Edoardo Mortara (ROKiT Venturi Racing) marched to a third win of the season at the 2022 Marrakesh E-Prix and took the initiative in the ABB FIA Formula E World Drivers' Championship in the process - capitalising on prior leader Stoffel Vandoorne's qualifying woes and getting the better of his immediate title rivals.
Mortara headed into Round 10 in prime position to take a chunk out of Vandoorne's points lead with the Mercedes-EQ driver marooned down in 20th after braking issues hit his Group Qualifying running.
AS IT HAPPENED: The Marrakesh E-Prix Round 10 lap-by-lap
The Swiss-French-Italian had fended off another top-four driver in Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) to come through the Quarters on the way to an eventual second spot on the grid - splitting Julius Baer Polesitter Antonio Felix da Costa and DS TECHEETAH teammate Jean-Eric Vergne - another figure in form in the World Championship chase.
Searing heat, strategy shake-up
The race took a different course to many, with track temperatures soaring into the early 50s celsius come the 17:00 race start. Drivers and engineers elected to jump early for their two mandatory ATTACK MODE boosts with the school of thought being that it would be more efficient and effective over the course of the race to ply that extra 30kW through the batteries and powertrain.
Mortara and Venturi countered the DS TECHEETAHs, with the French team sending both drivers for their duo of mandatory three-minute ATTACK MODE activations as early as lap five in the encounter. The pair were first through the loop for their 30kW boosts and Mortara covered them off a lap later.
On the second activation, Mortara hung back and looked to keep it clean. The DS pair leapt on Lap 8 and the Venturi driver gave himself a chance at building a cushion - which he duly did before taking his second 30kW boost two laps later, ensuring he'd take the lead.
"The plan is always pretty much the same in every Formula E race – you want to lose as little time as you can fighting against the others," explains Mortara. "Basically, you have to adapt your race in context of what the others are doing.
"For example, with the ATTACK MODEs, I could see that Oliver Rowland (Mahindra Racing) was attacking and being quite aggressive, racing with everyone, and I was able to lead the race and create a gap when he was fighting with Antonio (Felix da Costa). That was extremely helpful for the remainder of the race – I was able to save a little bit of energy there and also get a little gap. It’s extremely difficult, then, for the others to close – they have to probably ask more of their tyres and use more battery energy."
DS give it both barrels
From there, the DS duo tried to hunt in packs and knock Mortara off his stride - making use of the efficiency advantage often conferred on those following rather than leading. Venturi and its Silver Arrow 02s - Mercedes-EQ-powered, of course - have looked strong this season in both pace and energy management. Even so, the end result surprised even Mortara.
"I was extremely surprised to be able to stay at the front so much during the race, especially because we know that in Formula E, when when you're staying behind in the slipstream, it helps you to manage battery temperatures, energy and probably your tyres a bit better," adds the 35-year-old. "I was quite surprised that we were able to actually to stay in front – it means that we had a really good pace."
Try as DS might, the team could not find a way for its drivers to make it by the leader. Da Costa and Vergne changed positions under orders as the race entered its final third, with the Frenchman having run down in sixth, conserving a couple of percent more usable energy than those around him. When it was time for Vergne to make use of that advantage, he clambered by Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti), Rowland and crucially Mitch Evans' Jaguar, before homing in on his teammate's gearbox.
The team tried a swap, allowing JEV by da Costa on Lap 24 but the Frenchman became bogged down as performance fell away from his E-TENSE 21 having made that late surge in the searing heat. He couldn't catch Mortara, and in the end DS allowed da Costa to have a go while Vergne had to fight hard to keep Evans from pinching third, to no avail. Mortara's knack of commanding and managing races only seems to grow stronger in Season 8 - that Berlin win being the best prior example this year.
Mortara: The driver with the target on his back
Mortara's hit the top, and it looks like it will take something special to unseat him from here on in. That said, in Formula E everything is liable to change, and quickly. This time last year, leaving Puebla, Mortara sat top of the pile, too. He knows there's a long way to go, with six rounds - starting with a New York City double-header on 16 & 17 July - still to come.
“The championship is very long," says Mortara. "We still have six races to go, and after Puebla last year I was also leading. I think this season is very, very different when compared to last year, with the qualifying format being completely different.
"I think that the championship leaders have the chance now every race weekend to challenge at the front regularly, and this is what we're doing. As you can see, you always find yourself battling with the same guys, pretty much weekend after weekend, so it's going to be up to us to do a good job for the next six race weekends. The road is still very, very long."