2,771 REASONS THE ROME EPRIX SHOULD GO DOWN IN HISTORY
Rome is 2,771 years old and the Eprix has brought it into the future. Here's why the inaugural race deserves its spot in the history books.
1. IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED
This might sound basic but – aside from the fact events do have to factually occur to be added to history, usually – it's a pretty impressive achievement. Speaking in a press conference on Friday, Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag and series co-creator FIA president Jean Todt confirmed that they'd been trying to to arrange a race in Rome since the very inception of Formula E.
Organising a street race is no mean feat, let alone in one of the most famous and visited cities on earth, with notorious traffic flow uh... issues at the best of times. Although there has been racing in Rome since it would have been done in chariots, the Eprix is the first for a long time. The last race was a non-championship Formula One tournament back in 1954, never to be repeated.
It's a tough gig, with Jean Todt saying "People think [organising Formula E] is normal - but it's not normal."
2. GLADIATORIAL PIT LANE CLASHES
You know how it is, you're all pumped up for group qualifying, you leave your garage and someone releases the car next door straight into the side of you.
Jose-Maria Lopez does and it's fair to say he wasn't happy about it. Antonio Felix Da Costa immediately jumped out of his Andretti to try to remove it from the Dragon car but it was all too late and both of their qualifying was over very literally before it started.
Antonio's penalty probably didn't placate Lopez, who was absolutely fuming - and made it quite clear to Da Costa that he was with hand gestures that translate through the ages.
Lopez in the Rome Eprix pit lane during happier times, image courtest ABB Formula
3-5. TECPRO EXCURSIONS
It's been a really tough weekend for Alex Lynn, the younger of DS Virgin's two drivers and a not-quite-rookie this year in Formula E, after an impressive outing covering for Lopez in New York last season.
A lot of Rome is built in great, lapidary stone. Unlike the temporary Formula E circuit which is fortunately mostly made of TecPro, which poor Alex got somewhat close to three times on Saturday. He crashed in FP1, ending the session early and again in FP2, shouting in frustration as he got out of the car.
It seemed like that must surely be the end of his attraction to the TecPro but another collision, just after pitting in the race, took him totally out of contention. Sometimes you build a gigantic empire, sometimes it falls on you.
6. MORE DRAMA THAN BRUTUS INVITING A FEW MATES ROUND FOR BANTER WITH CAESAR
Formula E has never been short on excitement, with more overtakes in a single race than in an entire Formula One season. Tight racing around street circuits leads to crashing and clashes, as well as daring overtakes.
There's been a bit of quiet concern around the Paddock that all the manufacturers entering in Season 4 and 5 might mean we have to start doing things properly and being boring. Fortunately, as the second new track of 2018 highlights, we shall be doing absolutely no such thing and instead going for full-scale shenanigans as per usual.
7. 1% OF ENERGY
Half of what Mitch Evans lost his first proper Formula E podium halfway through the last lap by not having.
8. 1% OF ENERGY
The other culprit. Tough breaks.
9. FELIPE MASSA RUMOUR OVERDRIVE
Felipe Massa on the Rome Eprix grid, image courtest FIA Formula E
Getting in before Nico Rosberg, the former (for two turns) F1 world champion and 11-time race winner Felipe Massa was the first to really kick start his own hype train by rocking up in the Paddock for a genial visit.
With driver swap shenanigans aplenty this season already and a whole set of nervous rookies, some of whom have already face the threat of - or actual - replacement, with Blomqvist out for Kamui Kobayashi in Hong Kong before he'd even done a race and Luca Filippi announced today as giving his car over to NIO reserve Ma-Qing Hua for at least the Paris Eprix, there's every chance we might see Massa in a car this year. Even Mortara's out for Berlin on DTM...
We know Massa has tested for Jaguar. And although Formula E isn't short of Brazilians (and the Rome Eprix was Brazilian-sponsored) neither Piquet Jr nor current champion Lucas di Grassi have Massa's profile or racing record in Formula 1. He'd be comfortably the biggest name since former Sauber teammate Heidfeld and to be honest, Massa eclipses him by a fair degree. Stuck in a struggling Williams the past few seasons, it'd be fun to see him in a front-running car...
Would he bring Rob Smedley, is the real question? We'll know he's serious if Smedders rocks up in Berlin...
10. FATES ARE BASTARD
Felix Rosenqvist holds the fastest lap record of the Rome Eprix. Which is probably cold comfort given he left the race from the lead, 23 laps in, after colliding with a kerb.
