• Rome 2022: Useful points haul

The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship returned to the Italian capital last weekend, with two action-packed races on the bill. As usual, Rome provided a fantastic backdrop for the all-electric racing series and plenty of excitement for the spectators gathered in the stands. For Mercedes-EQ, however, the race weekend in the ‘Eternal City’ turned out to be something of a mixed bag.

Supreme effort rewarded with podium

Saturday could hardly have got off to a better start for Stoffel Vandoorne, as he booked Pole Position at one of his absolute favourite tracks on the racing calendar. Stoffel beat Robin Frijns by three and a half tenths in the final qualifying session to secure a seventh P1 start in his Formula E career and his second of the season.

In the E-Prix, Stoffel initially succeeded in holding on to the position. Over the 27-lap race distance, a thrilling battle for the podium developed, in which Stoffel was always in contention and which pitted him against his adversary from qualifying; Robin Frijns. Ultimately, he crossed the finish line behind the winner Mitch Evans and Frijns in third place.

stoffel vandoorne sitting ins his race car waiting for the e-prix to start

“It was a tough battle from start to finish today,” said Stoffel afterwards. “A really tough race. It was difficult to get the strategy right. We lacked a bit of pace, especially compared to Mitch Evans – he got past and then just pulled away.”

The duel with Frijns, on the other hand, was an entertaining one: “It came down to choosing the right attack mode strategy, constantly overtaking and sizing each other up for the next move. It was definitely a major battle. All in all, I’m happy about the podium. On a difficult day like today, it’s a good result.”

Team Principal Ian James came to a similar conclusion about Day 1: “In the end, a Pole Position and a podium finish are a great result for the team, but we are not quite satisfied yet.” The objective had to be changing all of that in the second race on Sunday.

stoffel vandoorne celebrating his third place at the rome e-prix

Unfortunate timing deprives team of potential podium

The objective was only partially achieved – drivers and team were happier with the pace this time, less so with the result. But first things first: Stoffel again made it to the head-to-head stage of qualifying, but this time he went out in a hard-fought quarter-final and was obliged to start the race from P8.

From the off, he battled his way steadily forward, and in the final phase, he was in the leading group fighting for a possible podium place. But unfortunate timing in two deployments of the safety car deprived him of the chance and he ultimately had to settle for P5.

The mercedes-eq silver arrow 02 racing during the rome eprix

“The first safety car came out when I had just activated Attack Mode, so I couldn’t use any of that when it was time to punch through the field and potentially work my way into a podium position,” said Stoffel. “The second one came just when I was alongside André, which meant I had to give the position back because I was a fraction behind when the safety car was signalled. Two unlucky moments that were outside my control, but all in all, it was a much better day today.”

He pointed to the improved pace of his car as the main reason for this: “Our race pace was a lot better than yesterday. I think we were actually very competitive and had a lot more energy than some of our opponents midway through the race.”

stoffel vandoorne sitting and talking with ian james

Downward spiral thwarts hunt for points

Saturday started promisingly for Nyck. He qualified fourth in his group for the head-to-heads and progressed to the semi-finals. Here, he lost out to Robin Frijns by a tenth of a second and started the race from third on the grid.

In the first half of the race, Nyck was in the leading group which also included Stoffel, but he then gradually fell further and further behind and finally had to retire his car in the pits after a collision shortly before the end of the race.

Nyck de Vries sitting in his mercedes-eq silver arrow 02 ready to start the e-prix

“We tried to hang in there and keep up with the race leaders, but the truth is, we didn’t have the pace today,” said Nyck later. “Everything went okay initially, but after that, pace was needed to do anything meaningful, and unfortunately, we were off the pace today. You use more energy and the tyres overheat when you’re down on pace, resulting in an ever downward spiral.”

Things were going well until the middle of the race, but Nyck then started to come under pressure from the chasing pack: “We weren’t fast enough today. I tried, but it was no good. I made a move to overtake Pascal in Turn 7 towards the end, but he shut the door and there was a contact on the approach to the turn. My steering got bent as I made contact with him and the wall and I was forced to retire.”

Nyck de Vries checking his helmet while being in the box

Improved pace goes unrewarded

For his part in the incident, Nyck was handed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s second half of the double bill. With this handicap, he went into the second qualifying session, where he missed out on the head-to-heads by five thousandths of a second.

In the race itself, he fought his way up from 13th on the grid into the points and crossed the line in seventh position. But he was then hit with a 10-second time penalty for colliding with an opponent. The consequence was that he dropped back out of the Top Ten.

nyck de vries racing during the rome eprix

“Obviously, that was a very disappointing weekend, but unfortunately, we can’t turn it back.” Despite the result, he could see positive aspects: “I felt we were competitive today, which wasn’t really the case yesterday. So that’s at least encouraging. We don’t let anything get us down – we will always pull ourselves together and resume the fight. It’s still early in the championship, and there’s a long way to go.”

sundown behind the team box

Points steadily accumulating as campaign builds up

The Mercedes-EQ Formula E has had its ups and downs so far in Season 8, but a look at the overall standings shows that the team has been consistently scoring points, with at least one driver contributing on all five race days.

After five rounds of the season, Mercedes-EQ leads the Constructors’ World Championship on 94 points ahead of Porsche (85 points) and DS Techeetah (80 points).

nyck de vries leaving the box in his silver arrow 02

In the Drivers’ Standings, Jean-Eric Vergne (60 points) has taken the lead ahead of Robin Frijns (58 points). Stoffel, however, is right behind him in third place on 56 points. Nyck meanwhile finds himself in eighth after the Rome E-Prix weekend, with 38 points.

“Our next challenge will be in just under three weeks' time, in Monaco,” says Ian James, looking forward to the sixth round of the 2021/22 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship season. This takes place on 30 April at the iconic street circuit in the principality. “There’s a lot to prove and we’re hungry for a great result for both drivers again after this weekend.”

ian james laughing durin an interview

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