Jean-Eric Vergne secured a tenth victory in his already illustrious Formula E career, winning a dramatic Rome e-Prix Race 1 from the Jaguar duo of Sam Bird and Mitch Evans.
The DS TECHEETAH driver had started from fifth on the grid, but drove a superb tactical race, utilising his Attack Modes at key moments as his rivals fell by the wayside.
“I was thanking the guys on the radio, because they did a fantastic job to fix the car. I had a really, really good car in qualifying and in the race. So I’m so pleased with the guys so definitely the win is for the team today. Without them, it would not have been possible,” said Vergne over his car radio. “It feels good to be back.”
— Veloce Racing (@VeloceRacingXE) April 10, 2021
With England’s most famous Aintree Grand National horse race also happening later on the same day, this forerunner also had the propensity to lose several runners over this most tricky circuit in testing conditions, as light rain forced a Safety Car start.
And so it transpired, Andre Lotterer hitting Stoffel Vandoorne, promoting Oliver Rowland to the lead of the race. It was tough luck for Lotterer, who has five second place finishes, but the elusive opening win would not happen on this day. A drive through penalty for Rowland for overuse of power meant Di Grassi inherited the lead of the race and put Vergne into second.
As is the case with every electric street race in this most exciting of series, Attack Mode is often the key to victory or defeat, all drivers having to run wide at certain parts of the circuit in order to gain an extra 35 kW of power, but risking track position in order to do so.
With 25 minutes remaining, the top eight drivers had still not utilised Attack Mode, meaning it would be an intriguing tactical second half of the race. Vergne was first to roll the dice, dropping him to fourth. The power advantage soon allowed him to sweep past Wehrlein, and when De Vries and Frijns activated their Attack Modes, it meant that the Frenchman found himself in the lead of the race, defending from Frijns.
A four-way battle for the lead saw a brilliant move from Di Grassi take second, De Vries also seizing the opportunity to take third. Vergne’s response was to take his second Attack Mode immediately, dropping to third but being warned by his team about energy management.
It all led to a frantic finish for the race victory, Vergne retaking the lead as De Vries and Di Grassi tangled behind. And with Attack Modes expended, it was now a straight fight to the chequered flag, the top four covered by under a second.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the series stalwarts who made it a grandstand finish, Di Grassi sending a brilliant move down the inside of Vergne to retake the lead. Then a final spanner into the mix as Vandoorne slid into the barriers after hitting a manhole cover, bringing about a safety car. An unfortunate driveshaft failure for Di Grassi promoted Vergne back into the lead and it was the Frenchman who held his position to win from a flying Sam Bird and Jaguar teammate Mitch Evans.
— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) April 10, 2021
“I really enjoyed that race,” said Bird afterward. “Jaguar Racing gave me, and Mitch, a really fast car today. “I felt I didn’t maximise qualifying but we made up for it in the race. Congratulations to JEV and DS Automobiles for winning, but yeah, to get a 2-3 and our first ever double podium as a team massive congratulations to all the guys working who are here and back at the factory. Amazing job.”
Robin Frijns came home in fourth place behind Sebastien Buemi, Rene Rast and Wehrlein as Alex Lynn, Lotterer amd Maximilian Guenther rounded out the points scoring finishers.