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Formula E

How Mercedes EQ’s Formula E weekend imploded

by Sam Smith
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The precise reasons why Nyck de Vries’ previously searing pace tailed off so spectacularly in the mid-race phase onwards in yesterday’s second Diriyah E-Prix are being investigated by the Mercedes Formula E team.

Friday victor and reigning champion de Vries looked well set to come away from Saudi Arabia with a rare double win but was ultimately unable to resist the two identically powered Venturi Mercedes and several other rivals in the second half of the race. He finally finished 10th.

Two critical moments conspired to shuffle de Vries down the order.

The first was when he was overtaken in a robust move by Venturi newcomer Lucas di Grassi close to the halfway mark of the race.

De Vries was pushed wide as he defended from the Brazilian and was then almost immediately pounced upon by the second Venturi Mercedes of eventual winner Edoardo Mortara.

The other vital moment of De Vries’ race came when his side of the garage elected to leave its second attack mode activation later than the chasing Robin Frijns, who was then in fourth position.

While Frijns made hay on his extra boost (going on to split the Venturi pair and take second), de Vries only consolidated fourth but was unable to make any passes on the leading trio.

In fact he lost momentum and several positions while defending from Jean-Eric Vergne, and when the two made contact it allowed Andre Lotterer, Jake Dennis, de Vries’ team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne and Oliver Rowland through.

When Pascal Wehrlein later overtook too, de Vries was left with just a point in 10th position.

It’s understood de Vries’ car didn’t suffer any significant damage in the contacts with di Grassi and Vergne and the sudden loss of multiple positions was just a consequence of getting off-line, getting dirt on his tyres and losing time while they cleaned up.

Quite apart from those incidents de Vries also admitted that “we weren’t quick enough today” and while acknowledging that “we might have been a little late in activating attack mode”, the sheer lack of pace was the biggest issue.

“It’s tough when you’re down on pace,” said the 2021 champion.

“In the end, though, it was down to us as I believe we simply weren’t fast enough today.

“It all goes to prove once again that things can still go wrong, even if you’ve had a strong weekend up until that point.

“The window is very narrow, and you can soon lose out as a result.”

The team is investigating precisely why the Mercedes pace tailed off so much as the race wore on and why de Vries was unable to make sufficient progress while he was on his second attack mode when the leading trio were not.

Formula E Ad Diriyah E Prix 2021

The initial thought is believed to be that it was simply a set-up issue and Mercedes was caught out by the track evolution and temperatures, leading to a slightly oversteering balance – which can compromise efficient energy management.

Team principal Ian James said Mercedes will “spend time analysing the data and ensuring that we improve going forwards”.

Vandoorne had taken the Friday pole and backed de Vries up in a Mercedes 1-2 in the opener having squandered the lead by failing to properly activate attack mode.

But on Saturday he only qualified 12th having failed to get adequate temperature into his front Michelins during his final qualifying group run.

He admitted that “maybe today was a little bit more difficult than yesterday in terms of the race pace” as he recovered to seventh place.

“It was the best we could do in these circumstances, so damage limitation today,” added Vandoorne.

The works Mercedes pair’s poor Saturday means it’s Venturi driver Mortara who holds the early points lead on 33, four ahead of de Vries and five in front of Vandoorne.

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