Mercedes-EQ star plays his strategy to perfection in the Principality to race to the top of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship title chase.
Stoffel Vandoorne mastered the unforgiving streets of Monte-Carlo today (30 April) to claim his first victory of the 2021/22 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship campaign with Mercedes-EQ – storming to the summit of the drivers’ standings in the process.
Vandoorne began the Monaco E-Prix from fourth on the grid and maintained that position throughout the opening half of the race in the glamorous Principality, behind pole-sitter Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing), TAG Heuer Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein and two-time champion Jean-Éric Vergne (DS TECHEETAH), before the leading quartet began trading places as Attack Mode activations came into play.
The Belgian’s first move was to sweep around the outside of Evans for third at the chicane approaching mid-distance, going on to gain another spot when Wehrlein suddenly slowed. After boxing clever and biding his time early on, the German looked to have pulled off a masterstroke as he catapulted himself to the head of the order following the initial round of Attack Modes, only for misfortune to strike.
Vandoorne then seized the lead when Vergne became the first of the front-runners to deploy his second Attack Mode, the DS TECHEETAH driver dropping to third and losing much of the benefit of his extra power to a Full Course Yellow, prompted by Wehrlein’s car stopping on-track.
When the action resumed, Mercedes man Vandoorne had a 3.5-second advantage over closest rival Evans. Whilst, like Vergne, he was unable to fully exploit his second Attack Mode – due to a safety car intervention for a collision between Mahindra Racing’s Oliver Rowland and André Lotterer that left the Porsche buried in the Ste Dévote barriers – he would not subsequently be challenged.
A new fastest lap enabled Vandoorne to put some breathing space between himself and his pursuers, and the Monaco resident went on to take the chequered flag just over a second to the good to cement a popular ‘home’ triumph – a result that made him the first driver ever to win the race from lower than pole position, and which leaves him six points clear at the top of the title table.
After rebuffing Wehrlein’s advances to lead the opening stages of the race, Evans – Formula E’s form driver following his double top in Rome three weeks ago – subsequently struggled with energy management but ultimately rallied to clinch the runner-up spoils as he fought his way grittily back past Envision Racing’s Robin Frijns and Vergne.
The Frenchman – who had arrived in Monte-Carlo leading the championship – adopted an aggressive strategy that at one point looked like reaping rewards, but the unfortunate timing of his second Attack Mode would prove costly and in the end, he was powerless to defend against a resurgent Evans in Attack Mode and was forced to settle for third.
Right on Vergne’s heels at the flag was Frijns, who lost ground early on but drove an intelligent race to climb to fourth position and keep his own title aspirations very much alive. The Dutchman wound up sandwiched between the DS TECHEETAHs, with practice pace-setter and last year’s Monaco winner António Félix da Costa hauling himself into contention as he charged through to fifth from down in ninth on the grid.
Sixth-placed Lucas Di Grassi was in the front-running group throughout for ROKiT Venturi Racing, on a day when his team-mate – erstwhile championship leader Edoardo Mortara – failed to score.
Nick Cassidy crossed the line seventh for Envision Racing – an improvement of 11 positions on his starting position – with double title-winner Sébastien Buemi recreating some of the magic that saw him win the first two editions of the Monaco E-Prix as he scythed through from the very back of the pack to finish eighth.
Jake Dennis made up significant early ground for Avalanche Andretti on his way to ninth, with Vandoorne’s Mercedes stablemate, defending champion Nyck de Vries, a subdued tenth.
STOFFEL VANDOORNE, MERCEDES-EQ FORMULA E TEAM, #5 said:
"It is an amazing feeling, I mean Monaco is always a special race to win as a driver. Last year we had a tough time here, this year we managed to turn it around. The target was to qualify at the front and then I knew we would be in the mix, and that is exactly how the race panned out. We were flying today, massive well done to the team for giving me a strong car. It has not been an easy start to the season, but it shows the consistency we have. I am extremely happy.
"I feel like I have been fighting at the front all season already, I have had a few pole positions and have not quite been able to convert them into victories. This weekend I decided not to qualify on pole and get the victory instead."
MITCH EVANS, JAGUAR TCS RACING, #9 said:
"It was a confusing race because I felt we were looking really good on the energy, obviously off the back of Rome but also approaching the race. We thought we were pretty conservative, so were not expecting to use much energy, but it was the complete opposite. This is something to look into, maybe we just got things a bit wrong today - but we were quite lucky to get second, so I will take that. I really wanted to win today off the back of pole and the wins for us at the last race, but Stoffel and the other guys were really quick. So I will take these good points and move on for the next race."
JEAN-ÉRIC VERGNE, DS TECHEETAH, #25 said:
"It was a good race but I was unlucky on the second attack mode, I had a struggle with full course yellow so it was a waste. Obviously I would rather fight for the win today but I am going to take those points. I’ll keep pushing hard, I’ll keep hard working and move forward.”
The 2021/22 Formula E season will continue with rounds seven and eight on Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport Street Circuit in a fortnight’s time (14/15 May).