• Rome 2021: An emotional rollercoaster.

With its changes in elevation, the Circuito Cittadino dell'EUR is a mini rollercoaster that winds its way through the campus of the World Exposition (Esposizione Universale di Roma) in Rome. On the second race weekend of the 2020/21 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team would perhaps fittingly experience its own rollercoaster ride of highs and lows.

The absolute nadir came with the double retirement as the result of a collision in race one on Saturday followed by several hours of repair work on the two Silver Arrows, but the team was not going to let it get to them.

Quite the opposite, in fact. "The team is resilient and we've proven we can get our drivers where they need to be on the grid," said Team Principal Ian James after the first race on Saturday. "So, it's up to us to step up to the task again tomorrow. I'm confident we will meet our own expectations and am looking forward to getting back out on the track."

And that's exactly what happened in the second race on Sunday, at least in Stoffel Vandoorne's case....

Missed opportunity in race 1

stoffel vandoorne looking in the sky

Stoffel's race weekend encapsulates the ups and downs the team experienced on the street circuit in the south of Rome. It got off to a phenomenal start in the Super Pole of the first qualifying session, with Stoffel securing his third pole position in the all-electric race series. He thereby consolidated his reputation as something of a Rome specialist - he made his first Formula E podium appearance here in Season 5 and has good reason to regard the street circuit one of his favourite tracks.

But on this occasion, his luck ran out in the first race. Shortly after the start, André Lotterer attempted an optimistic overtaking manoeuvre which nudged Stoffel's car into a spin and caused them both to drop way back down the field.

Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02 on the track

It was a bit of an unnecessary risk from Lotterer to attempt the overtake in turn 7, especially as the track conditions were still very slippery and damp at the start," said Stoffel afterwards. "That dropped me back to around P13, but from then on, I had a good race. I managed to overtake a lot of cars, we had a good strategy with the attack mode, and the pace was also really good."

Stoffel proceeded to carve his way back through the field and even had the podium within reach again, but he found himself unfortunately positioned behind di Grassi who suddenly slowed down in turn six, which is the fastest corner of the circuit: "I had to take avoiding action, the car hit a bump in the road and took off, leaving me as just a passenger."

Stoffel emerged from the no-fault accident unharmed, but his car was badly damaged. What annoyed him most, however, was the missed opportunity to bring home a decent points haul.

Stoffel's second victory in Formula E

stoffel vandoorne leaving his mercedes-eq silver arrow 02

One day later, and the world was looking very different for Stoffel. In qualifying, he again made it through to the Super Pole and booked P4 on the grid. In the race, he immediately ensconced himself in the leading group, eventually taking the lead with a well-timed first of three attack modes. He then held on to the lead through to the chequered flag.

"What an amazing victory!" said Stoffel after sealing his second win for the team. "It makes up for what happened yesterday to some extent. Winning today's race sure feels good. Yesterday was a real rollercoaster of emotions. First off, pole position and then our great pace followed by the incident on the first lap and subsequent charge through the field to catch up, and then finally the accident when I had to avoid Lucas. It was all pretty frustrating, and we probably deserve to have already chalked up good results yesterday."

stoffeln vandoorne standing at the podium after his win in rome

To end the weekend on such a high was a just reward for his heroic performance in Rome. "I don't like calling a performance dominant, as that would downplay the efforts of all other teams and drivers today," said Team Principal Ian James. "But I think Stoffel's performance can comfortably be described as near perfect. He stayed out of trouble in the opening laps of the race, and then managed to fight his way up to the top. Congratulations to him, and all of the team who made this possible."

Stoffel had some special words of praise for his team: "Many thanks to the whole crew and especially my mechanics who had a lot of work to fix my car after the accident. The car was absolutely perfect today, as was the team's strategy."

Disappointing weekend for Nyck

nyck de vries talking to another driver

Nyck experienced a difficult debut weekend on the streets of Rome. After his opening win in Diriyah, he came away from the two races on the second race weekend of the season with two DNFs. On Saturday, he was right behind Stoffel when his team-mate was forced to brake suddenly to avoid a collision with the abruptly slowing Lucas di Grassi. Unfortunately, Nyck was unable to take evasive action himself, colliding with his team-mate and joining him in premature retirement at a stage of the race where both of them were in promising positions.

"That was a very unfortunate outcome to what had been quite a good race up to that point," said Nyck. "It was a very unfortunate incident that we couldn't do anything about. Still, it's a massive shame it ended up like that because I think we could have brought very big points home for the team and for us in the drivers' championship."

Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02 on the track

Sunday was no better for Nyck. Having to start in the first qualifying group on a drying track, he had no chance of setting a top time. "This morning's quali was defined by the drying track conditions," said Nyck. "Bearing that in mind, we made the best of it. It was a relatively steady race and comeback, but I got into a racing incident on the last lap when we were fighting for P10. With the benefit of hindsight, I would say that I probably wanted the point too badly, which was not even necessary, as a number of penalties were set to be awarded after the race. Also, ours would have been the fastest lap of the race. It just wasn't meant to be today."

Ian James was nonetheless pleased with the performance of his protégé: "Nyck unfortunately didn't have luck on his side today. He was in contention for points for a long time, coming all the way from P17. It's unfortunate to see him not having been able to score points this weekend, but he's once again shown what he is capable of."

Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team cleberating after victory

After the rollercoaster weekend in the streets of Rome, the team returns to base with one win and three retirements to its account. "To take our second win of the season on the second race weekend of the season feels very good," said Ian in summary. "But we also know we didn't turn every opportunity we got this weekend into a result - no matter whether that was in or out of our control."

The next opportunity for the team to shine will come in a fortnight's time (24/25 April) when the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia hosts rounds five and six of the 2021 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

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