Vandoorne beats Sims to Rome e-Prix race 2 win, heartbreak for Nato

Belgium’s Stoffel Vandoorne emerged victorious in Race 2 of the Rome e-Prix double header, heading home Mahindra’s Alexander Sims and the ROKiT Venturi of Norman Nato after another incident-packed race.

Vandoorne has been on the pace all weekend, starting Saturday’s race from pole position before a manhole cover forced a bizarre retirement as he careered into the wall to avoid a slowing Lucas Di Grassi.

Putting that disappointment behind him, the Mercedes EQ driver drove an almost flawless race, activating his Fan Boost on the final lap to keep his rivals at bay. It looked as if rookie driver Nato would take his position on the podium in only his fourth race, but his car’s energy expired agonisingly before the final corner, meaning a disqualification under race regulations.

It promoted his ROKiT Venturi teammate Edoardo Mortara to fourth, ahead of Maximilian Guenther, Mitch Evans and Antonio Felix da Costa as Sebastien Buemi, Tom Blomqvist and Nico Mueller rounded out the top ten.

“It tastes good today to take home the victory,” reflected Vandoorne after his race win. “It feels like we needed this yesterday especially after the pole position and the speed we showed yesterday, but kept believing, was confident in the car again today, made the moves when it counted, and the team again executed a perfect strategy.

“In the end it made my life a bit easier to have that gap with Alex Sims behind and he was kind of catching at the end, so with the Safety Car I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But I had my Fan Boost left and I used it on the last lap to be able to defend that position.”

As was the case on Saturday, the race again started from behind the Safety Car, pole sitter Nick Cassidy spinning out of the lead at Turn 7 on the opening lap, Nato inheriting the lead after a disastrous start for the Kiwi driver. It didn’t last long, a lovely move from Wehrlein stealing the race lead before Vandoorne also dived down the inside of the Frenchman.

The utilisation of Attack Mode and an extra 35 kW of power would prove all important, as it always is. Rowland was the first to activate as Cassidy’s day went from bad to worse, clipping Oliver Rowland and heading straight into the barriers.

It meant that the running order was still Wehrlein, Vandoorne and Nato but with the leading drivers still to activate Attack Mode. Vandoorne was first to roll the dice with half an hour of racing remaining, crucially holding onto his second position, followed by Sims, Guenther and Nato.

Then more drama, former champion Lucas di Grassi going off the track at Turn 7 after contact with Sebastien Buemi, bringing about a full course yellow. When the dust settled, it was Vandoorne who led the field, from Wehrlein, Sims, Guenther and Nato.

Rene Rast (DEU), Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, Audi e-tron FE07, climbs out of his car after a crash

Sims was on the ball, sailing past a napping Wehrlein upon the restart, the former BMW man chasing a second FE race victory for new team Mahindra as leader Vandoorne activated his second compulsory Attack Mode. It now appeared the Belgian’s race to lose, as the squabble for places behind provided entertainment aplenty, the man on the move being defending champion Antonio Felix Da Costa, the Portuguese rocketing from 15th on the grid to 7th by the race finish.

If the driver of the day was arguably Da Costa, the champagne and spoils went to Vandoorne as Sims and Wehrlein rounded off the podium after a late crash from Rene Rast led to a second flat out one lap race to the finish behind the Safety Car.

“The amount of emotions you go through is incredible,” added Vandoorne. “Yesterday we had obviously the high with pole position in Super Pole and then we had the low in the race. So it takes big swings during the day and to finish on a high is a super nice feeling.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.