until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

How everyone else lost the Formula E title

by Matt Beer
7 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

An incredible 18 drivers – 75% of the grid – came to Berlin this weekend still in with a shot of becoming Formula E world champion.

Two action-packed races later, that 18-to-one elimination process concluded with the driver who’d started the weekend on top still there.

Even though the championship lead has changed hands at every other Formula E race weekend this season, when it really, really mattered Mercedes’ Nyck de Vries was able to hang on and take the first FE crown with FIA world title status.

This is how it went wrong for everyone else.

Alexander Sims

Pre-Berlin: 18th in championship, -51 points
Final championship position: 19th, -45 points

Always the longest of shots, the Mahindra driver’s 16th place on the race one grid and 17th-place finish ruled him out of any miracle. He was then right in the hunt for race two victory, but it was too late.

Oliver Rowland

Pre-Berlin: 16th in championship: -36 points
Final championship position: 14th, -22 points

Another driver whose Sunday brilliance came after the title was lost. Rowland was stuck in the midfield on Saturday as Nissan had poor race pace and could only finish 13th.

Stoffel Vandoorne

Pre-Berlin: 13th in championship: -32 points
Final championship position: 9th, -17 points

Vandoorne knew after being hit by Rowland in London that his championship push was all but over, and that was very much confirmed when Mercedes struggled in qualifying on day one.

He did well to convert 22nd on the grid to a 12th-place finish and then was integral to Mercedes sealing the teams’ championship with his drive from pole to third on day two.

Andre Lotterer

Pre-Berlin: 17th in championship: -50 points
Final championship position: 17th, -41 points

Lotterer was the only one of the drivers knocked out of the title hunt on Saturday who actually made it into the points. But he needed a lot more than 10th place to have a shot at being champion. Ironically fourth on Sunday was then one of his best drives of 2021.

Maximilian Guenther

Pre-Berlin: 15th in championship: -33 points
Final championship position: 16th, -33 points

Spacesuit Media Shiv Gohil 265178

Eighth in race one kept Guenther clinging on in the title fight, but he needed every bonus point possible from Sunday qualifying to go any further. Eighteenth on the grid wasn’t the ticket.

Mitch Evans

Pre-Berlin: 8th in championship: -20 points
Final championship position: 4th, -9 points

The most painful of the 17 defeats. A great drive to third in race one was followed by an even better effort to get third on the grid for race two despite being in qualifying group one.

With the next-best title contender six places back and de Vries – now only four points ahead of Evans – 10 places behind him on the grid, everything seemed to be going Evans’s way.

The technical problem that meant he moved just inches when the race started ended all that.

Edoardo Mortara

Pre-Berlin: 9th in championship: -21 points
Final championship position: 2nd, -7 points

Venturi was a frontrunner all weekend, and Mortara only lost out on Saturday race victory by 0.141s.

Having qualified 11th, race two wasn’t going to be easy, but it ended up brief and painful when the unsighted Mortara slammed into Evans’s static car on the grid and ended his season in hospital for precautionary checks.

Jake Dennis

Pre-Berlin: 4th in championship: -14 points
Final championship position: 3rd, -8 points

Another man who spent a few minutes as title favourite. A hard-fought fifth on Saturday brought Dennis to within four points of de Vries, and he took the race two restart eighth to his rival’s 11th.

Then a shock technical failure threw Dennis into the wall just after the safety car pulled in and racing began.

Antonio Felix da Costa

Pre-Berlin: 5th in championship: -15 points
Final championship position: 8th, -13 points

DS Techeetah’s qualifying domination on Saturday made it look like this was going to be another 2020: it’s all wide open until Berlin, and then da Costa runs away with it.

But a lack of race pace put da Costa and fellow past champion team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne on the back foot, and the struggle continued in Sunday qualifying.

Being pushed into the wall by Lucas di Grassi while fighting for 12th was the official end of da Costa’s title defence.

Lucas di Grassi

Pre-Berlin: 14th in championship: -33 points
Final championship position: 7th, -12 points

Di Grassi’s outstanding race one victory raised hopes that Audi might just exit Formula E with a shock title.

It was back down to earth on Sunday: 17th on the grid was followed by a penalty for taking da Costa out and a 20th-place finish.

Nick Cassidy

Pre-Berlin: 7th in championship: -19 points
Final championship position: 15th, -23 points

Formula E Berlin E Prix 2021

Envision Virgin arrived in Berlin as teams’ championship leader but just had no pace all weekend. Cassidy could only toil in the midfield, with 14th and 17th places ending an often great rookie season in anonymous fashion.

Alex Lynn

Pre-Berlin: 6th in championship: -17 points
Final championship position: 12th, -21 points

Lynn’s London win dumped him into group one qualifying for the first time all season and he could only qualify 21st. A penalty for improper FanBoost use meant 20th in race one. He was still just about in title contention at that point but race two brought only 13th place.

Robin Frijns

Pre-Berlin: 2nd in championship: -6 points
Final championship position: 5th, -10 points

Frijns had brilliantly clung on in the title fight all year despite never winning a race and being pretty much permanently in group one qualifying.

But he knew from the start of practice one that Envision Virgin was in trouble here and even this master of racecraft couldn’t save the situation. His season ended with the anticlimax of 15th and 12th places.

Jean-Eric Vergne

Pre-Berlin: 12th in championship: -27 points
Final championship position: 10th, -19 points

Vergne was livid during race one as poor long run pace and badly executed strategy meant the pole that might’ve thrust him right into the championship mix delivered just sixth place.

He was among those right on de Vries’ tail in the tense conclusion to the decider before a brush with Rene Rast dumped him to 11th.

Rene Rast

Pre-Berlin: 10th in championship: -23 points
Final championship position: 13th, -21 points

Audi didn’t try anything quite as cheeky in Berlin as it had with its London pit trick, but it was certainly in dice-rolling mode.

Rast rocketed through the race one field with early use of attack mode, then fell back to ninth as others’ strategies proved wiser.

Sunday’s gamble was a pitlane start to save some energy and then hanging back and using attack modes late. It brought ninth, but that was far from enough.

Sam Bird

Pre-Berlin: 3rd in championship: -14 points
Final championship position: 6th, -12 points

A firm whack on lap one of the opener may or may not have been what led to Bird’s Jaguar grinding to a halt early in race one. Only qualifying 22nd for race two was what did terminal damage to his title bid, and a great drive through to finish seventh wasn’t enough.

Pascal Wehrlein

Pre-Berlin: 11th in championship: -24 points
Final championship position: 11th, -20 points

Formula E Berlin E Prix 2021

Contact with Rowland on Saturday turned a potential top-10 finish for Wehrlein into a puncture and 21st place.

But come the closing laps of race two, he was the last man standing who had a remotely realistic shot at depriving de Vries.

With de Vries getting perhaps a little more lairy than a man defending a points lead (whose main rivals were mostly out) needed to and Wehrlein advancing up the order to fifth, a late shock wasn’t totally unthinkable. Ultimately de Vries played it a touch safer and took eighth, and rather than pushing on to reach the front, Wehrlein had to settle for sixth.

Agonisingly, had the Puebla win that Wehrlein lost to a paperwork infringement not been taken away, he’d have been world champion.

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