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10 Apr 19
Six different winners from six different teams in six races on four continents. Welcome to the ABB FIA Formula E Championship - the most unpredictable race series on the planet. As we approach the race in Rome, here's the good, the bad and the ugly from a hectic first half of the 2018/19 season.
Well, where to start? With just eight points separating the top three drivers and ten points between the top six, the 2018/19 season of the championship is closer than ever before with some sensational performances from the least likely lads.
Before the race in Sanya, reigning champion and DS Techeetah driver Jean-Eric Vergne's fortunes in Formula E appeared to have fallen off a cliff. Three 'pointless' races in a row had left him questioning his whole approach before the race in the South China Sea. But armed with a 'fresh' and 'reset' mindset, the Frenchman turned it around, finishing at the front of the pack, placing him third in the standings. "I was never gone, really," said JEV after the race. "I guess I had a bit of bad luck but I guess talent doesn't go away in a few months and that's what I had to tell myself. The moment you lose hope, you lose everything. You need to trust your team and trust yourself." Expect the champions' campaign to keep thundering on as we move to Europe for the voestalpine European races. With proven track record on his home continent and a home race in Paris fast approaching, could we see JEV clinch another championship title?
Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler's Lucas di Grassi - one of Formula E's seasoned masters - once again looks set to disturb the peace in Europe. After an epic win in Mexico City, where the Brazilian stole the top spot from Mahindra's Pascal Wehrlein just meters from the finish line, di Grassi proved he has both the pace and the potential to clinch another Championship title in Formula E. Last season, the former champ had a sensational streak of podium finishes in Europe, which saw him accumulate a total of 80 points ahead of the finale in New York City. After finishing second overall behind Vergne, keep an eye on di Grassi as he comes into his own in mainland Europe.
If his track record in Formula E is anything to go by, few would have placed BMW i Andretti Motorsport's Antonio Felix da Costa at the top of the standings six rounds into the season. Throughout his Formula E career, the Portuguese driver has never managed to finish the season within the top ten let alone challenge for the top spot. Da Costa's story so far in the 2018/19 season is quite remarkable. Had it not been for a few errors along the way, it's likely da Costa would have considerably increased his championship lead by now. Despite that, he sits just one point ahead of Mahindra's Jerome d'Ambrosio in second and eight points ahead of JEV in third. Time will tell if our carefree contender can challenge for the title.
Sitting second in the standings is Mahindra Racing's Jerome d'Ambrosio. Despite a strong start to his Formula E career with a second and third place finish at the end of his first and second all-electric campaign, d'Ambrosio slid down the order in the past two seasons. Now, the Belgian racer looks to have had his hopes restored after joining Mahindra, clinching a win in Marrakesh and points in all but one race (Hong Kong). With just one point separating him and da Costa in first, d'Ambrosio will have to fight the advances of both JEV (in third), Bird in fourth and di Grassi joint fifth with Venturi's Edoardo Mortara. With just ten points separating all six drivers, the race is well and truly on.
For Monegasque underdogs Venturi, it's been a season of mixed feelings. While Edoardo Mortara claimed his and the team's maiden podium in Hong Kong (albeit inheriting the win), it's not been so celebratory on teammate Felipe Massa's side of the garage. Coming in new to the series at the beginning of the season, Massa has just 15 points to his name - good enough to place him 15th in the standings. "It's not easy," admitted the motorsport master earlier in the season. “There’s a lot to learn but hopefully I can do things in the right way,” he added. Despite Team Principal Susie Wolff's warnings of underestimating Massa, the pros performance to date shows the fierce levels of competition in the all-electric championship.
Six rounds in and it's safe to say that Mercedes-associated HWA Racelab, NIO Formula E Team and Geox Dragon are struggling. All three teams are still in the single figures in terms of points, with Geox Dragon sitting bottom of the standings with just two points to its name. With a grand total of 95 points separating leaders Envision Virgin Racing from Dragon at the back, it's a long way to the top for our bottom three.
For Panasonic Jaguar Racing's Nelson Piquet Jr. the former champ called it a day on his Formula E career with Jag, parting ways with the British team six rounds into his fifth season in the series. "The results in season five have not met the collective expectations of myself and the team," reasoned the Brazilian. Despite claiming the inaugural Championship title at the end of the first season, Piquet Jr. had just one point to his name, with three race retirements including a spectacular shunt in Mexico City marking a miserable start to the season. With former Virgin driver Alex Lynn taking his place, the British squad will be looking for a bit more luck in the second half of the season.
In a season filled with fierce feuds and controversial clashes, it was the post-race wrath of Lucas di Grassi made an impact in the first half of the season. Making his way through the pack in Sanya, di Grassi was taken out of the race by Envision Virgin Racing's Robin Frijns who was helpless to stop after Nissan e.dams Sebastien Buemi collided with the rear of the Dutchman's car. "You crashed into Buemi and you took my race!" screamed di Grassi at Frijns after the race. Eager to defend his position, Frijns hit back at the Brazilian. "It wasn't my fault! You should be honest with yourself and say that!...Buemi hit me - end of f***ing story." With both drivers facing each other for the first time in Rome, expect sparks to fly on and off track in the ancient home of street fighting.
"We got ourselves into a situation and it's my mistake," admits BMW i Andretti Motorsport's Antonio Felix da Costa in the painful aftermath of seeing a certain victory and one-two BMW finish slip away in Marrakesh. "He attacked me, I defended and I failed on defending. I should have just realised that my race was over - I cost him places." After the Portuguese driver clinched the win in the season opener in Saudi Arabia, another win and one-two finish looked certain after the BMW's broke away from the rest of the pack midway through the race in Marrakesh. Leading by a comfortable margin, Sims made a break for the top step of the podium, only to be met by a challenge from his teammate. One that would cost them both a spot on the podium. "I was just hungry and I really, really wanted to win today. It's been two years of really hard work and I wanted to win this race so badly - it bit me back. Hard...I want to lay all my cards on the table, take the blame for this and move on." said da Costa. "We would have taken the win. For sure. For me, I wanted to win badly but now, standing here with nothing - a second place would have been amazing. Lesson learnt."
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