With Heidfeld smashed in a four-car pile-up, Mahindra Racing (wearing blue for their Italian design partner Pininfarina) went from looking set to turn their horrible luck in South America around. Comfortably in the lead even after the car swap, it looked like Rosenqvist could take the victory home in a triumphant return.
It wasn't to be. He said the suspension immediately broke, losing all power and almost ejecting the drive train - even though he didn't feel he'd hit any kerb harder than before.
Traditionally, many things in Ancient Rome were decided by the arbitrary whim of the gods. A bit like motorsport, then.
11-32. ALL 21 TURNS
The Rome Eprix circuit being announced, image courtesy FIA Formula E
Fitting twenty one corners, including a hairpin and two chicanes, into a 2.86km track is no mean feat, let alone actually managing not to wreck yourself ploughing round them with top speeds near 200km/h and walls everywhere you look.
The Robocar couldn't do it, LIDARs confused by the dramatic elevation changes around the route. And a few human drivers found it a bit of an up or downhill struggle, losing control over changing surfaces.
But for anyone who put the lap together, especially anyone who could fall into a rhythm, this was a mega circuit with drivers praising it as one of the best.
33. INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION MAXIMUM
The ABB FIA Formula E event in Rome was technically the - wait for it - CBMM Niobium Rome Eprix Presented by Mercedes EQ.
Try saying that after a couple of Peronis. So that's an event in Rome sponsored by a Brazilian company, presented by a German Manufacturer.
And that's even overlooking the increased role of Qatar Airways (sponsor for the next outing in Paris and Italian partners Modis... Alejandro has been a busy man.
34. THE MAYOR OF ROME
L-R, Mitch Evans, Mayor of Rome Virginia Elena Raggi, Felix Rosenqvist, Someone who isn't the Mayor of Rome, Sam Bird
I'm a (reasonably) glamorous woman and contrary to the rumours, keen to see other glamorous women in the motorsport paddock.
Especially if they're the event-enabling, legally qualified, power-suit-wearing force of nature that is Virginia Elena Raggi, who I cannot but describe as absolutely smokin'.
34-35. TWO HOME RACERS
NIO's Luca Filippi is Italian - as is Venturi's Edoardo Mortara.
Support was out in force for Luca but slightly more vague for Edo, now on his second home race of a potential four this season.
Racing under a Swiss license, Edoardo was born to Italian parents in Switzerland, is married to a Chilean and races for a Monagasque team who are going to claim Paris as a close-enough home race in a non-Monaco Eprix year.
Luca Filippi in the NIO garage at the Rome Eprix, image courtest FIA Formula E
36-38. TWO QUALIFYING DISASTERS
A list Luca will have been less pleased to be in is the one he joined Jerome D'Ambrosio on. The Rome circuit is a complicated track with a very long pit lane and a separated start/finish line, which is a quirk of street circuits.
Both vying to be the last to cross the chequered flag and get a chance to put a clear lap in during the short group qualifying session, D'Ambrosio and Filippi both got mis-timed, failing to clear the start line in time and thus being excluded from qualifying.
Formula E: a complex business.
Sam Bird, flying. Image courtest FIA Formula E
50. BIRD VS EAGLE
The symbol of Ancient Rome, still used on the city's crest, was the eagle. Appropriate, then, that the first Eprix here was won by Sam Bird.
51-171. THE EXTRA 120 METRES
This is a very long Formula E track, at 2.86km. That might not sound that impressive but when you're running races longer than ever before, that 0.12 of a kilometre is the crucial margin.
If the track had only been as long as Montreal, which most drivers were comparing it to and which measures in at a mere 2.74km could Evans have held that podium?
We'll never really be able to do the forensics on it because maybe Lotterer could have held on even better but Formula E is rarely, if ever, not extra.
172-202. THE 30 MINUTES IT TOOK FOR ADDITIONAL TICKETS TO SELL OUT
Formula E's detractors like to think it's not all that desirable to attend, which is unfortunate when you're watching massive empty grandstands at the Chinese Grand Prix and EPrix like Rome and Paris keep selling out additional allocations in mere minutes.
203. TWO-WHEEL LEGEND
Max Biaggi in the Formula E show car, image courtest Formula E
Italian motorcycle legend Max Biaggi had a turn on the Rome Eprix track on the Friday, after six years in retirement.
