Rome ePrix Race 1 Review
Rome once again gave us a thrilling fight for the win!
It may have been six weeks since they last raced, for the season opener in Saudi Arabia, but they made up for it with a barnstormer of a race, which saw ex-champions battling for the win, crashes, and our fair share of drama.
Starting from the beginning, the call to start behind the Safety Car, was a bit on the safe side in my opinion, although I can see why they did it. 23 cars barrelling into a tight first turn, on a slippery track, could cause a huge crash which would take a long time to clear up. When we did get underway, the action came think and fast, with Lotterer sending one up the inside of Vandoorne for the lead, however Stoffel did not yield and meant they both crashed. My view is, that both drivers have a part to play in the end result, it was a bold move from Andre, which was late and could have gone either way even if he had been left room. Then Vandoorne didn’t need to close down on him, it is early in the race, the Mercedes we saw had probably better pace during the race, so it was unnecessary on his part too.
Rowland’s tough day continued, as he overconsumed power in the race, had to serve a drive through, and lost the lead as well as any hopes of points. That left us with Di Grassi leading Vergne, who would battle it out for most of the rest of the race, with the help of Attack Mode. Both of them seemed as fast as each other on the whole, it was simply the slipstream I think which was aiding those behind, to save energy and overtake. The racing was hard as you would expect, with wheel banging and late moves, as you would expect from Formula E. Di Grassi got ahead after the last attack mode, with an inspired dive into Turn 4, and did deserve to win, but luck did not shine on him today, as we believe his driveshaft broke late on in the race.
That meant that Vergne brought it home to win, showing that the new DS powertrain has what it takes to fight for another title this year. He was as deserving of the win as Lucas, as he battled well and used strategy to keep in the mix. Can he build on this to take his third title?
The fight for the win was just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of the action for that race, as in behind them, we had Porsche battling Mercedes, Virgin and Nissan, trading paint, and touching the walls. Then, out of seemingly nowhere, comes the two Jaguar cars, who started mid pack as a result of being in Q1, and as the others fought hard, on top of their good use of Attack Mode, they ended up with an amazing double podium. This solidifies their teams title lead, and firmly puts them as a threat for the rest of the year, the pace the car had, and the way that both drivers could do opportunistic moves, may put them as the best pairing out there.
In a race of attrition, drivers like Rast and Wehrlein were able to make the most of their opportunities and grab a good haul of points. Frijns and Buemi may be disappointed with how the race ended, given they started ahead of the Jaguar’s, but neither could really match them as the race started to come to a close. Another honourable mention should go to Cassidy, who recovered from a poor qualifying, admittedly with the help of the chaos, to get some points in tricky conditions.
Mercedes may be the most disappointed team of all today, even if we ignore the early incident for the lead, they had a P4-5 result comfortably in their hands with 5 mins to go. However, when Vandoorne went around a slowing Di Grassi, who maybe could have moved offline himself, he caught a bump which sent the car into the wall, and left his teammate nowhere to go. I feel that their car was as fast as the Jaguar’s today, they just didn’t use their opportunities well enough, after such a great first race of the year, they need to bounce back soon!
I was initially worried about the change to the track layout in Rome, as the previous one had given us such great action in the past, however, today has won me over. There may still be a lot of 90 degree turns, yet the cars stay close and there is a lot of character in the track. My one worry is, that the bumps in some places, as we saw with Stoffel, are rather dangerous and if possible, should be looked at for future races. Also, having the grid on a curve can lead to the issue we saw in Practice 1, where an unsighted car not knowing the protocol, can plough into a load of stationary cars doing practice starts.
Looking to tomorrow, expect to see some teams improve a lot having learnt from today, nevertheless, Mercedes and Jaguar will still be ones to watch. Energy saving didn’t really play too much of a part in today’s race, due to the Safety Car’s, so that could make Race 2 even better!