Robin Frijns has become the eighth different driver to win in the opening eight races of the 2018-19 Formula E championship, scoring victory in a weather and crash marred Paris ePrix. Frijns’ triumph – the first of his Formula E career – also makes his Envision Virgin Racing team the first to win two races this season.
Having set the fourth fastest time in ‘Super Pole’, Frijns was promoted to third on the grid ahead of the race as the Mahindras of provisional pole-sitter Pascal Wehrlein and championship leader Jerome d’Ambrosio (provisionally sixth on the grid) were excluded from the qualifying and Super Pole sessions. In a statement released by the FIA, both cars were found to have breached the minimum permitted tyre pressure rule: “[the cars were] measured twice after qualifying and once after Super Pole, between 1.48 and 1.56-bar instead of a minimum of 1.60-bar”. With both Mahindras relegated to the final row of the grid, the front row became a Nissan e.Dams lock-out, with Oliver Rowland on pole and Sébastien Buemi second, ahead of Frijns and Felipe Massa on row two.
A rain and hail shower had impacted the Jaguar I-Pace Trophy race earlier in the afternoon, and while the rainfall had stopped, the starting grid still showed a distinct dry line down one side while still being damp on the other. For safety and fairness of the race start in this situation, the decision was made by race control to commence running behind the Safety Car.
When the Safety Car peeled into pit lane Rowland led away, however it was not for long as the Brit ran off the circuit at Turn 10 and fell down the order.
Buemi now led from Frijns and Massa, the battle for the lead intensifying when Frijns took his first Attack Mode. A lap later, Buemi appeared to slow excessively into Turn 8, with Frijns making contact with the back of the Nissan. The result was Frijns’ nose cone and front wing being slightly dislodged – it would continue to wobble for the remainder of the race – while one of Buemi’s rear tyres deflated, handing the lead to the Dutchman. Buemi limped back to the garage for repairs, only to receive a penalty for pit lane speeding, adding insult to injury for the Swiss driver and his team.
Initially the incident appeared to be due to a technical issue slowing the Nissan more than normal, but post-race Buemi explained it occurred as a result of aiming to dive to the inside on the exit of the corner to activate Attack Mode.
“Robin had activated the Attack Mode the lap before, so just to protect myself I was going to activate Attack Mode as well,” he explained. “Of course the way the Attack Mode is positioned, the guy needs to slow down more to reach it – you need to slow down more.”
Soon after, rain began to fall and quickly increased in intensity with Frijns the pioneer as the grip level changed corner to corner, lap to lap. When hail begin to fall a full course yellow was called, and racing resuming with 23 minutes to run once the hail had passed.
At this stage, André Lotterer had moved past Massa into second and was shadowing Frijns. The tricky conditions caught out Tom Dillmann, with the NIO driver clouting the wall and retiring, before a multi-car incident prompted the second full-course yellow of the race.
Sam Bird out-braked himself into turn three, followed immediately by Rowland doing the same – but collecting Alexander Sims in the process, the BMW i Andretti pushed into the barriers and out of the race.
Racing resumed in still-difficult conditions, and a the Venturi team quickly suffered a double blow: Massa spun out of third place, followed almost immediately by Edoardo Mortara bouncing off the barriers at Turn 3, but continuing.
Mortara wouldn’t be so lucky a second time, however, colliding with Alex Lynn at Turn 13 and taking both cars into the wall and out of the race. Lynn’s Jaguar teammate Mitch Evans was also forced to take evasive action down the escape road. The incident prompted another full course yellow, which soon became a Safety Car period, while the cars were cleared.
Just over two minutes plus one lap remained at the restart, however Turn 3 would strike again almost immediately as d’Ambrosio hit the wall, followed by the Dragon of José María López hitting the back of d’Ambrosio’s Mahindra. A third full course yellow period followed while the stranded car was cleared, and green flag conditions returned with Frijns having just a handful of corners left to complete, the Virgin Racing driver holding his nerve to take the win ahead of Lotterer and Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler’s Daniel Abt.
After crossing the line, Frijns described the win as “the hardest race of my life”, before adding post-race: “You’re surviving really. Knowing that you’re leading, you’re the first car, expecting the corners, and Andre was behind me and he was waiting for me to make mistakes, so the pressure was on all race long. I didn’t have much time to rest, only during Full Course Yellows, but it was definitely one of the toughest ones.”