The two-time World Superbike Champion and 13-time MotoGP winner is a Rome native and up there with the Italian motor racing gods so naturally wanted a go on first track in his home town in 64 years.
Biaggi drove laps in the show car, saying he was impressed by the torque of the electrical acceleration and that driving these cars showed real skill; no small compliment from such a legend.
204. FOUR-WHEEL LEGEND
Giancarlo Fisichella in the Formula E show car, image courtest FIA Formula E
Italian fans love an Italian. And especially an Italian who at least used to wear red - former Ferrari F1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella also took a spin the show car to announce a new Italian cycling event.
He didn't say what he thought of the car - but it's fair to say, from the number of head-to-toe Ferrari outfits I saw despite the prancing pony's refusal to get involved in Formula E that the crowd were extremely into seeing him on track.
205-469. A NICE NUMBER OF POPES WHO HAVE NOT BLESSED FORMULA E CARS
Would you believe that 265 Pontifexes have not blessed any all-electric single seater vehicles.
470. THE ONE POPE WHO HAS
Pope Francis blesses a Formula E car in Vatican City, image courtest FIA Formula E
Formula E took a special trip to Vatican City last week to meet Pope Francis, a known environmentalist and receive his blessing to both some of the drivers and the car.
Now officially Vatican-sanctioned, it didn't seem to stop the series tearing up the streets of Rome a few days later.
471-474. FOUR TENTHS OF A SECOND
Andre Lotterer and Jean-Eric Vergne at the Rome Eprix, image courtesy FIA Formula E
The amount of time Andre Lotterer somehow made up to top the times in group qualifying, during the tricky third sector of the Rome Eprix track.
Featuring 9 of the 21 turns on the track, including the low-speed hairpin, the third sector was widely regarded as both the slowest and the most technical. Not per se a street circuit specialist, Lotterer has sometimes seemed to struggle with the low-speed, highly complex Formula E circuits including a few noses into the runoffs during practice sessions here.
However, somehow between turns 12 and 21 he found nearly half a second of pace. Not shabby.
475-481. HOW MANY CARS CAN YOU GET IN A PILE UP?
It's six, I have checked.
In a near recreation of what happened to red-flag this season's first race in Hong Kong, two successive four-car incidents led to an impressive six cars, nearly seven, involved in some way in The Train.
Lopez, avoiding Engel, went up the inside of Turvey into the hairpin, forcing Turvey into Heidfeld and both stationary against the wall, leaving them hidden behind the corner so that Filippi and Mortara were helpless to do anything other than hit the back of Turvey, coming to a full halt together.
I asked Oliver Turvey what happened and he seemed surprisingly sanguine for someone who'd been rammed into another car a few times, "The hairpin's very tight, Nick went round the outside and Lopez was very late going round the inside - I was in the middle and going three-wide into a very tight corner is always going to be tricky.
" Lopez hit me on the inside that pushed me into Nick. It's normal with street racing, tight circuits these things can happen. It was unfortunate there was nowhere for me to go."
They were nearly joined by Piquet Jr, who managed to slip up the inside and avoid the carnage. I suppose if you have to hit someone, just before your pit stop is probably the best time to do it, if there is such a thing.
The good news is there's a hairpin in Zurich so train-spotters can keep their eyes peeled.
Lucas di Grassi gets speedy at the Rome Eprix, image courtest FIA Formula E
482-622. THE DIFFERENCE IN TOP SPEED FOR A ROMAN CHARIOT AND FORMULA E
Roman chariots raced very different circuits to Formula E - preferring a sort of Indycar oval setup in a stadium.
Historians estimate that, with lightweight chariots, they probably reached somewhere around 35mph, which is roughly 56km/h.
Before the race, Audi Abt Schaeffler estimated the top speed of a Formula E car around the twisty Rome Eprix circuit would be around 197km/h, bringing them up to a 141km/h advantage on Ancient Rome.
623-956. THE DIFFERENCE IN HORSEPOWER BETWEEN THE GEN 2 CAR AND A CHARIOT
The Generation 2 Formula E car, showcased at the Rome Eprix, will pull about 335 horsepower (although we haven't had the official number confirmed by a team yet and that will depend on power train, so could be more) which is a fair old amount by anyone's standards.
It's also 334 horsepower more than a racing chariot, which was powered by one horse.
957. OLD MEETS YOUNG
Mitch Evans at the Rome Eprix, image courtest FIA Formula E
There's a 17-year age gap across the Formula E grid, from 23-year-old Mitch Evans to 40-year-old Nick Heidfeld.
