Safety Car.

    This looks like the problem with that race. As far as I can tell there was energy in the batteries of the cars racing, the drivers just weren’t allowed to use it. This isn’t race fixing, but it is creating a problem that doesn’t need to exist.

    1. That was not the problem. My post explained what the problem was.
      The rule is a good one, as it fixed a problem experienced in previous races where safety cars caused the latter half of the race to be run flat out, which killed overtaking and was unfair to the drivers who had saved energy in the first half.

      1. Annoyingly, my post on the other news article claiming a % calculation error had a flaw in its hypothesis, so I’ve retracted it. Sorry about that.

        1. I would like to make a better comment than I did, but to make a better comment would mean having racing experience in Formula E, or at least working within that environment. Yes, being behind a Safety Car does mean you will have more energy in your battery at the end of the Safety Car period than would normally have, and yes, that would mean drivers could accelerate and go faster and such like much more than they normally would at that point in the race. I can’t see anything wrong with that, but apparently there is a problem, so Formula E have done something about it. They basically did a virtual confiscation of the battery charge a driver has saved by being behind the Safety Car. It seems that in this case the way to calculate the amount of battery charge to “virtually confiscate” was flawed, hence the problems drivers had. I don’t agree with this rule, but I don’t have the experience to argue for a better rule.

  15. I really dug the race at a wide open racetrack and I though the conditions made for interesting challenges for the drivers. As others have pointed out the ending was marred by Formula E’s rules causing substantial chaos but I like the direction Formula E is going. Just a few tweaks here and there and keep racing at tracks like Valencia!

  16. Why did so many cars stop out on track on the final lap. I realise that they ran out of ‘usable’ energy but they actually still would have had a lot of ‘unusable’ energy left in their batteries – might it have been safer if they had continued round the circuit and pulled into the pits?

    1. It might have been in order to be classified @georgeod (or at least an attempt to be so). In F1 if you break down on the last lap you can still be classified as finishing (just a lap down), so maybe they thought at the time it was a way of potentially getting into the top 10 rather than be straight out dsq for using too much energy. Not sure.

      1. @john-h At first I didn’t understand but it makes complete sense thinking about it. Very interesting! I wonder if it’s actually within the rules.

  17. Controversy aside… I’m surprised how much battery Bird lost during the last safety car.
    He was barely 1% under what De Vries had just as the SC period started, and yet when the SC period ended had many percent less and subsequently didn’t have enough battery to finish.

    Didn’t notice whether there were any other drivers who lost out on energy conservation during the SC period too.

  18. Oh dear. Not unprecedented though! Reminds me of the 1985 San Marino grand prix with several cars running out of fuel in the last few laps and some just making it to the line. Hopefully this is just a minor hiccup for the series.

  19. I don’t know if this is a stupid question but if some teams were able to finish the race with some energy, isn’t that the other teams fault that they used too much of it within the race?

    1. @qeki The problem is that each safety car period caused the cars to lose more usable energy than it saved them (due to the rules), and the teams hadn’t allowed margin for another safety car late in the race. Apparently de Vries’ team was actually telling him beforehand that he was under-using his energy and should have been using more. The teams probably would have been fine on energy, but the late safety car caught them out. So unless they want races to turn into a gamble based on whether a safety car might happen late in the race, they need to tweak the rules or change the calculation of energy reduction during safety cars.

      I don’t know if this is always the case, but it seems to me at this race they overcompensated with their energy reduction calculation. I assume the intent is that safety cars are ‘energy neutral’ in terms of usable energy remaining for the cars, so a simple recalculation should have solved the problem in this case.

      1. @keithedin Thanks for clearing that out. I can’t help thinking how much this will effect the championship. Yes it’s only a one race but every point counts.

  20. Well, who cares, it’s not a racing class anyways. Marketing feel good for car manufacturers with selected rejects from multiple race series. Meh.

  21. Wait, a series that already uses (relatively) slow cars that don’t emit any naughty exhaust gases, ACTIVELY SLOWS its field down even more when there’s a safety car period? Rather than letting them turn the juice up and do some proper racing?!

    Christ on a bike – might as well take the floors out and let them run the cars around, Flintstones-style…

  22. This article actually made me watch the race.
    I didn’t see anything farcical (I’m in the minority here), just different strategies and some luck with the late safety car. This is not unseen in other racing series. One can argue that Da Costa cost himself the win as he restarted the race a few seconds too early, meaning he had to do another lap.
    In the end, I enjoyed my time watching the race so I have to thank you @hazelsouthwell for bringing this to my attention.

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