Is the Formula E title now in Vandoorne’s pocket?
Title definition days may not often be as clear as Saturday, July 30, 2022.
That might be a well-considered statement to make in any series other than Formula E, but in FE it might come across as a radically irrational statement given the way electric series title fights typically progress.
However, in the more hierarchical nature of the 2022 season, there is plenty of credence to suggest that Stoffel Vandoorne and Mitch Evans will now focus much more on each other.
For nearly three months, it was a four-way fight. Vandoorne against Edoardo Mortara, Evans and Jean-Eric Vergne. It is now a trio, even a duo. And one of that duo has a 24-point lead with 87 left on the table.
The ways in which this quartet conducted their races in and out of the vast ExCeL Arena were so disparate today that Vandoorne and Evans now look like the only two drivers capable of committing to and completing a true title campaign.
Vandoorne, regardless of the unique Keke Rosberg F1 1982 style win structure in his quest for the title, believes that capitalizing on the bad days of his rivals is key to winning the ultimate prize.
“I would definitely like to add a few more [wins] towards the end of the year, but it’s a good day for the Championship,” Vandoorne said after finishing second to Jake Dennis in the opener in London.
“Especially when we qualified at the top of the grid and my nearest competitors weren’t there. You have to capitalize on that, so it’s kind of an external pressure that comes in as well.
Naturally, like all drivers, he was keen to play down the reshuffle of the title fight in London today.
Although there has never been any real foreground evidence that Vandoorne is delving into the psychological warfare manual like Vergne, Sebastien Buemi, Lucas di Grassi and a few others have done in the past, he knows that to milk anything either at this point could be counterproductive.
So he ignored the suggestion that the championship was already pretty much his own with a flippant “it doesn’t really feel like it to be honest, I won’t really believe it until it’s here and it materializes” and similar thoughts.
“I’m going race by race, trying to score as many points as possible and we’ll just have to see at the end if there are enough points or not,” he continued.
“The closer we get to the end, if I continue to perform like I have been, it should be good. But you can’t take anything for granted in Formula E.
“It doesn’t mean that finishing second today means we’re going to repeat that tomorrow. We have to keep our heads down, keep working hard.
“Tomorrow, to replicate that, it’s going to be even more difficult because everyone is going to be closer to the experience they had today.”
While Vandoorne had another solid 18 points, his third goal of the season, Evans’ efforts were slightly less rewarded with 10 points.
And he was forced to really win them once again after lackluster qualifying – what he conceded was his ‘Achilles heel’ of the 2022 season after falling from 14th on the grid to an eventual fifth square.
“He’s got a good lead so he’s in a really good position, they had a great day so all the credit goes to them,” Evans told The Race in reference to Vandoorne.
“To be second [in the standings] this is our positive point today, but obviously this advance has been prolonged.
“I’m going to have to adjust my qualifications, not make any more mistakes like I did today. The car was there today. I just made it harder on my own. I will have to work on that tomorrow with my approach but the race was quite tough.
“They are [Mercedes] going to be strong again tomorrow so we will have to improve our game.”
As Vandoorne and Evans churned out first-rate displays at one of the world’s largest exhibition facilities, Mortara and Vergne floundered gravely amid splintered carbon fibers.
Vergne in particular conceded that his title possibilities were no longer on his mind. A 45-point gap with Vandoorne backs that up.
“I do not know [think] on this subject. I think about the next race and that’s it. I go out there, push and do the best I can,” he said.
This was after finishing just 13th in a race that featured multiple collisions.
“F*** this kind of racing is a joke,” Vergne said on the radio after a skirmish from Sebastien Buemi.
“The guy just released the brake and hit me in the middle of the turn.”
The altercation with Buemi at Turn 1, for which the Nissan driver received a 5-second penalty, ultimately cost Vergne a point after he was forced to clean his tires for “a few laps” afterwards.
His eventual discouraged 13th place, which was further marked by a 5-second penalty for colliding with Alexander Sims’ Mahindra, was his third straight scoreless and ensured his consistency in the opening 10 races of the season becomes increasingly irrelevant. in terms of title.
The DS Techeetah rider, however, apologized to his team and teammate Antonio Felix da Costa for contact earlier in the race, saying he was “very sorry for the bump with Antonio, I just blocked the brakes and I couldn’t go anywhere”.
As for Mortara, he moved away slowly from the start, collided with Robin Frijns under braking at the first corner then was pinched between Sam Bird and Antonio Felix da Costa.
The resulting damage led to the application of a new front body part, but after losing almost an entire lap only a safety car was going to save his day and that did not materialize.
“I got pinched. Broken nose. Had to stop. Game over,” was Mortara’s pointed and succinct assessment of his mediocre afternoon.
He also confirmed that the switch to the new front body part was botched by the Venturi team because they “didn’t click” it properly into place with the retaining clips.
On an afternoon of typical Formula E fluctuations, it was perhaps Mortara who felt the pain the most, knowing that Vandoorne, who has been stealthy at times like in his points standings this season, has was going.
“It’s looking pretty bad right now, so let’s see tomorrow,” said Mortara, a three-time winner this year but now 29 points behind Vandoorne.
“For today, there was nothing positive.”