Reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa (DS TECHEETAH) produced a masterful drive around the historic streets of Monaco in a frenetic Round 7 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship - the Portuguese making the move for the race win half way around the last lap in the last of any number of lead changes.
Da Costa had started from Julius Baer Pole Position, though Mitch Evans (Jaguar Racing) headed the way for a good chunk. As the clock ticked down though, energy became a pressing concern for the Kiwi. Da Costa, along with Robin Frijns (Envision Virgin Racing) - himself a leader at points - spied their opportunity to pounce.
The DS driver made "one of the riskiest moves of his Formula E career" stick at the New Nouvelle Chicane on the ultimate tour, locking up but launching by Evans. Frijns followed, though only just - snatching second from Evans right at the chequered flag.
"I knew that race was going to be so hard with the energy management and we played a perfect startegy," said da Costa. "How many lead changes? That doesn't happen in any other racing series! It was the riskiest overtake of my Formula E career. I didn't think I'd make it but I love racing these guys; so hard and so fair."
That LAST LAP overtake for the #MonacoEPrix WIN!!!@afelixdacosta@DSTECHEETAHpic.twitter.com/lrjYEcCHps— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) May 8, 2021
Evans came home home third, having piloted the widest Jaguar in motor racing history for the final two laps of the legendary motor racing circuit as he sought to conserve usable energy whilst the rabid pack behind hounded him incessantly.
Jean-Eric Vergne (DS TECHEETAH) will be disappointed to have taken the chequered flag fourth, having fouled up his second ATTACK MODE activation. The Frenchman, a winner here in Season 5, was racy and recovered four spots over the final three tours to atone for his mistake, taking the TAG Heuer Fastest Lap point in the process.
That result sent Frijns to the top of the Drivers' table ahead of previous leader Nyck de Vries (Mercedes-EQ). Da Costa's victory fired the DS racer to within 10 points of the standings summit at the half-way stage of the season. Mercedes-EQ hold fast at the top of the Teams' running.
As it happened...
Da Costa launched away from the line well, as did Evans, who challenged Frijns for second spot into St. Devote but the Dutchman held fast as the field scrambled three-wide up towards Massenet.
Spilling down the hill from Casino Square, Mirabeau and into the Grand Hotel Hairpin, the field concertinaed in a big way. With rows of cars battling three abreast, Andre Lotterer’s Porsche clouted Alexander Sims' Mahindra, collecting Jake Dennis (BMW i Andretti Motorsport) in the melee. The field did make it through, though the latter two found themselves right at the back of the pack.
Frijns looked feisty early on behind leader da Costa and into Lap 3, the Envision Virgin Racing driver pulled out from the slipstream into Turn 1 to hit the front – a textbook pass after a good run down the start/finish.
"ABSOLUTELY OUTRAGEOUS"— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) May 8, 2021
You're not supposed to be able to overtake like that at Monaco for the lead, @mitchevans_ !#MonacoEPrix👉https://t.co/3hxrnMERTJ@JaguarRacingpic.twitter.com/msBDIVlUaX
The Dutchman immediately pulled a gap big enough for him to take his second dose of ATTACK MODE and come out just behind the DS driver – close enough, in fact, to make it by da Costa half way around Lap 13, at the chicane.
Into Lap 14, Vergne missed the ATTACK MODE activation loop which cost the DS driver two spots with a 35kW ATTACK MODE jolt still required. A shame, with Vergne pestering race leader Frijns and sitting pretty.
By Lap 15, Frijns had pulled a 2.5 second advantage on da Costa but come Lap 16, the reigning champion had sliced that down to less than half-a-second. The Portuguese hounded Frijns for two laps before timing his FANBOOST deployment – a 15kW bonus power jolt – to perfection, as he fired by the Dutchman for the lead through the tunnel.
Jaguar’s Evans was watching things up ahead closely from third. On Lap 18, he spied his chance to dispatch Frijns for second at St. Devote before sweeping by da Costa spectacularly at Beau Rivage for the race lead – some pass.
That same tour, the MINI Electric Pacesetter was forced into action after Rene Rast (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler) found the barriers on the exit of Turn 1, setting up a frenetic six minute plus one lap sprint.
🥇@afelixdacosta / @DSTECHEETAH— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) May 8, 2021
🥈@RFrijns / @EnvisionVirgin
🥉@mitchevans_ / @JaguarRacing
Your top three from a magnificent #MonacoEPrix@HUGOBOSSpic.twitter.com/FRoeOlbJkn
Evans led da Costa, Frijns, Guenther, Vergne, Rowland, Cassidy, Bird, di Grassi and Lynn away, though the DS of Vergne leapt for a second go at his final ATTACK MODE activation – briefly dropping the double champion down to eighth.
He swiftly dispatched Cassidy and Rowland for fifth heading into the last two minutes plus a lap, and the Frenchman had his eyes on Guenther’s BMW on the way through the tunnel – Vergne hanging the German out to dry on his way by into fourth.
Into the final two laps, and Evans radioed his engineer in a panic – well aware he was marginal on energy and he'd be forced on the defensive. The Kiwi was now driving the widest Jaguar in motor racing but it wouldn’t be enough. Da Costa spied his opportunity to pounce at the chicane and sliced by ruthlessly - brakes locked.
The DS driver led the pack home with Frijns taking advantage of Evans' situation to nick second over the line. A valiant defence from the Jaguar man saw him come home third ahead of Vergne, Guenther, Rowland, Bird, Cassidy, Lotterer and Lynn.
Miraculously, after all that, the top six finished as they'd started!