Which is quite an impressive spread, especially since, as isn't always the case in Formula 1, they're fighting right up against each other this year.
The second half of the race saw Evans fighting with Andre Lotterer and Lucas di Grassi, a multiple-time Le Mans winner and the current Formula E champion. Aside from the massive increase in performance for Jaguar between last season and now, there's something extremely exciting about seeing someone a year-and-a-half into their top-flight car career giving trouble to people with over a decade of experience.
958-962. THE NUMBER OF RACES SEBASTIEN BUEMI HAD WON BY THIS POINT LAST SEASON
This season, Sebastien Buemi has won no Formula E races and has achieved no pole positions.
Which is extraordinary, given by the seventh race in the championship last year he had won five, even with one disqualification. His team, Renault e.Dams, supply the power train to championship leaders Techeetah but the factory outfit is lagging far behind.
I asked Sebastien what was going on and he said they couldn't understand the difficulties, "It looks like I'm always having better qualifying now than I had in the race and in the past it always used to be the opposite.
"I've been quite a few times in Super Pole - I missed a few times in Hong Kong but otherwise four, five times. But then in the race I'm not quick enough anymore. so we just need to understand why we seem to be struggling."
Renault depart the championship at the end of this season to be replaced by sister manufacturer Nismo. After three consecutive constructor's titles, the only team ever to have won in Formula E so far, it looks as though their customer team is going to break their run.
The Formula E pit lane down the pit entry side
963-1,472. THE MORE-THAN-HALF-A-KILOMETRE PIT LANE
Some Formula E pit lanes are very tight, with garages facing each other; it's why Sam Bird's drive-through in Hong Kong was possible to keep him in the lead.
Not so in Rome. In order to negotiate tightly-packed buildings, the pit lane was a massive five hundred and ten metres in length.
That's more than half a kilometre. Which when you think the whole circuit is less than three of, accounts for an extremely significant distance.
As Sebastien Buemi said in the Friday press conference, "you don't want to get a drive-through."
1,473-1,474. TWO RIGHT ANGLE TURNS
In the pit lane. Between the garages.
As Nelson Piquet Jr told me on the Friday, "it's normal" but I'm not sure by what standard.
Edoardo Mortara trying to work out if this pit lane is normal or not. Image courtesy FIA Formula E.
1,474-1896. THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE
Now, you might be wondering how I'm going to manage to hinge this back to being about the Rome Eprix and whether I'm getting a bit desperate to find some big numbers but that's what the comment section is for.
The Roman Empire lasted from 27BC to 395AD so don't tell me you never learn anything messing about on DriveTribe. Italy has been a culturally dominant power across Europe ever since, especially in motorsport.
Oh, you see where I'm going; by far the most famous Italian car brand is Ferrari, with legions of loyal fans the Tifosi attending Formula One races across the world. But the horse-enthusiast marque will absolutely not contemplate the idea of getting into Formula E, a sentiment it seemed like the broader Italian fanbase backed until now.
The Rome Eprix sold out in hours on its first round of tickets and minutes on its second. There's no question people wanted to attend this. Speaking in the Friday press conference, Luca Filippi said that Italians had been relatively slow to adopt electric technology or subscribe to Formula E but that he felt the time was right.
Packed-out grandstands full of red merchandise couldn't say much else. Except that the team everyone's such a fan of didn't seem to be at the event they wanted to go to...
1,897-1,914. THOSE 18 POINTS
Sam Bird's win – and Felix Rosenqvist's retirement, mean Jean-Eric Vergne's championship lead is cut from 30 to 18 points, in Rome, with Sam and Felix swapping second and third place.
Historically, JEV hasn't always been lucky at his home race in Paris, crashing out last season and DS Virgin and Techeetah struggled in Berlin last year where Rosenqvist took Mahindra's first win. So it's not over by any means at all, looking like another down-to-the-last-race title fight.
But 18 points is 18 points. It might have been cut to just two, if Felix had finished...
1,915-2,010. SPEAKING OF WHICH, THAT POLE LAP
Usually, times don't fall between group qualifying and Super Pole. Although the top 5 group qualifiers will be competing, they get less chance to warm up tyres and are under time pressure to repeat their earlier performance, with times dropping back more than a second often.
Don't tell that to Felix Rosenqvist. Who not only took pole by the gigantic margin of 0.7 seconds over Sam Bird's otherwise competitive time but smashed the lap record from any of the previous sessions as he did so.
