Nissan eventually overtakes customer team McLaren thanks to Norman Nato: "He saved the team"
With a fourth-place finish by Norman Nato in the London season finale, Nissan has pushed past its own customer team McLaren in the Formula E overall standings. The papaya-coloured team from Woking, on the other hand, remained without a championship point for the seventh time in the last ten races and thus still lost seventh place in the world championship, long thought to be safe, to the manufacturer team. The tragic hero, who must probably leave the team, is Norman Nato.
The team success was preceded by a strong qualifying performance by the Nissan driver, who put his car on the third grid position for the third time in the final third of the season. In the race, he had to let Jake Dennis pass in the early stages but kept Stoffel Vandoorne at bay until the end. The reward was twelve points, with which the Frenchman clinched tenth place in the drivers' championship and helped his team to seventh place in the teams' standings.
"This was my best weekend," Nato told e-Formula.news. "We know that the Jaguar powertrains have been really strong this year and especially this weekend - stronger than us. So I was very happy with third place in qualifying. In the race, the most important thing was to stay on track. I couldn't fight with the three guys in front of me, so I was sort of 'best of the rest'."
Nato: "Beating McLaren in the championship was important"
"Beating McLaren in the championship was important," he says. "I wouldn't say as a manufacturer we're happy with 7th place, but it's still better than 8th. McLaren is a much more experienced team than us. They have been world champions twice (as Mercedes-EQ), and yet we managed to beat them in the end with the same package. We can be very happy with that."
"He saved the team in a way," said Sacha Fenestraz, describing his teammate Nato's performance to us. "I struggled this weekend, but for me that is part of the learning curve in this championship. But Norman did a fantastic job so we ended up ahead of McLaren, the former championship team. We are happy about that. Of course, we're not here to finish seventh, but to win. But that was a first step. Now we have to keep moving forward in the next few years."
Ironically, Nato must probably leave the team, despite excelling in recent weeks, scoring 52 world championship points in the last six races - including second place in Rome. Nissan, however, is said to have previously decided against a contract extension with the Frenchman. Nothing has been officially announced so far.
But will he remain in Formula E at least? "I hope so", says Nato. "It's still not 100 per cent confirmed, but I hope so. What I've done in the last few races in this season, I clearly showed what I'm able to do. I really hope that I will be on the grid next year and hopefully will reach more podiums and have more good days like today."
That's wrap for Season 9 ?- Nissan NISMO (@NISMO) July 30, 2023
The rain fell hard, but it didn't dampen our spirits as Norman achieved P4, whilst Sacha weaved through the pack to move into P15!
Time to turn our heads to Season 10 ?@Nissan @NissanUK #NissanFormulaE #FeelElectric #LondonEPrix pic.twitter.com/0tQ61TXZmB
Rast: "As good as Nissan, if not better, in terms of pace"
McLaren, on the other hand, was defeated by its manufacturer after a strong start to the season. Having scored 72 points in the first six races, only a measly 16 points were added in the ten last races of the season. "Luck was often not on our side," explained Rene Rast when asked by e-Formula.news after his tenth consecutive race without points. "We drivers made mistakes, but we also had technical issues or were in the wrong place at the wrong time. In Rome, I had a technical problem while lying in third place, yesterday while driving in third place I had contact with Pascal (Wehrlein)."
"With the lap time I did today in (qualifying) Group A, I would have been fourth in Group B," he described further. "Then I probably would have started from fourth or fifth place instead of 15th. There have been many things that have not worked in our favour this year. Especially in the second half of the season, when Norman (Nato) in particular had luck on his side. I don't think we need to hide in terms of pace. There we were on par, if not better than Nissan."
Last year, McLaren slipped from first to eighth place in the Formula E team standings. Jake Hughes finished twelfth in the drivers' championship, eight points ahead of his teammate Rast. The latter still took the team's only podium at Diriyya, ultimately finishing 13th directly behind Hughes. According to rumors, the season finale in London was the last Formula E race for the German in the service of McLaren. In his place, Sam Bird is to join the British team.