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Formula E

'Really horrible' - Feuds and fury after Formula E's wildest race

by Sam Smith, Alice Holloway
9 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

You won’t find many of the Formula E drivers waxing lyrical about the type of mutant NASCAR-style pack racing that made up the first Misano E-Prix today. But everyone was talking about it afterwards, with strong opinions on Formula E’s craziest-ever race.

It was, as expected, a kind of deviant cocktail that included constant lead changing, drafting chaos, and several contacts, penalties and investigations as the 22-car grid jockeyed for positions as if they were foaming equines heading towards 26 consecutive Becher's Brook jumps in a lunatic 140mph motorsport version of the Grand National.

Edoardo Mortara, Mahindra, Misano E-Prix

The drivers generally do not like racing like this and you can see their point.

But perhaps there is a bigger picture here too in the sense that once or twice a season the multi-overtaking, energy-saving, pack-of-wolves racing will bring eyeballs from outside the purest racing industry and actually grow Formula E.

Randomness is at the heart of this crazy roulette wheel and if drivers and engineers hate one thing about going racing, it is unpredictability.

Cassidy blasts 'jealous' Vergne

Nick Cassidy, Jaguar, Misano E-Prix

One victim of this was former championship points leader, and early-season title favourite, Nick Cassidy.

He stayed generally tight-lipped about criticising the sporting spectacle but is believed privately to dislike the extreme versions of these races, despite being largely the king of it last season.

The Jaguar got taken out by Jean-Eric Vergne’s DS Penske early in the race, forced to pit to get a new nose section after a flashpoint at the Turn 8/9 chicane.

The Kiwi’s description of the incident at the time was direct, and although he wouldn’t elaborate on it after the race, his body language suggested that he hadn’t mellowed even after some carbon dust had settled.

Cassidy: JEV just put me straight in the wall, man. Did you see that? He moved on me in the back straight and then came over. This isn’t even a penalty, it’s just jealousy.

Engineer (Phil Ingram): Copy. Weaving whilst braking is not allowed.

Cassidy: If he’s not in the best car on the grid, he’s useless. It’s not only that, but he also put me straight into the wall into the chicane. I hit the wall on the left and him on the right.

From Vergne’s point of view, he had his own gripes after seeing a strong race and an initial third-place finish get pinballed down to seventh in the final results by an added five seconds.

“We have to discuss with the stewards because I don’t really understand the penalty,” Vergne told The Race.

“I’m in front of him, I clearly leave him enough space otherwise he would be in the wall, and he understeers into my car.”

As for the race itself, Vergne was explicit, describing it as a “complete joke".

”I hate this kind of racing, to be honest. It’s horrible," he vented.

“Drivers are changing direction everywhere, under braking, lifting late, early, side-by-side four-five cars, everybody hitting everybody, this is a casino.

"I don’t know if it’s enjoyable to the public but for us drivers it’s really horrible - and dangerous on top of that."

Evans calls out 'dirty' Guenther

Misano E-Prix, Formula E

While Cassidy was just one of many walking wounded, his Jaguar team-mate Mitch Evans was equally as incensed by some of the manoeuvres that were being dished out on track, especially those by Maserati MSG’s Maximilian Guenther.

The Race understands that Evans vented considerable fury at Guenther immediately after the E-Prix - and he’d barely cooled down in his opinions at the media pen an hour later.

“For me he’s one of the dirtiest drivers I’ve raced against,” Evans told The Race of Guenther.

“Today it was awful racing against him; he just drives you off the track, he’s hitting other people. There’s a few guys on the limit and some guys race really fairly, give you space, see the bigger picture, guys like Antonio [Felix da Costa], Nick, Jake [Dennis], they’re really good racers. Stoffel [Vandoorne] as well.

“Some other guys are on the limit. But for me, Guenther is the worst out there, he’s just really tricky to be around. He cost me a podium today.”

From Guenther’s perspective, he told The Race that he felt he needed to “speak with Mitch” and that he “saw it differently”.

“I’m sorry if he’s seeing it that way, we have a good relationship normally.

“I think if you look at this race it’s very chaotic and I think for the future we should bring less energy saving because it’s quite crazy.

“If you go three cars side-by-side through corners, always one guy will be unhappy.

“In the end we are competitors and everyone is fighting for himself.

“From my side it was a very action-packed race. I can’t complain about other people who did something to me because I think it’s just a bit the way these races are."

'Worse than Portland'?

Misano E-Prix, Formula E

Sao Paulo victor Sam Bird was one of the more vocal of the drivers in trying to put it into perspective how difficult the racing was to make sense of.

Talk before the race was that it could see an even more exaggerated version of the first truly extreme peloton pack race at Portland last June, which was run to similar usable energy but on a simpler circuit with fewer clearer overtaking opportunities.

NEOM McLaren driver Bird was clear in his opinions that today’s E-Prix was “worse than Portland, not based on energy but based on the circuit layout".

