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Formula E

Four Formula E drivers who have lost race wins in Rome

by Sam Smith
7 min read

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There are four drivers on this weekend’s Formula E grid that will have a little compartment dedicated and labelled ‘revenge’ after misfortune and adversity in previous races on arguably the all-electric championship’s most challenging circuit.

We look at the four that will be hoping to redress the balance of ill-fortune this weekend as Formula E returns after a yawning two-month break.

Andre Lotterer – 2019 and 2021

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Should Andre Lotterer break his Formula E victory duck in Rome after four and a half years of trying, it will be a steely heart that does rejoice in him doing so.

Lotterer’s Formula E career has been fascinating as it has been varied. He looked to be going the way of several other top international drivers in his first two events back in late 2017 when he just didn’t seem to be able to grasp the Gen1 car and how to exploit it in both qualifying and races.

Then the breakthrough at Santiago. That it came in a race where he not only harried but also nudged team-mate and friend Jean-Eric Vergne to victory, was entirely in keeping with Lotterer’s hard-edged racer image.

It’s an aura he rightly revels in because he’s always had a pure race-to-win mentality. That might seem like

He’s had several possibilities of winning a Formula E race. Apart from Santiago, and can you imagine how the landscape may have been changed if he’d turfed Vergne into the wall and gone on to win, there was also Hong Kong in 2019, Rome just a few weeks later and then at the same venue last April.

Then of course there was Mexico City in February when the smallest of qualifying errors ultimately cost him the win.

But it is Rome where he’s come so tantalisingly close on those two occasions. Firstly, in 2019 he swept to a brilliant pole position in conditions he probably didn’t have any right to do so in.

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Memorably it caused a comedy moment of premature jubilation from Jaguar boss James Barclay as Lotterer’s slide at the hairpin looked to have tossed the pole back into Mitch Evans’ court. But the DS Techeetah driver held on, and the fickle weather ultimately didn’t have such a say.

The race was memorable as Evans and Lotterer made it their own. It looked to have swung to the black and gold corner when Evans messed up his attack mode activation. But the Kiwi recovered and created his own ‘Lotterer-style move’ into the incongruously tight chicane on the free and undulating Circuito Cittadino dell’EUR.

That this came just a few weeks after being knocked from the top step almost within sight of the chequered flag in Hong Kong must have been one deflation too many. Yet Lotterer, ever the professional, largely swallowed it and allowed Evans to have his first day in the sun.

Two years on from the Mitch and Andre show, Lotterer just missed out on another pole, this time to Stoffel Vandoorne’s Mercedes EQ car.

But in drying conditions on a revised track from previous years he attacked early. Too early possibly but once someone like Lotterer commits there’s no coming back.

It was misjudged, possibly by Vandoorne too, but either way, both were compromised and the chance to be immortal in the eternal city had gone again.

Oliver Rowland – 2021

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Rowland had a reasonably low key first visit to the Rome E-Prix in the spring of 2019.

Still gathering experience and learning from team-mate Sebastien Buemi, the pole setting heroics of Sanya weren’t quite there, although after Rome he went on a spree of two more top spots at Paris and Monaco, although at the latter he was bumped to third after a Parisian nose-slam on his current team-mate Alexander Sims’ BMW.

But in 2021 Rowland looked immense on the contoured Roman streets and would have taken pole position but for a wall tagging mistake which delayed him to a third place start.

After the aforementioned Vandoorne and Lotterer tete-a-tete on the second lap, Rowland found himself in front and looking reasonably comfortable. That was until his radio chattered into life. It was his engineer Martin Heriaud, who piped up news of a drive-through penalty for an overpower spike.

Infuriated by the error, Rowland was left to fight through from last to a cruel 12th when really he had a real chance of taking his second win in the Nissan IM02 just before the new 03 model was introduced in Monaco.

The first three races of 2022 would indicate that any notion of Rowland reprising a possibility of victory in Rome again are slim. But the dayglo red and white cars weren’t too shabby last season, and if there is one street fighter you want on your team at a track like Rome, it’s Rowland.

Nick Cassidy – 2021

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“Cassidy’s (spun) around at Turn 7.”

Formula E commentator Jack Nicholls, like the rest of us, could barely believe what he was seeing as polesitter, and early race leader Nick Cassidy gyrated to a stop in the escape road close to the front gates of the leafy Ninfeo Park.

The shock was small fry though to that felt by the Envision Virgin driver who must have believed for a second he was in a nightmare for which he’d awake any moment.

A still unspecified glitch is believed to have contributed to the incident which shuffled him down the order and then eventually into the above described terminal meeting with Oliver Rowland’s Nissan later in the race.

It was a deflating experience for Cassidy who had begun his transition to Formula E from an ultra-successful title accruing Super GT and Super Formula career between 2017 and 2019.

Would Cassidy have won the race had the difficulties not ensued at T7? It’s debatable because Stoffel Vandoorne and Mercedes EQ were generally on a different plane once the Belgian had cleared Norman Nato’s Venturi and Pascal Wehrlein’s Porsche.

His four second advantage before the final safety car would likely have expanded had the race remained green and even when a one lap sprint threatened his dominance he was never challenged by the marauding pack.

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“We looked really competitive, the car felt great, and I just want to take those positives to the next race,” was all a relatively sanguine Cassidy could say after the chequered flag.

Post-race the feeling was that Cassidy had taken to the Rome track just as his fellow Kiwi, Evans, had done a few years before. A year on, Cassidy could be a strong dark horse to right his and the Envision teams’ own Roman wrong.

Lucas di Grassi – 2021

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Rome of course should be a gladiator’s paradise and there aren’t many that show more ruthlessness on the track than Lucas di Grassi. Squint hard enough and you can see him, bare-chested, hunting down Charlton Heston in the opening credits of some long-forgotten biblical epic.

So it was that in the first of the two Rome double-headers last season that he looked well on his way to standing on the dais and celebrating Roman emperor style to which we had seen 10 times before.

Just as he had put a burly move on Robin Frijns and then a jink inside Jean-Eric Vergne’s DS Techeetah the momentum was with the Audi driver. That was until he started to climb the rise from Ninfeo Park and then lost all drive thanks to a warped driveshaft.

While it caused terminal chaos for Mercedes EQ behind him, di Grassi and Audi were more concerned about the possible win going up in smoke in the blink of an eye.

Di Grassi is convinced he would have won. But a look at Vergne’s pace in the second half of that race may incline one to disagree.

Whatever, di Grassi and Audi came away from Rome with nothing, when on another day it could have gathered the points that would ultimately have threatened champion Nyck de Vries for the title a few months down the line.

Di Grassi ended the season 12 points adrift of de Vries. He would have had at least 18 from that Saturday at Rome, meaning that as well as the luck affected Mortara and Evans, for once di Grassi has a genuine claim to be on the receiving end of some proper misfortune.

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