Da Costa extends championship lead after breathless finish in opening Berlin race

DS TECHEETAH driver Antonio Felix da Costa extended his lead at the top of the ABB Formula E championship standings after an amazing finish to the opening race in Berlin.

Antonio Felix da Costa (PRT), DS Techeetah celebrates winning the race on the podium

Da Costa had started the race from pole position ahead of defending champion and teammate Jean-Eric Vergne after a scintillating qualifying effort, and it looked for a long time as if it would be an easy 1-2 for the team.

But, with time running out and only laps remaining, energy consumption issues appeared to affect many of the runners behind him, Vergne dropping alarmingly back through the field and eventually stopping, as former DS TECHEETAH driver and now Porsche driver Andre Lotterer overtook a flying Sam Bird to round off the podium.

Nyck de Vries was fourth for Mercedes, ahead of Jerome D’Ambrosio and arguably the driver of the day, Stoffel Vandoorne, who charged from 16th on the grid as Sebastien Buemi, Maximilian Guenther, Lucas di Grassi and Alexander Sims rounded off the points scoring finishers.

“I’m just so happy. Obviously, the people around us do this because the team and my family want me to win and they know I’ve been through some rough years,” said a delighted Da Costa after the race. “Talking to me like there’s only one race left, but there’s actually six races to go. Everyone’s assuming that this is it. I take the pressure well, yes, I want to win it, but there’s a long way to go and if we keep doing things like we did today, the team, hats off and I was so confident and was able to put it all together today.

“It was the only reason I moved here in the first place, I wanted a quicker car, and obviously the car is fast. I’m so grateful and I told myself after I knew I was coming here to a good car that I want to put myself from now and in my career onwards to put myself in a position to be winning races, so I’m grateful everything turned out great.”

Rarely for a Formula E race, there was no carnage in the opening laps, as so often happens in this frantic and exciting form of electric street racing. And there were relatively few dramatic changes of order leading up to the first series of Attack Mode activations until Robin Frijns clipped the wall on the exit to Turn 2, bringing out a Safety Car.

Upon resumption, Bird was a man on the move, taking D’Ambrosio with a textbook pass into Turn 6 before Attack Mode came into play. And, with 20 minutes remaining, the DS TECHEETAH teammates activated at the same time, calling one another’s bluff as the status quo remained.

Behind the leading protagonists, De Vries appeared the big winner, making his way past Lotterer and up into a podium place with 43% of energy remaining, but they quickly exchanged positions as the Dutchman locked up badly, allowing Lotterer back past.

Then, another late spanner into the works, as an unfortunate off for Venturi’s Felipe Massa into Turn 6 brought about a full course yellow, bunching up the field once again with under ten minutes remaining. It made for a frantic finish to the race, Evans rocketing past Buemi, as Da Costa just maintained position from rival Vergne after running wide to activate his final Attack Mode.

Outgoing Envision Virgin Racing driver Bird was also a big beneficiary, getting past De Vries and into a podium slot before passing a back peddling Vergne with six minutes remaining. It soon went from bad to worse for the defending champion, the Frenchman having to concede position to former teammate Lotterer with energy dwindling.

Now it was Lotterer who was the man on the fly, moving up to second before Bird passed him under Attack Mode. And that was the way the podium finished after a frantic finale, Da Costa extending his lead at the head of the championship standings after a near flawless performance.

Victory for Da Costa means he now holds a dominant 40 point advantage over Jaguar’s Mitch Evans with five rounds remaining, the next of which follows tomorrow on the same reverse track layout at the Berlin Tempelhof circuit.

The Portuguese flag on Antonio Félix da Costa’s (PRT), DS Techeetah, DS E-Tense FE20

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.