“That chicane in Turn 8, woah! You’re just going into corners praying you’ll come out without any damage," he said.

Misano E-Prix, Formula E

“It looks good on TV apparently, that’s great. I’m pleased that the fans enjoy this, but certainly for us it’s hard to swallow when things outside of your control ruin your race.

“You put so much into it and [Jehan] Daruvala giving me a puncture isn’t even under investigation. Figure that out.

“It’s frustrating because we do multiple days on this, we’ve done the DiL [simulator], we fly out here, a few days of media, quick in free practice, make the duels. Then, you think 'top six, it’s going to be racing for a podium from there' [and it's taken away].

When asked if it was the type of racing that required spotters, Bird said: "You need 10 spotters. That, for me, was way too much today.”

Like karting

Misano E-Prix, Formula E

Dan Ticktum scored his best-ever Formula E result with an excellent race to fifth place for the ERT team, capitalising on a high-save strategy and a perfectly-timed ascent through the field.

He and team-mate Sergio Sette Camara worked together to come to the front, although the Brazilian saw his points finish lost after a post-race overspeed infraction was dished out.

Ticktum described it all to The Race as “like my Cadet karting days when I was about 10, just sitting in each other’s tow".

“I’ve always used the phrase 'racing shouldn’t be too un-organic’ but at the end of the day we’re here to be entertaining and we’re here to make a point.”

Ticktum also pointed out the bigger picture of mixing traits of traditional motorsport with something new, and more crucially something that evidences intrinsic elements of efficiency.

Misano E-Prix, Formula E

“This is what Formula E is about, efficiency, that’s our goal as a championship,” he added.

“As a traditional racing driver, I like being flat out and on the edge of everything but I have to say, if I was in a car that was efficient I think I’d enjoy it a lot more and I think it does provide good racing.

“It allows us to overtake on tracks that you wouldn’t normally be able to, like Monaco coming up.

“I think there’s good and bad things, but I think overall for the sport and what we’re trying to achieve it’s good.”

'Same s**t'' tomorrow?

Misano E-Prix, Formula E

Tomorrow's second part of the Misano double-header is two laps shorter but with the same usable energy (38.5kWh).

That should make for a less extreme energy management race, yet the fundamental element will remain.

“It will absolutely be the same s**t,” a forthright Robin Frijns told The Race about Sunday's event.

“The more risk you take, the more reward. Honestly, once you’ve broken your hands, you take some margin,” he added, referring to his nasty Mexico City injury last season.

“Some people don’t, they just put their nose in, they push you on the sidepod and hope for the best.

“It’s not racing. They’re under pressure because maybe they lose their seats, they take more risk, whatever.

“Look at the guy who won [da Costa] - he takes some risks, this guy.

Antonio Felix da Costa, Porsche, Misano E-Prix

“I’m not saying he’s a bad driver, he’s a good driver for sure, but the amount of risks he takes!”

According to Frijns’ Envision team-mate Sebastien Buemi, some of the issues are to do with the type of kerbs that are in use at the Misano track - which is mostly designed for two-wheeled motorsport.

“You have those kerbs, then the blue [run-off area] and then the grass,” Buemi told The Race.

“In Portland you have a big kerb and then you have grass. You cannot invent lines."

He pointed out Guenther specifically as someone "going into lines like you cannot believe".

"The fact that there are so many different lines creates even more [chaos].”

A unique recovery

Jake Dennis, Andretti Porsche, Misano E-Prix

Amid the many tales of frustration towards the pack racing style, physical attrition and general bruising woe, reigning champion Jake Dennis wrote his own uniqueness into the storyline.

It was topped by Dennis backing his Andretti-run Porsche into the pit exit wall on the way to the grid and tailed by a strong run to his third podium appearance of the season.

“I had a pit limiter situation and just lost control of the car,” he told The Race.

“It was just one of those things. I didn’t realise there was that much damage so I was like, ‘yeah, the boys have got some work to do’ but they did a great job.

Despite getting “pinched a few times” he came from 17th to third, meaning that he could be “pretty pleased” with his Misano rollercoaster.

His qualifying was compromised by several issues, notably losing his first timed lap to a tyre pressure penalty and then suffering with a loss of brake-by-wire due to a DC/DC charge cut believed to have been caused by kerb strikes.

Dennis’ opinions of the race itself were generally more balanced than others', the reigning champion saying that he “enjoyed it to a certain extent because qualifying isn’t our strong point, this weekend is a bit of an anomaly but, we’ve got such a good powertrain, Porsche, so it’s great opportunities for us to score points".

“If the fans enjoy it then that’s the main thing,” he said.

“Us drivers, we’re here to put on a show ultimately and that’s what we’re doing.

“If the fans are enjoying it then that’s great, if they’re not then maybe we can do something about it. From my understanding everyone [viewers] seems to enjoy it.”

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