96 seconds (and 0.311) it took him. I'd like to see someone try that in regular Rome traffic.
Felix Rosenqvist gets out of his car after taking pole at the Rome Eprix, image courtesy FIA Formula E.
20,11-2016. SIX SLICES OF MARGHERITA PIZZA
Drivers can burn up to about 1,500 calories wrestling a car round a racetrack. With about 250kcals to a slice of thin-crust, Rome-style margherita pizza that's a nice break from the strict athletic diet right there.
2,017-2,080. THE 64 YEARS SINCE THE LAST ROME STREET RACE
Ok, we could've held off for another two decades for a nice Titanic reference but that is a long time.
2,081. EDOARDO MORTARA: ROMEO DRIFT
During group qualifying, Edoardo Mortara went over a kerb and foxed his suspension and steering. Normally, this might be seen as a good moment to retire but if he could get round the lap, he was guaranteed to start ahead of non-qualifiers Luca Filippi and Jerome D'Ambrosio.
Or perhaps he's just not a quitter in front of his home crowd. Either way, Edoardo wrestled his drifting car back to the garages, despite the fact it seemed to have taken on the qualities of a particularly wayward supermarket trolley and wasn't so much drivable as an interesting prop for the next Hollywood stunt movie. Respect.
2,082-2,087. THE 6% OF ENERGY IT TAKES FOR A LAP
Rome is a high-power circuit, with fast straights and tight corners. The closeness of the hairpin means the pack can't break up and you're always going to be fighting other cars. Which might have more energy than you.
Accelerating hard on the straights uses energy but gives you a chance to brake heavily, regenerating it on your way in to a corner. And if you're lucky enough to get Fanboosted, that extra burst comes out of your remaining supply so use it carefully...
Lucas di Grassi celebrates at the Rome Eprix, image courtesy FIA Formula E
2,088-2,588. 500 CAREER POINTS
Only two drivers have so far passed the half-millennium mark in points in Formula E, both champions; Sebastien Buemi got there awhile ago but the Rome Eprix marked Lucas di Grassi passing the 500-mark.
In only three-and-a-half seasons, made up of 12 or fewer races each, that's no mean feat. A lot of the teams have never got close to it.
While the Seasons 1-3 narrative of Buemi vs Di Grassi seems firmly on-hold this season, both disappearing into the midfield with various pace-limiting gremlins, they truly are the titans of this series.
2,589-2,592. FOUR JUNIOR DRIVERS
All too often underestimated as a "Formula One retirement home," Formula E's youth contingent were out in force at the Rome Eprix.
F2 podium achiever Maximilian Gunther was at the Dragon garage in his capacity as reserve driver and Venturi brought three of their Academy drivers, including Arthur Leclerc, brother of Charles.
Selected for their speed in the simulator, the young drivers are being immersed in the team - and got quizzed by myself and other media in a gruelling vision of what was to come if they succeeded. Seeing a full development programme for them, it's hard to argue that Formula E isn't putting its futuristic money where it's youth-oriented mouth is.
Formula E has made a 347% gain in its audience amongst young people over three years. If it's a retirement home, it's the most exciting and youthful one out there.
The Rome Eprix 2018, image courtesy FIA Formula E
2593-2632. 40 CARS
"Of course there's 40 cars, there's 20 drivers and they've got two each."
Aha, yeah, this year. This is the last year that there will be car swaps in Formula E - therefore, there will never be this many Formula E cars to drive on a track over the course of an Eprix in Rome ever again.
2,633. ELECTRO DADDY
There is one man that makes Formula E happen more than any other and that's series CEO Alejandro Agag.
Having conspired to create it with FIA President Jean Todt over dinner, the napkin they wrote the idea on now framed at the FIA headquarters in Paris, Agag has willed the thing into existence through sheer force of bloodymindedness. Sourcing sponsors, teams, drivers, TV deals, personnel and publicity he's got the willingness to do things differently that makes the series a success – and the genuine love of it that makes it so good.
The Rome Eprix was a landmark for Alejandro, a goal long-desired to be achieved. It's easy to get cynical about this sort of thing, with some racing series such monoliths they seem as solid as the coliseum but Rome wasn't built in a day – and neither was the Eprix, for safety reasons – but three and a half years to conquer it is the sort of record Ghenghis Khan would find impressive.
How many Formula E CEOs are there? Image courtesy FIA Formula E.
