Rome E-Prix 2 – Mitch Evans continued just as he left off yesterday, once again dominating in Rome after a risky strategy for Jaguar paid off.
Formula E’s second Rome E-Prix of the season saw Jean-Eric Vergne leading the pack away on a gloriously sunny Italian afternoon, the Frenchman held his position at the start and it was Jake Dennis in P2 who had to watch out as Andre Lotterer went side-by-side with him into the first corner.
Nissan’s Maximilian Guenther, who ended his race in the wall on lap 1 yesterday, was today involved in an opening lap incident with Alexander Sims which meant the German had to pit for repairs at the end of the first lap and that left him at the back, well over a minute behind the leaders. The stewards had a look at the incident but decided all was fair.
With 37 minutes on the clock, Lotterer, who had had a few looks at Dennis over the opening few laps, made the move down the inside of the Andretti driver and moved into P2. A lap later and it was more bad news for Dennis as yesterday’s winner, Mitch Evans made the same move which demoted the British driver from the podium places. Not too long later and the Jaguar was into P2 and hunting down the Techeetah.
There was contact at the tail and of the points places as Edoardo Mortara and Antonio Felix da Costa went side-by-side and slightly into the wall for the Venturi as he made a move for P9. The second Venturi of Lucas di Grassi also got past da Costa, but Mortara hit another wall and that was all his car could take, he pulled off track and out of the race.
At the front, Dennis tried to muscle past Lotterer’s Porsche, but couldn’t make the move stick at that point and then their battle was put on pause as the Safety Car was deployed to allow Antonio Giovinazzi’s Dragon car be cleared from where it had stopped on track.
As the Safety Car pulled back into the pits, Evans was right on Vergne’s rear wing and only needed a few corners before going around the outside of the Techeetah and into the lead.
The following lap and fifth placed Frijns made a move on Dennis around the hairpin, the Andretti went off line which left enough space for Bird and Wehrlein though. The Andretti and Porsche clashed as Dennis muscled back past but in that chaos Vandoorne had got past, so Dennis was P7.
With just over twenty minutes to go Bird and Frijns activated Attack mode, which today is for a single eight minute stretch, while the Envision driver managed to rejoin in P4 without losing a place but Bird lost one to Vandoorne.
The Dutchman made the most of his time in the higher power mode, making quick work of the cars in front of him to breeze into the lead. By the time their eight minutes ran out Frijns was in P1 while Lotterer, who was P2, at that stage still had 90 seconds of Attack Mode left to play with. The Porsche driver made it work, getting through with 30 seconds to spare.
With just over ten minutes to go, minus any additional Safety Car time, Evans was the only driver not to have activated his Attack Mode. The Kiwi was sitting in P3, just ahead of Vergne and his Jaguar teammate, Bird. A second Safety Car was deployed at that point as Sims’ Mahindra had stopped on track, only a few minutes earlier his teammate Oliver Rowland had stopped but his car didn’t need a Safety Car to clear.
The race was back to green with just less than seven minutes on the clock, but with the two Safety Car periods there would be 5:15 minutes added once the original timer reached 4 minutes. It had been looking hit or miss as to whether there would be enough time for Evans to complete his full time in Attack Mode, which would net him a penalty, but it worked out well and the Jaguar driver activated on the first lap after the race was back on.
After activation, Evans had lost one place, P3, to Vergne but was back through within moments, after that there was no stopping the Kiwi, making quick work of both Frijns and Lotterer to be back into P1 with a seconds worth of a gap to P2 before the original 45 minutes were up.
Vergne behind had been making moves too, passing Frijns and his ex-teammate Lotterer to slot into second while the Envision racer also got the better of Lotterer to claim the final podium place.
With two minutes to go, the Safety Car was called upon once again as Nick Cassidy was in the barriers after an incident with Bird, however the Envision driver managed to extract his car from the wall and return to the pits so the Safety Car was able to return to the pits and leave the race with one lap of racing.
The pace Evans and the Jaguar had was too much for Vergne however and the Kiwi held on to take his second win of the weekend, his third at the circuit. Vergne, one of the winners at the track last year, was satisfied with his P2, while it was yet another podium for Frijns, this time his first P3 of the season but he also takes the point for fastest lap.
Lotterer was P4 while Vandoorne, the only Mercedes-EQ driver to score points this weekend, was in a Porsche sandwich with Wehrlein in P6.
It was a fantastic race for NIO333 as Oliver Turvey took their first points of the season with a P7 after starting from dead last. Di Grassi was P8 ahead of Nissan edams’ Sebastien Buemi, and Andretti’s Oliver Askew.
There were a few time penalties added as the cars past the chequered flag, and with the Safety Car having bunched them all up, any additional time was vey likely to see drivers drop out of the points. Di Grassi and da Costa had five seconds added while de Vries had ten.
There were seven driver who failed to finish – Mortara after his Venturi took multiple hits on the walls, Giovinazzi who stopped on track, as the two Mahindras did. After the highs of qualifying, Dennis struggled in the race and retired near the end. Cassidy’s race ended in the pits after making contact with Bird and the wall, and Bird was the final non finisher, most likely as a result of that incident too.