until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

Vandoorne looks ominous after his ‘damage limitation’ weekend

by Sam Smith
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Stoffel Vandoorne has twice started from the back in this season’s six Formula E races so far and twice been caught up in accidents in races, yet he’s leaving a particularly wild Valencia weekend still second in the championship and just nine points behind Mercedes team-mate Nyck de Vries.

That validates his insistence that he’s seeing a bright “bigger picture” despite a charging drive in today’s race ending in a collision with Sebastien Buemi.

Stewards judged the contact at Turn 10 to have been a racing incident and did not take any action.

“Up until the incident it was a pretty solid race from us,” Vandoorne told The Race.

“We kind of settled in the beginning, trying to save energy and then tried to deploy the attack moves in the right place at the right time.”

All the championship frontrunners were disadvantaged by Sunday qualifying running on a drying track, meaning they had the worst of the conditions.

Vandoorne was only fourth fastest in group one and that translated to 17th on the grid.

But he made the best progress of any of the title contenders and had just broken into the top 10 when Alex Lynn, recovering from an earlier incident triggered by Norman Nato, took his second attack mode just ahead.

Buemi made a move to avoid the Mahindra into the braking area for the tight Turn 9 that follows the attack mode activation zone, and Vandoorne tried to squeeze his Mercedes through too.

But he made contact with Buemi and swiped the inner wall going into the next corner, breaking his suspension. That immediately put him out for the second time in four races after his heavy crash in the Rome opener.

Stoffel Vandoorne (bel), Mercedes Benz Eq, Eq Silver Arrow 02

“Lynn went for the attack mode and basically whenever someone here takes attack mode with a car alongside it kind of creates a bunch up effect up to Turn 9,” Vandoorne explained.

“So I kind of had a cut back on Seb and tried to commit to overtaking him in Turn 10.

“At the same time, I think he knew I was there, and he tried to keep the position as well.

“So in the end it was two into one and it didn’t work and it was pretty much a racing incident.”

But the retirement had no effect on Vandoorne’s championship position as none of the top five in the standings scored in the race.

None of de Vries, Sam Bird, Robin Frijns and Mitch Evans managed to get into the points from their frustrating qualifying positions.

That was Vandoorne’s second piece of good fortune after he emerged from the chaos of Saturday’s race finish with third place despite being put from pole to the back of the grid because of an administrative error around his tyre documentation.

He had only been running 14th at the final restart two laps from the finish, having had a collision with Nico Mueller and a trip through the gravel, but shot up to third as Mercedes was one of the few teams that had enough useable energy to make it to the chequered flag.

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Yesterday’s disqualification was Vandoorne’s second back of the grid start of the season, as he and the other Mercedes runners had been barred from taking part in Diriyah race two qualifying following Edoardo Mortara’s initially unexplained massive practice crash in his Venturi-entered Mercedes.

“It was damage limitation in a way – I think we got bad luck and some good luck this weekend,” said Vandoorne.

“Scoring a pole position and then getting disqualified then getting back onto the podium was definitely damage limitation.

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“We’ve still as a team scored a lot of points here, so I think we’ve just got to see the bigger picture is that our car is very competitive.

“We’ve now won on all the circuits we’ve been to this year, so the car is definitely competitive.”

Mercedes took over the lead in the teams’ points table this weekend, turning a 17-point deficit to Jaguar after Rome to a 23-point advantage.

Jaguar didn’t score points in either race in Spain.

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