Formula E

Led too much, "price paid" - Formula E champion Vandoorne mourns possible victory in Sao Paulo

Tobias Wirtz

Tobias Wirtz

Jean-Eric Vergne and Stoffel Vandoorne leave the Formula E premiere in Brazil with 21 points in their luggage - a good team result for DS Penske. Nonetheless, both drivers have their doubts after the race, which they believe could have been much better. Reigning Formula E champion Stoffel Vandoorne in particular is disappointed with his performance. His reason for this seems curious.

Both of the team's drivers started in qualifying group A. While Jean-Eric Vergne as fifth narrowly missed the entry into the qualifying duels, Stoffel Vandoorne achieved the best time in the group. He then won his two duels against Jake Hughes and Edoardo Mortara with aplomb and also wrestled Porsche driver Antonio Felix da Costa in the final by 0.063 seconds - the first pole position of the year for him.

The Belgian's consistency, which he had already demonstrated in the year he won the title at Mercedes, was particularly striking: each of his three laps in the duel phase was within just 0.025 seconds. The pole position was also something special for Team Penske: For the first time since Jerome d'Ambrosio at the 2016 Mexico City E-Prix, a driver from the U.S. team was on the first grid spot again. Team boss Jay Penske thus had to wait 90 races and more than seven years for it.

Vandoorne unintentionally collects first lead mile of the season

In the race, Vandoorne initially got off to a good start. However, he had to contend with an unusual problem: no one wanted to overtake him. So while he collected his first twelve lead laps of the season in the first 14 laps of the race, he also expended significantly more energy than the other drivers in the leading group. These benefited from the pronounced slipstream of the Gen3 cars and were thus able to save a lot of energy, especially on the long straights of the circuit.

The energy saving took on grotesque features in the second third of the scheduled race distance: For example, Vandoorne, who was in the lead, slowed down a few hundred meters before the end of the straight. However, the drivers behind him did the same, so that the Belgian remained in the lead. On the 15th lap, Nick Cassidy and Antonio Felix da Costa finally pushed past the DS driver, who, however, was already more than two percentage points behind in terms of energy at that point.

As a consequence, Vandoorne had to save energy and lost further ground. He also let the two Jaguar drivers pass without a fight, before teammate Vergne also overtook him a few laps before the finish. However, he managed to keep the Porsche of world championship leader Pascal Wehrlein at bay, so Vandoorne finished the race in sixth place.

Vandoorne "disappointed with 6th place"

"To be honest, I'm obviously a bit disappointed with sixth place, considering I started from pole position," Vandoorne said. "We knew before we came here that leading the race was not necessarily an advantage. Especially on a track like this where you really have to conserve energy. When the track is as fast as it is here, the chasers can save a lot of energy by slipstreaming. And that's exactly what happened."

"I paid the price for leading the race for too long," the Belgian explained on Twitter. "At some point, my energy deficit was too big compared to my competitors. That meant I could no longer fight with them, and I lost a few places."

"On the other hand, there are a lot of positives to take away from this weekend, starting with our performance in qualifying," Vandoorne finds. "I'm very pleased with my first pole position with the team, which is also my first with the Gen3 car." After the race weekend in Brazil, it thus remains to be said: The reigning Formula E champion has finally arrived in the Gen3 era and at DS Penske.

Vergne: "Car was practically undriveable"

Team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne had a relatively uneventful race. The Frenchman - starting from position 7 - already passed McLaren driver Jake Hughes at the start. A few meters later, he benefited from a collision between Edoardo Mortara and Mitch Evans, which set the Maserati driver back. As a result, Vergne drove consistently in the top 6 and stayed out of any skirmishes.

He overtook teammate Vandoorne with four laps to go and was in fourth place. But against Antonio Felix da Costa, who had dropped back due to a driving error, Vergne was powerless two laps later - as he had been in the duel for victory in Cape Town.

"It was a difficult day. Qualifying was not good, and in the race I had big problems with the balance of the car," Vergne described after the race. "That's something we need to look into. My car was virtually undriveable and oversteered throughout. I couldn't accelerate well out of the corners, and the handling wasn't exactly race-ready. It was a struggle, and I was just trying to hang on and get points for the team. We managed to do that as well. I'm happy to take these points and keep fighting for the championship."

Franzetti: "Learning more from race to race"

"To now bring home a double points finish after our two podium finishes is great for the team and momentum we want to build on as the season progresses," described team principal Jay Penske. "The lap Stoffel drove to secure pole position was very impressive. On this uniquely challenging track, it was a strong performance by Stoffel and a great recovery by JEV to score solid points on both sides of the garage. We're on the right track."

"We are happy with our race result in Sao Paulo," also declared Eugenio Franzetti, DS Performance director. "We came here to score important points in the team and drivers' championships. We managed to do that, also thanks to Stoffel's fantastic pole position. This first place on the grid highlights the outstanding performance of our car."

"Of course, the work is not over yet," Franzetti continued. "Now we have a month to prepare for the races in Berlin. I'm sure we'll be able to get some very good results there." The "double-header" in the German capital will take place on April 22 and 23, 2023.

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