22 Jul 21

JACK NICHOLLS: 'Was New York Mitch Evans' sliding doors moment?'

Formula E commentator Jack Nicholls checked in to give fiaformulae.com his thoughts as as the 2020/21 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship heads into its penultimate race weekend and the Heineken® London E-Prix Rounds 12 & 13.

There’s a 1998 romantic comedy called ‘Sliding Doors’ that I have never seen. It was a bit before my time, but it tells the story of a woman whose life completely changes whether or not she catches her London Underground train, and as we race past London’s public transport system this weekend at the ExCeL, I wonder if we saw Mitch Evans’ sliding doors moment in New York City.

More accurately, it was a sliding rear-end moment for the Kiwi, when with three laps to go he tapped the wall on the exit of Turn 3 in Brooklyn, damaging his suspension, knocking him out of second place and forcing him to crawl across the line in 13th with zero points.

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Before that moment, if he had caught the train, Evans was set to move to second in the standings, just three points adrift of his teammate Sam Bird. Jaguar Racing were also about to move to the top of the Teams' table and record their first ever one-two in Formula E, becoming only the fourth team to do so. In this alternate universe, Jaguar are surely looking set to wrap up both titles with just four races to go, aren’t they?

In reality, Evans did hit the wall, and missed the train. The guy was gutted, and furious with himself for throwing away those eighteen points. Not just for his personal points position, but also for the team who had given him such a good car for the races around Red Hook. I could still feel his frustration when I bumped into him in the hotel on the Thursday evening before London, after he had just finished doing the breakfast news rounds in his native New Zealand.

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This weekend’s action at ExCeL London and the city's docklands is a big weekend for Jaguar. This is their first home race in Formula E, as the last races in London were in Seasons 1 and 2, before Jaguar joined the all-electric party. They have Bird as the British hero; leading the Drivers' World Championship and winner at Battersea Park in 2015. They’ve put an Augmented Reality filter on Instagram so you can wear Sam Bird’s helmet, they’ve been doing stunts with the Royal Air Force’s Falcons parachute display team and have a whole host of celebrities and influencers coming to the races this weekend.

Evans may have given himself a better chance of winning the title for Jaguar before he reached the limits of adhesion on the New York City streets, though. The top six in the championship go out on track first in Group Qualifying, which is always the most difficult, and is the reason Formula E has such a reputation for unpredictability. Evans will be in Group 2 for only the second time in the last 18 races for Saturday’s race, which is a much more preferable position to be in and gives him a better chance of some big points.

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Of course, drivers always want points on the board. A Sam Bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, as the saying almost goes; but this Formula E title campaign has the feeling of a Tour de France Sprint Stage, where you don’t want to be leading until the last possible moment. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, Evans’ Brooklyn barrier bump may not be the disaster it appeared to be, but potentially the sliding doors moment that puts him in real title contention come Berlin.

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