Chaotic Race 1 in Rome

ABB FIA Formula E World Championship was finally back on track for their 2020/21 season, after an almost two months break.

The electric series had travelled to Rome in Italy, for a different track layout than their previous visits to the city.

Stoffel Vandoorne had taken Pole Position for the Mercedes EQ team. Andre Lotterer had driven the TAG-Heuer Porsche car into second, ahead of Oliver Rowland in Nissan e.dams, Lucas di Grassi in Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler, Jean-Eric Vergne in DS Techeetah, and Robin Frijns in Envision Virgin Racing, right ahead of the Championship leader Nyck de Vries on P7 in the Mercedes-EQ car.

Oliver Turvey had messed up in the morning free practice session, when he forgot that the drivers would do practice starts right after FP1. He came around a corner at very high speed, only to find the road blocked by people waiting to do practice starts. He ended up hitting Jean-Eric Vergne and Jake Dennis, with heavy damage to all three cars. The stewards decided that Turvey had to start the race from the pitlane.

Edoardo Mortara was back at ROKiT Venturi Racing, following his serious crash in Saudi Arabia, but had to skip the qualifying due to technical issues with the car. Alexander Lynn was thankfully also back in the car, after his huge airborne moment in Saudi Arabia. He had qualified the Mahindra on P13.

Nyck de Vries
Photo: ABB FIA Formula E World Championship

There were a few raindrops in the air, for the 16.04 race start. Race control decided to start the race behind the Safety car, to avoid too much mess during the start.

The field was released after one and a half laps at a slower pace – and the troubles were only postponed for a few turns, until Lotterer tried to overtake leader Vandoorne. The two cars collided and ended up in the run-off area. Lotterer had to reverse, to get going again. Both drivers went far down the field as a result of the contact.

That put Oliver Rowland into the lead of the race – but he was being investigated for having used too much power.

Sam Bird
Photo: ABB FIA Formula E World Championship

Oliver Turvey didn’t make the start of the race at all, and it didn’t last long until Alexander Sims had to retire with a technical issue too.

Rowland got a Drive-through for having used too much power during the start of the race. That sent Lucas di Grassi into the lead of the race, with Jean-Eric Verne running second and Frijns on P3.

Sergio Sette Camara was also investigated for having used too much power. He was also handed a drive-through penalty.

Stoffel Vandoorne was one of the first drivers to use one of his mandatory Attack Mode activations.

Stoffel Vandoorne, Antonio Felix da Costa, Nyck de Vries, Sam Bird and Sergio Sette Camara were the five drivers awarded Fan Boost for this race.

Edoardo Mortara, unfortunately, had to pit halfway through the race, since the mechanical gremlins bit him again.

Robin Frijns
Photo: ABB FIA Formula E World Championship

The stewards were finally done examining the evidence of the collision between Lotterer and Vandoorne, and they opted to hand Lotterer a 5 seconds time penalty.

di Grassi was the last driver in the front group to take Attack Mode, which sent him down to 3rd position. That put Vergne into the lead.

Frijns started attacking JEV for the lead but ended up being overtaken himself by di Grassi, who made a very bold move on the Dutchman.

JEV took his second Attack Mode shortly after, dropping him to third, only a few meters behind the leading cars. di Grassi took his Attack Mode one lap later.

Sam Bird had slowed made his way through the field and grabbed fourth from Frijns.

di Grassi hit the rear of de Vries, but both cars were able to continue. De Vries used Fan Boost right after the incident, followed by Attack Mode, so he would have the possible cards on his hards for the final minutes of the race.

Jake Dennis had to retire from the race, when he had hit the concrete wall. He was thankfully able to bring the car to a place of safety, so we avoided SC or other interruptions.

Bird overtook de Vries, but had used marginally more power than the Mercedes driver.

Mitch Evans also made his way past de Vries, with a double Jaguar podium looming in the distance.

Lucas di Grassi took the lead with 7 minutes to go, with he made a very late outbraking maneuver on Jean-Eric Vergne.

Vandoorne also managed to overtake de Vries.

Jean-Eric Vergne
Photo: ABB FIA Formula E World Championship

But there was huge drama with four minutes to go, when Lucas di Grassi suddenly lost speed, while leading the race. That resulted in everybody behind him having to avoid right and left. Vandoorne had to go the long way around the outside, but hit a bump so he lost the rear of his car, and spun across the track. De Vries tried to avoid the spinning car, but hit the concrete wall in his Mercedes-EQ and had to retire only a few meters later.

Full Course Yellow was the first reaction, followed by a real Safety car.

The race time had almost elapsed at that point, and it never went green again.

So Jean-Eric Vergne and DS Techeetah could enjoy their first win of 2021. Sam Bird and Mitch Evans finished second and third for Jaguar Racing, while always unlucky Robin Frijns lost the chance of another podium, finishing P4.

That resulted in some significant changes to the championship standings.

Sam Bird is the new leader, ahead of his former teammate, Robin Frijns. Nyck de Vries has dropped to third, while Mitch Evans sits fourth.

Another race in Rome will be run on Sunday afternoon.

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