Four talking points from a thrilling Formula E Monaco E-Prix

03rd May 2022
Damien Smith

Things are clearly pretty bleak for Mercedes in Formula 1 right now, but Stoffel Vandoorne did his best to break the gloom with a well-calculated victory for the Three-Pointed Star in the Monaco E Prix. It was a performance that has also shot the Belgian to the top of the Formula E World Championship standings. Silver linings? Perfect timing.


Monaco and Formula E: better suited than F1

In a period when the future of the Monaco Grand Prix is a point of increasingly spicy debate – the race’s deal is up for renewal – the timing of Formula E’s second assault on the full layout couldn’t have been more poignant. While the modern heavy-weight Formula 1 cars look to have outgrown the narrow confines of the Principality’s streets, their all-electric Formula E cousins thrive on a circuit perfectly suited to this series. Actually, compared to some of the tight pop-up city tracks the series races on, Monaco is the relative equivalent of wide and flat-out Silverstone.

Like last year’s thriller, the Monaco e-Prix offered spectacle, incident and genuine overtaking. Also, the cars – while clearly nowhere near as quick as the F1 machines – were rapid enough to look a handful, on the all-weather Michelin tyres that have been part of Formula E’s signature approach from the start.

The new qualifying format was also a hit around Monaco, as the duels system decided the top grid positions. Head-to-heads against the clock, with the second driver running about half a lap behind the first, is a fair way of qualifying, offers a sense of obvious jeopardy for those who make a mistake and adds the correct splash of drama. On this occasion, Jaguar’s Mitch Evans and Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein faced off in the finale to decide pole position, with Kiwi Evans taking top spot by a clear quarter of a second as he chased his third Formula E win on the trot following his double victory in Rome.


Vandoorne banishes bad F1 memories

During his all-too-brief two-year spell in Formula 1 with McLaren, Vandoorne’s confidence and self-esteem appeared to drain away and leave him a shell of the driver who’d shone so spectacularly in GP2 (now known as Formula 2). Vandoorne won on the streets of Monaco in the F1 feeder series, but only had a lowly 14th to show for his two efforts at the Grand Prix proper. Still, it’s all in the increasingly distant past as Vandoorne relishes his Formula E rebirth – and how it showed in Monaco.

He started fourth after losing his qualifying semi-final to Wehrlein, but like his fellow frontrunners saved energy in the early running and then began to rise up the order. Having lost a place to Robin Frijns, the way he slashed back past as the pair exited the tunnel was up there among the best moves of the race.

There was some fortune mixed in with his skill, too, as he swept to victory. Evans was surprised how his Jaguar over-used energy, forcing him into a more conservative approach than he would have wished, while Wehrlein looked on course to win until his Porsche simply lost power and led him to coast to a standstill. The subsequent safety car undid Jean-Eric Vergne’s race as he picked up his second dose of Attack Mode through Casino Square at precisely the wrong moment. It was a series of events that contributed to Vandoorne hitting the front, although how he fended off Evans and Vergne for the remainder of the race showed the maturity you would expect from an experienced F1 exile.

The Mercedes EQ ace now leads the standings on 81 points. Vergne (DS Techeetah), whom Vandoorne deposed from the top, is second on 75, with Evans third on 72 and Frijns (Envision) fourth on 71. Four drivers from four different teams, separated by just ten points after six rounds? You can’t argue with that. A gap is beginning to open to the rest, with Edoardo Mortara fifth on 49, so will the champion come from the top-four quartet? There are still 10 rounds to go at six different venues, so it’s a touch early to make a concrete prediction.


Double failure to finish haunts Porsche

How Wehrlein isn’t among that top four must be a point of some pain for Porsche after a second win of the year appeared to slip through the ex-F1 driver’s fingers. A power failure while leading the highest profile race of the year… that’s got to sting.

The same could be said for the left hand of his team-mate Andre Lotterer, who incurred some bruising following his crash at Ste Devote. The three-time Le Mans winner came under attack from Mahindra’s Oliver Rowland who had a legitimate right to make a move up the inside – but was probably coming from too far back. Lotterer felt he was forced into the barrier and the stewards agreed: Rowland has been handed a three-place penalty for the next race. As for Porsche, both drivers are showing consistently decent pace now, so only a change of fortune is required to push them into the hunt. Formula E is finally starting to come good for the famous marque, despite the surface evidence to the contrary in Monaco


Gen3 breaks cover in Monaco

The other big talking point was the reveal in Monaco of the much-heralded Gen 3 Formula E car that will make its debut next season. More power, wireless fast-charging and way-out fighter plane aesthetics created plenty of chatter. Looks are always subjective, but the design hits the marks insofar as it has created something different to anything else in the motorsport world. It should deliver the progression that Formula E requires as we head into the middle years of this decade.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

  • Formula E

  • Formula E 2022

  • mclaren-extreme-e-formula-e-29062022-main.jpg


    McLaren reveals Formula E and Extreme E liveries

  • mclaren-formula-e-2023-main.jpg


    McLaren buys Mercedes Formula E team

  • maserati-2023-formula-e-car-main-11012022.jpg


    Maserati to join Formula E from 2023