The 2021 Monaco E-Prix is what Formula E needed
The principality gave us one of Formula E's best races ever after the disaster that was Valencia
I wouldn’t be the only person in the world to tell you that the inaugural Valencia E-Prix left everyone feeling massively deflated. Formula E’s first outing to the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in a racing capacity really rubbed everyone (including myself) the wrong way and Formula E and the FIA’s public statements about what happened made the entire embarrassment even worse. On such a downer like this, Formula E really needed something amazing to pick the series up and make people realise how great it can be. That’s what I was hoping 2021’s edition of the Monaco E-Prix would be and, thankfully, it succeeded.
The hope that the smaller and less downforce-centric Formula E cars would lead to more thrilling racing on the streets of motorsport’s most famous principality turned out to be absolutely accurate. If the drivers were told to not do any heroics into Sainte-Devote they certainly didn’t pay attention to that, as those heroics were shown in spades right at the start! What then followed was a thrilling battle for first between three stalwarts of the series; pole-sitter (and eventual winner!) Antonio Felix Da Costa of DS Techeetah, Envision Virgin Racing’s Robin Frijns (who is now the championship leader after his brilliant last-second 2nd place finish!) and Jaguar Racing’s Mitch Evans. The great action wasn’t limited to the front-runners, either. The madcap qualifying results led to some of the quickest drivers being put right down the order and led to some brilliant scraps as they tried to push their way up the field.
I’d honestly put the incredible success of this race down to Formula E using the full Monaco circuit for the first time. Whilst it’s been pooh-poohed many times over the years for it not being one of the best places for overtaking on the Formula 1 calendar, with the noticeably smaller Formula E cars on the circuit there were some absolutely incredible passes that you would never see in a Formula 1 race on the same circuit! One of the best of those overtakes was Mitch Evans blasting through up the hill after Sainte-Devote, squeezing his way into the lead in a way that even Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen or Fernando Alonso wouldn’t dare to try in one of their F1 cars. Perhaps it’s a forebear of what’s to come with the post-2021 F1 cars, which will be shorter than the current generation of the turbo hybrid era and rely more on ground effect than dirty air producing wings? I’d like to hope so!
The increased length of the circuit didn’t show up any issues with energy either. None of the retirements that happened were due to anyone running out of energy. That’s something that was a real bugbear of that horrible Valencia E-Prix and (quite rightfully) led to that race being criticised as much as it was, especially considering Formula E and the FIA’s official line on the need to conserve energy in Formula E. They tried to retcon it into being a strategy mechanic rather than being a necessity due to the limitations of current battery technology, something that annoyed a lot of people (myself included in that) because we could all see it was just absolute nonsense. The full Monaco layout producing both incredible racing in Formula E and not causing any energy issues gives me hope that it’ll become the norm for the series’ trips to the principality in the future. That’s something that I would really like to see and I’m pretty sure the majority of the people who watched the race would agree with me on this!
An incredible race like this that, in all honesty, was one of the best Formula E races of all time is exactly the kind of race that Formula E needed. It’s certainly put my faith back in the series and I have no doubt that it’ll have put a lot of viewers’ faith back in the series too. Being a regular viewer of Formula E and having to watch the horror show that was Valencia get rightfully slated was a fairly painful experience to say the least. It certainly didn’t help that some people on social media went somewhat overboard with their criticism of the race, using it to take a dunk on Formula E as a whole. With how amazingly positive the reception from the 2021 Monaco E-Prix has been, hopefully it’ll go a long way towards helping to heal those wounds from Valencia. Perhaps, even more crucially, it’s also a little window into seeing how the massively different F1 cars of the future will be able to revitalise a circuit that’s long been maligned for producing processional races with very little overtaking. That was fantastic, Formula E. Let’s do it again sometime soon!