• Mexico 2020: A character-building weekend.

It was clear to everyone on the Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team that they would be facing many challenges in their first season, for example the oppressive heat of Santiago, the altitude in Mexico and not least the fiercely competitive field.

After a promising start and a second encouraging weekend in Chile, where Stoffel took the surprise championship lead, the situation took a turn for the worse in the fourth round of the season in Mexico City where, for the first time in the nascent history of Mercedes-Benz EQ, the team came away empty-handed.

Stoffel and his team-mate Nyck de Vries were out of luck at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez – in fact, neither of them saw the chequered flag. Despite the general disappointment, the team still managed to gain valuable experience from only their fourth outing to take forward into the remaining races of the debut season in the electric racing series.

“Emotions are still raw, even after the race has ended,” admitted Team Principal Ian James. “Unfortunately, we leave Mexico with no points. Both drivers had incidents which took them out of the race. It is what we can call a character-building experience for the whole team, which otherwise delivered a strong performance over the weekend.” 

Race_Results_Mexico_E-Prix
Driver FP1 FP2 Qualifying Super Pole Race
#5 S. Vandoorne

P5

1:10.410

20 Laps

P5

1:08.103

17 Laps

P8 (Q1: P2)

1:08.636

2 Laps

-

DNF

Grid: P10

FL: 1:11.381

#17 N. de Vries

P12

1:10.948

21 Laps

P15

1:08.713

18 Laps

P2 (Q2: P2)

1:08.294

2 Laps

P4

108.214

DNF

Grid: P3

FL: 1:11.480

 

Nyck de Vries in box in Mexico

Nyck: “I was just a passenger”

The omens for another afternoon of great racing were good: the grandstands for the 2020 CBMM Niobium Mexico City E-Prix were sold out, and the 40,000 spectators were generating an incredible atmosphere in the stadium. The prospects for the team also looked good, with Nyck lining up on the grid in third place.

For the rookie, it was the second time he had made it into the Super Pole Top Six – despite having been assigned to the second of the four qualifying groups. Having clocked the second-fastest time at the group stage, Nyck immediately moved up into second place at the start.

He then fell back to fifth where he came under pressure from António Félix da Costa (DS Techeetah). In the ensuing battle for position, he collided with Robin Frijns (Envision Virgin Racing) and found himself stranded at the side of the track.

“Unfortunately, my race ended in the wall today,” said Nyck. “After it was over, I went to see the stewards about the incident. To me it felt like a technical issue that meant I was effectively a passenger in the car. I obviously still want to apologise for what happened out there, but the fact is that I was unable to stop the car.” 

Nyck on the racetrack in Mexico in his car
Stoffel Vandoorne sitting in the Merceds-Benz EQ Silver Arrow 01

Stoffel: “We’ll come back stronger in Marrakech”

As championship leader, Stoffel went into qualifying in the first group when the track conditions were not yet ideal. He finished second fastest in his group, but his lap time was ultimately not enough to get him into the Super Pole. He was then promoted to tenth on the grid after Pascal Wehrlein was handed a penalty.

By the halfway mark, Stoffel had worked his way forwards, gaining no fewer than five positions. With only a few laps of the race remaining, he was in fifth position – just as Nyck had been before his retirement – and he seemed to be on course for a fourth points finish in as many races. But that’s when his luck ran out, too. In defending his position, Stoffel strayed from the line and slid into the wall. His race had also come to an early end.

“After this race, I’m obviously very disappointed,” said Stoffel ruefully. “We’ve missed out on a lot of points today. I was in fifth place when I had a tiny little moment off the line in Turn 3. After that, I had no chance of avoiding the wall. I feel incredibly sorry for the team, as we should have finished in the points on a day like this.”

But such experiences are part and parcel of motor racing. It is difficult days and moments like these from which the team learns how to cope with the challenges still to come in its debut season. Stoffel is certainly not feeling down: “We won’t give up and we’ll come back stronger in Morocco.”

The fifth round of the season, the Marrakech E-Prix 2020, is due to be contested there in two weeks’ time on 29 February. The team will therefore not have long to wait before they get the chance to translate the lessons learned from this “character-building” race in Mexico into a positive result.

Stoffel on the Racetrack in Mexico
EQC on a street in the forrest

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