Formula E: De Vries crowned in Berlin as Nato breaks duck
A breathless season finale
The final race of the 2020/21 Formula E campaign around Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport circuit had everything, from unexpected twists and turns to a deserving champion in Mercedes-EQ’s Nyck de Vries.
Mercedes-EQ’s Nyck de Vries became the first ABB FIA Formula E World Champion in Berlin today (15 August), on a dramatic day in the German capital that saw ROKiT Venturi Racing rookie Norman Nato win the final race of a sensational season.
It has been a rollercoaster ride for de Vries in his sophomore campaign in the all-electric single-seater series. After converting pole position into a lights-to-flag victory in the Saudi Arabian curtain-raiser back in February and reaching the top step of the rostrum again in Valencia, a fallow period followed, during which the Dutchman scored just two points from six races and tumbled to tenth in the title chase.
A brace of podiums in London, however, reignited his championship challenge, and today, as the majority of his rivals hit trouble, de Vries kept his cool. His reward was the coveted Drivers’ crown.
The Berlin E-Prix was barely a second old when the first major incident occurred, as Mitch Evans – just five points shy of the summit of the standings and looking to be in the box seat after qualifying an excellent third – failed to get away when the starting lights went out, with his stationary Jaguar Racing car hit by an unsighted Edoardo Mortara (ROKiT Venturi Racing), who himself had been only three points adrift of the top of the table.
Thankfully, both drivers emerged from the wreckage unscathed, but the upshot was two of the chief protagonists immediately out of the reckoning, and a red flag to clear up the debris as the enthralling 2020/21 title tussle took yet another unexpected turn.
The next of the championship contenders to be eliminated from the fight was BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Jake Dennis, who crashed out of eighth position at the re-start, prompting a Full Course Yellow.
When the action finally got going for good, pole-sitter Stoffel Vandoorne led the way for Mercedes-EQ on the Tempelhof circuit’s reversed ‘NILREB’ layout, chased by Nissan e.dams’ Oliver Rowland, Alexander Sims (Mahindra Racing) and Nato, who was already gaining ground from his starting position of sixth.
The Frenchman was the first of the leading runners to activate ATTACK MODE, and it was a tactic that would pay off handsomely. After leapfrogging Rowland when the Briton deployed his own first ATTACK MODE, Nato went on to relieve Vandoorne of the top spot into Turn One.
Thereafter, the ROKiT man was untroubled, building up a margin of more than four seconds over his nearest pursuer, with even a late safety car intervention – for a collision between Saturday winner Lucas Di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler) and defending champion António Félix da Costa (DS TECHEETAH) – unable to knock him off his stride.
Nato duly took the chequered flag to cement a commanding breakthrough Formula E success, with Rowland following him across the line in second at the end of a strong swansong for Nissan e.dams.
After keeping Vandoorne honest throughout the opening half of the race, the Briton briefly challenged Nato for the lead at the final re-start but ultimately had to turn his attentions to fending off his resurgent Mercedes rival, who had worked his way back through to third after slipping down to sixth. Vandoorne’s rostrum finish proved enough to secure Mercedes-EQ the Teams’ title on a day of double celebration for the German manufacturer on its home soil.
André Lotterer and Pascal Wehrlein were both in fine form for TAG Heuer Porsche on their way to fourth and sixth positions, the former getting the better of Sims in a wheel-to-wheel penultimate lap duel. Their British adversary’s early ATTACK MODE strategy very nearly reaped dividends as he ran in a podium position for much of the E-Prix before falling back to fifth, while compatriot Sam Bird charged through the field from 22nd to seventh.
The Jaguar Racing ace’s final scalp was de Vries, who kept his nerve over the course of a lively last few laps to seal the championship with an eighth-place finish – although he had to hold his breath at one stage when, after rising up the order to fourth, an attempted move for third culminated in a three-wide situation that cost him several places.
René Rast posted the race’s fastest lap en route to ninth after starting from the pit-lane, with Tom Blomqvist concluding NIO 333’s campaign on a positive note by snaring the final point on offer in tenth – the team’s first score since Valencia in April.
Following a five-month pause, Season Eight of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship will get underway in Riyadh on 28/29 January, 2022.
Nyck De Vries (Mercedes-EQ), ABB FIA Formula E World Champion
« I’m lost for words. It’s been such a tough season with highs and lows. Everything came down to the last race and I think we had a lot of fortune on our side today with everything that happened. I’m glad that everyone is OK from the incident at the start. I think we drove an incredible race, we had really good pace in the car, but at the same time, I felt like a target as well, it seemed like nobody was really respecting anything. So, at this point I just wanted to bring it home. My team were telling me to fight Jean-Eric Vergne, but I wasn’t sure why it was important, so I was getting frustrated that they didn’t want to tell me. Then the other drivers kept hitting me; left, right, front, rear. I wasn’t really happy with that, so I was a bit grumpy straight after the race. But now it’s starting to sink in.”
Norman Nato (ROKiT Venturi Racing), 1st
“I’m shocked. I’m completely shocked. When you have this kind of day, and everything comes together it’s just an incredible feeling. This morning I was quite low key, I didn’t think I would get to do a lap in Super Pole, but from P6 we had a rocket today, the car was just incredible. It was really easy to manage energy. Everything was perfect.”
Oliver Rowland (Nissan e.dams), 2nd
“There was lots going on with lots to deal with but I had a good car. I’m really pleased to be second, of course I really wanted to win but Norman Nato was a bit better. It was a tactical race. I got stuck with Stoffel Vandoorne at some points, but I ultimately didn’t have the pace to go with Norman Nato at the end, but I’m very happy for the team and some good points.”
Stoffel Vandoorne (Mercedes-EQ), 3rd
“It was pretty eventful at points. We were lacking a little bit of pace at the start of the race, and we weren’t quite quick when it really mattered like before taking Attack Mode. Then obviously the safety car came, and I find myself in a little bit of a tricky situation fighting quite a few cars but managed to make it through without scratches and happy to recover to the podium. A fantastic day for the team. Congratulations to Nick for his Championship, but also to all my time and Mercedes for clinching the Team title. It’s been an awesome season for us, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs but to finish it this way, everyone deserves this.”
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