Mitch Evans stakes claim to Formula E world title

06th June 2022
Damien Smith

Could Mitch Evans finally clinch the Formula E title Jaguar has been chasing for six years? The Kiwi is well in contention and boosted his hopes on Saturday at the new round in Jakarta, Indonesia with a perfectly judged victory, his third of the season. With nine rounds down and seven to go, it’s all to play for in the electric-powered series’ second year as a full-blown FIA world championship.


Indonesia turns up the heat

The new street circuit created close to Jakarta Bay won plenty of praise from fans and drivers, and looks to be a popular addition to the series. Unlike too many of the pop-up tracks that defined Formula E’s early years, the Jakarta track was laid out on wide roads that allowed for mostly decent and clean racing with multiple overtaking opportunities – as the vital move that decided the race highlighted.

The greater challenge was the heat, as oppressive south-east Asian humidity left drivers taking pre-race dips in paddling pools in an attempt to cool off, while the teams tried to manage energy-sapping high battery temperatures. Racing was hard work in this heat, and after 45 minutes plus added time, Jean-Éric Vergne was happy to admit he was glad Formula E races aren’t longer.


Brilliant Evans catches out Vergne

Vergne appeared to have the Saturday morning race firmly under control after claiming his record 15th Formula E pole position. Joining him on the front row, following the entertaining duels format that has worked so well for the series this year, was DS Techeetah team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa. The pair, both former champions, are highly experienced professionals who work well together. But they are both fiercely competitive too and one couldn’t help but wonder if sparks might fly between them once the red lights went out.

Instead, it was Mitch Evans who turned out to be the one to watch. Starting third, the Jaguar driver ran behind the DS duo, but when da Costa ran slightly wide at Turn Seven, he pounced to claim second place. Still, Vergne appeared in control as the drivers worked out when best to take their mandatory two doses of Attack Mode energy boost, running through the triggering zone for four minutes of 13 per cent extra power.


Like the Drag Reduction System (DRS) in Formula 1, the effectiveness of Attack Mode tends to vary from circuit to circuit in Formula E. In Jakarta, it didn’t appear to make overtaking all that much easier – which we’d argue is a good thing – but it had its use in either allowing a driver to close in on a rival running ahead or as a means of defence.

Evans took an offset Attack Mode strategy in comparison to the pair of DS Techeetah drivers, running off line to pick up the power boost later on both occasions. When Vergne claimed his second dose, he lost the lead to Evans through the triggering zone, but quickly used the boost to pass his rival into the wide Turn One hairpin, which was the obvious place to overtake on this track. Evans waited a full 10 minutes later to take his second dose, 14 minutes from the finish, and crucially stayed ahead of da Costa as he did so.

The Jaguar closed in on Vergne’s DS Techeetah, but the power boost was all used up when, with six minutes left on the clock, Evans appeared to surprise the leader by braking later into Turn Seven and slipping down the inside. Following added time in the wake of the race’s single safety car period, when Oliver Rowland’s Mahindra lost a wheel early on, Evans crossed the line for a narrow win from Vergne, with Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara shadowing the pair closely in third. All three finished with zero per cent read-outs on the energy they had left – which shows how fine the margins are on team and driver strategic accuracy in this complex and challenging series.


Mortara beats da Costa for third

Third place from fourth on the grid suited Berlin race winner Mortara very well, with da Costa disappointed miss out on the podium. Points leader Stoffel Vandoorne reckoned he could have challenged the top four, perhaps even have grabbed a podium, had he not missed the triggering zone for his second dose of Attack Mode. The Mercedes EQ driver had to run off line once more to pick up his power boost and settled for fifth after qualifying a disappointing seventh.

Jake Dennis was the top British driver in sixth for Andretti, having started a place higher. Lucas di Grassi finished seventh in the other Venturi, ahead of Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein, Jaguar’s Sam Bird and Nissan’s Sebastien Buemi.

Reigning world champion Nyck de Vries, winner of the second race in Berlin last time out, was forced to retire to the pits with a puncture following contact with André Lotterer. The Porsche driver received a five-second time penalty for the incident, but it was more costly for de Vries, who can now probably forget any lingering hope of defending his title.


Evans right in the title hunt

Mitch Evans has won more races than anyone this season, having added to his double victory in Rome. “I was just happy to be in it at the end,” he said. “We had a tough last race and the climate is on another level here. We put a lot of work into set-up and the systems, and the team gave me the goods I needed when it’s so tight. It was really tight with JEV at the end: I thought I was going to pull away, but my tyres started going off after I got past him, so I was under a bit of heat. But I got the job done and it’s what we needed.”

Vergne couldn’t hide his disappointment at losing what would have been his first win of the season. When he lost the lead to Evans in Turn Seven it was noticeable how much earlier he’d lifted off for the corner, running in an energy mode he hadn’t been expecting. “Mitch and Jaguar were simply better than us today,” said the double champion. “I need to understand. I needed to save a lot more [energy] at some point, for temperature reasons. Anyway, second is good, strong points and we carry on for the rest of the championship.”


The result leaves the title race beautifully poised. Vandoorne is still on top with 121 points, but Vergne is just five behind him with Mortara a further two in arrears. As for Evans, he is fourth in the standings, but the Jakarta victory means he is just 12 points off the lead. Any one of these four, who have moved clear of Robin Frijns in fifth, could end up as the second Formula E world champion.

“We needed a good result,” said Evans. “But with a new track and new climate, you don’t really know how it’s going to go. We were never out of [contention for the title], but it puts us in an even stronger position, so I’ll take that.”

Another single round in Marrakesh is next, on 2nd July, before the series heads for double headers in New York, London and finally another new venue in South Korea to complete an intense and action-packed season.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

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