Nyck de Vries and Mercedes took victory in a farcical finish to Formula E’s first fully wet race at Valencia.
Five safety car periods led to repeated recalculations of the energy available to the field under FE rules.
But the majority of the teams appeared to misjudge how to balance the race length with the constantly changing energy levels, leading to almost every car running down to 0% during the two lap run to the flag after the final safety car.
📂 File this under: absolutely bloody bonkers:
🎥 @FIAFormulaE pic.twitter.com/cBxD0CPSQf
— The Race (@wearetherace) April 24, 2021
As some cars ground to a halt around the final lap, others pushed on knowing that they would almost certainly be disqualified for finishing with no energy left, or crawled to the flag with agonisingly slow last laps.
De Vries managed things neatly to go into those final laps with more energy than anyone else. He duly picked up the lead when reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa – who had led throughout – slowed, and officially won by 13s.
Dragon Penske Autosport driver Nico Mueller went from spending most of the race at the back (including taking a drivethrough penalty) to being classified second, with de Vries’ team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne ending up third despite starting last after his pole lap was disallowed for a tyre infringement, going off through the gravel and also getting a time penalty for clashing with Mueller.
Erstwhile leader da Costa was initially placed only seventh, and was ultimately among the cars later disqualified outright for going over the useable energy limit even when limping to the line.
Da Costa had stormed away in the early running, after initial safety car laps due to the conditions, leading by as much as four seconds while the rest of the field queued up to pass Maximilian Guenther’s second-placed BMW.
An early safety car reappearance – prompted by Andre Lotterer sliding into Sebastien Buemi while battling with Norman Nato into the tight Turn 9 and leaving the Nissan beached in the gravel – did little to disrupt da Costa, as he quickly rebuilt his lead at the restart.
But de Vries was about to make swift progress, passing Alex Lynn then Guenther in quick succession to arrive in second having started seventh following his penalty for triggering a multi-car tangle in Rome.
Though the Mercedes could do little about the gap to da Costa at first, the safety car came back out just before half-distance when Guenther – who was being gradually shuffled down the order – plunged into the Turn 2 gravel and out from sixth place.
Here is the moment @maxg_official's race came to a premature end in Valencia…
Follow live timings here and find out how to watch the race where you live >> https://t.co/jTUmjULL2V#DHLValenciaEPrix @DHL_Motorsports pic.twitter.com/l4x4HD125e
— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) April 24, 2021
De Vries was all over da Costa at that restart, before being asked by his engineer Albert Lau to sit behind the DS Techeetah and conserve energy.
The safety car then made another appearance due to Sergio Sette Camara ending up in the Turn 9 gravel 15 minutes from the end in a clash with Mitch Evans.
With da Costa the only frontrunner still to take a final attack mode at that point, de Vries looked well placed.
But the champion nailed the restart so effectively he was able to dive over the attack mode activation without losing his lead.
Then came the final safety car, caused by Lotterer – who’d already served a drivethrough penalty for hitting Buemi – colliding with Edoardo Mortara at the first corner.
That set up the ludicrous dash/crawl to the line after the restart. Da Costa went relatively early at the green, which potentially made the difference between there being one more lap or two following the restart under FE’s 45 minutes plus one lap race distance rules.
Behind the podium finishers, Nick Cassidy, Rene Rast and Robin Frijns were classified fourth, fifth and sixth, the Envision Virgin cars having made impressive late-race progress in the wet before the mad ending, in which they managed to slow enough to make it over the line with energy remaining.
So did Lucas di Grassi, Jake Dennis and Jean-Eric Vergne, but they slowed so much on their final laps that they were 2m42s, 3m07s and 4m20s respectively as they took seventh, eighth and ninth.
The two NIO333s and long-time frontrunner Norman Nato both stopped on track on the last lap, while Oliver Rowland joined Mahindra pair Lynn and Alexander Sims (who had both been podium contenders in the ‘normal’ part of the race), pre-race championship leader Sam Bird and da Costa in being disqualified for exceeding useable energy after making it over the line.
De Vries’ victory launches him back into the championship lead – an outcome that looked likely even before the late madness given the other frontrunners’ tough races.
|Pos||Name||Team||Car||Laps||Laps Led||Total Time||Fastest Lap||Pitstops||Pts|
|1||Nyck de Vries||Mercedes-Benz EQ||Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02||24||1||48m20.547s||1m40.713s||0||25|
|2||Nico Müller||Dragon / Penske Autosport||Penske EV-4||24||0||+13.128s||1m41.723s||0||18|
|3||Stoffel Vandoorne||Mercedes-Benz EQ||Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02||24||0||+34.886s||1m41.813s||0||15|
|4||Nick Cassidy||Envision Virgin Racing||Audi e-tron FE07||24||0||+36.903s||1m41.53s||0||12|
|5||René Rast||Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler||Audi e-tron FE07||24||0||+51.65s||1m42.15s||0||10|
|6||Robin Frijns||Envision Virgin Racing||Audi e-tron FE07||24||0||+52.985s||1m39.611s||0||9|
|7||Lucas Di Grassi||Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler||Audi e-tron FE07||24||0||+2m41.946s||1m42.463s||0||6|
|8||Jake Dennis||BMW i Andretti Motorsport||BMW iFE.21||24||0||+3m07.061s||1m41.904s||0||4|
|9||Jean-Eric Vergne||DS Techeetah||DS E-Tense FE21||24||0||+4m19.582s||1m43.012s||0||2|
|Oliver Turvey||NIO 333 Formula E Team||NIO 333 001||24||0||DNF||1m41.84s||0||0|
|Tom Blomqvist||NIO 333 Formula E Team||NIO 333 001||24||0||DNF||1m42.854s||0||0|
|Norman Nato||RokIT Venturi Racing||Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02||23||0||DNF||1m41.837s||0||0|
|Edoardo Mortara||RokIT Venturi Racing||Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02||20||0||DNF||1m41.594s||0||0|
|Pascal Wehrlein||TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E||Porsche 99X Electric||19||0||DNF||1m41.102s||0||0|
|André Lotterer||TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E||Porsche 99X Electric||19||0||DNF||1m40.608s||0||0|
|Mitch Evans||Jaguar Racing||Jaguar I-Type 5||15||0||DNF||1m41.409s||0||0|
|Sérgio Sette Câmara||Dragon / Penske Autosport||Penske EV-4||14||0||DNF||1m40.869s||0||0|
|Maximilian Günther||BMW i Andretti Motorsport||BMW iFE.21||10||0||DNF||1m42.65s||0||0|
|Sébastien Buemi||Nissan e.DAMS||Nissan IM02||1||0||DNF||0s||0||0|
|Oliver Rowland||Nissan e.DAMS||Nissan IM02||24||0||DQ||1m40.538s||0||0|
|Alexander Sims||Mahinda Racing||Mahindra M7Electro||24||0||DQ||1m40.187s||0||0|
|António Félix da Costa||DS Techeetah||DS E-Tense FE21||24||23||DQ||1m39.625s||0||3|
|Alex Lynn||Mahinda Racing||Mahindra M7Electro||24||0||DQ||1m40.814s||0||1|
|Sam Bird||Jaguar Racing||Jaguar I-Type 5||24||0||DQ||1m41.106s||0||0|