Also reflecting on the conditions, Lotterer described how his race plan changed when the rain arrived: “I was going to try and go for the win but then it started to rain and the grip dropped massively. Then the aim was to bring it home, take the points and be happy.”
Behind the top three, Lucas di Grassi finished fourth to cap a strong day for Audi Sport, ahead of Maximilian Günther and reigning champion Jean-Éric Vergne. António Félix da Costa claimed seventh for BMW i Andretti, Gary Paffett finished eighth for HWA Racelab and Massa recovered from his spin to take ninth. Mahindra managed to salvage a single point as Wehrlein drove through to tenth place.
In a sign of just how close the fifth season of Formula E is unfolding, Frijns’ victory and added bonus point for fastest lap has boosted the Virgin Racer up to the lead of the Drivers’ Championship standings with 81 points. Just a single point behind is Lotterer, the German’s consistency building a strong platform to fight for the championship despite not having yet taken a victory. Ten points further back is da Costa, while di Grassi has climbed to fourth and d’Ambrosio fell from the lead to fifth. The top eight drivers are all within a race victory of the championship lead – Abt sits in eighth, just 22 points behind Frijns – while the top ten (also encompassing Sam Bird and Mortara) are covered by just 29 points.
The Teams’ Championship is starting to have three clear leaders, as DS Techeetah (142 points) lead Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler by seven points, with Envision Virgin Racing a further six points back. Having only scored a single point in Paris, Mahindra have dropped back – their tally of 103 points keeping the Indian squad in fourth place.
The ninth round of the 2018-19 Formula E season is scheduled to be held in two weeks time on Saturday May 11, as the biennial Monaco ePrix takes place on the streets of Monte Carlo.
|2019 ABB Formula E Paris ePrix – Final Classification|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Robin Frijns||Envision Virgin Racing||32||47:50.510||26|
|2.||André Lotterer||DS Techeetah||32||+ 1.373||18|
|3.||Daniel Abt||Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler||32||+ 3.175||15|
|4.||Lucas di Grassi||Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler||32||+ 3.666||12|
|5.||Maximilian Günther||Geox Dragon Racing||32||+ 5.456||10|
|6.||Jean-Éric Vergne||DS Techeetah||32||+ 6.694||8|
|7.||António Félix da Costa||BMW i Andretti Motorsport||32||+ 7.238||6|
|8.||Gary Paffett||HWA Racelab||32||+ 7.901||4|
|9.||Felipe Massa||Venturi Formula E Team||32||+ 10.522||2|
|10.||Pascal Wehrlein||Mahindra Racing||32||+ 10.998||1|
|11.||Sam Bird||Envision Virgin Racing||32||+ 11.488|
|12.||Oliver Rowland||Nissan e.dams||32||+ 19.451||3|
|13.||José María López||Geox Dragon Racing||32||+ 24.023|
|14.||Oliver Turvey||NIO Formula E Team||32||+ 1:22.226|
|15.||Sébastien Buemi||Nissan e.dams||31||1 lap behind|
|16.||Mitch Evans||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||31||1 lap behind|
|17.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Mahindra Racing||29||Collision|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Alex Lynn||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||23||Collision|
|DNF.||Edoardo Mortara||Venturi Formula E Team||23||Collision|
|DNF.||Stoffel Vandoorne||HWA Racelab||18||Collision|
|DNF.||Alexander Sims||BMW i Andretti Motorsport||18||Collision|
|DNF.||Tom Dillmann||NIO Formula E Team||17||Accident|
Post Race Penalties:
- Jérôme d’Ambrosio, Edoardo Mortara and Oliver Rowland will each serve a three-place grid penalty at the Monaco ePrix for causing avoidable collisions with Sam Bird, Alex Lynn and Alexander Sims respectively.
- Championship points are awarded on the results of the ePrix to the top-ten finishers on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 sliding scale.
- Oliver Rowland earned 3 bonus championship points for securing the Julius Baer pole position.
- Tom Dillmannposted the fastest lap of the ePrix, however, as he was not a top-10 classified finisher he is ineligible for the bonus championship point. The fastest lap posted by a top-10 finisher was by Robin Frijns, who earns the bonus championship point.
Images via ABB FIA Formula E Championship