2,634-2,684. 50 ROMAN EMPERORS
None of whom organised a single Eprix, so Agag can rest easy on his laurels. And if you've read this far it's absolutely your right to call me on this one in the comments.
2,685-2,694. 9 SOLD OUT GRANDSTANDS
Not fiddly little things, either, big old scaffolds. Chagrin though it gives to the haters, Formula E is a big boy series now.
Audi Abt Schaeffler team boss Allan McNish at the Rome Eprix, image courtesy FIA Formula E
2,695-2,705. 10 TEAM BOSSES
This might seem obvious but Renault e.Dams team boss Jean-Paul Driot has been missing for much of this season due to ill health. Rome saw his return to the Formula E paddock and pit lane, a much-missed a very beloved member of the FE family.
2,706-2,745. 39 RACES DRY
The CBMM Niobium Rome Eprix presented by Mercedes EQ marks the 39th consecutive Formula E race where the all-weather Michelin tyres have not had a chance to run in the wet at race pace.
It clouded over just before the session and looked squally earlier in the day but Rome stayed dry, giving the kind of impossibly lucky run of good weather (including 26C air temperatures during the race) that suggests if you want a sunny European holiday this year, you're best incorporating an Eprix visit into it.
Imagine 26C in that suit, phwoar. Image courtesy FIA Formula E.
2,746. SEATBELT CONTROVERSIES
DriveTribe's own Nelson Piquet Jr has pointed out the controversies of removing minimum pit stop times and the debate rages on, with an incident every race since they were abolished.
Nelson himself was the victim of Rome's, leaving the garage only to have his seatbelts undo themselves halfway down the pit lane, forcing him to retire from the race.
After the race, Lucas di Grassi was investigated for possible pit stop infringements after footage from new overhead cameras was reviewed by the FIA. Audi didn't face a penalty, assuring the stewards all was above board but to have races won or lost on potential penalties in a pit stop seems likely to make things even more controversial than they already sometimes get.
Sam Bird celebrates on the Rome Eprix podium, image courtesy FIA Formula E
2,747-2,762. 15 KILOGRAMS OF CHAMPAGNE
That's roughly how much a Jeroboam of GH Mumm, awarded to the Formula E winner and two magnums, awarded to second and third place, weighs. All freely distributed to the lucky team members and waiting photographers at the podium, amidst green, red and white Italian flag confetti.
2,763-2,769. 7 SECONDS BETWEEN FIRST AND LAST QUALIFYING TIME
Ignoring the cars unable to be classified, the time difference between Felix Rosenqvist's record-holding pole time of 1:36.311 and Jerome D'Ambrosio's just-managing-to-pip-into-the 110% warm up lap of 1:42.003 is a little over seven seconds, one of the biggest gaps ever from first to last classifiable time in Formula E.
2,770. CABLE CAM
The streets of Rome are, in a Roman fashion, quite straight (in places) which makes them perfect for vertigo-inducing wire-suspended shots like this, no need for a helicopter:
Cor. Also I feel slightly queasy now, good job we're nearly at the end.
2,771. EVERYTHING TO PLAY FOR
Jean-Eric Vergne trying to work out if I've added this up right. Image courtesy FIA Formula E.
There are fountains in Rome that it's supposed to be lucky to throw coins into. The sort of ancient theological equivalent of being a pay driver, I suppose.
It'd be tempting, coming into the first European round, to try it as a boost. It looked a little as though Jean-Eric Vergne might be finally leading the dominant championship contention he'd always looked set to put up, coming out of South America - two wins and a generally strong performance, he led not only the drivers' championship but the team's, with his stake in Techeetah.
18 points is a lead but one that could be sliced away by a DNF for JEV and a second place for Bird, while Rosenqvist remains in contention.
Formula E has gone down to the wire with every championship – and even defending title-holder Lucas di Grassi refuses to count himself out of contention until it's absolutely mathematically impossible. So we go into the next rounds with a possible six contenders. And three likely ones.
When I asked him about going into his home race with the title lead, he said Techeetah still have a long way to go; "It's mixed feelings - fifth is not bad, considering my pace, I haven't had any pace the whole day, which I need to understand why. It's good at Andre was able to secure a podium and extend our lead in the teams' championship, it's great for the team but we need to keep working because Mahindra have found something that we didn't have today."
Rome has instantly entered the rankings of favourite and most dramatic Formula E tracks. It deserves that place in the history books.