Formula E - Evans shines in Seoul to prolong title fight | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

Formula E - Evans shines in Seoul to prolong title fight

  • gb
13.08.22

Jaguar TCS driver claims fourth win of the 2021-22 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship season to take battle for the crown down to the wire.

Mitch Evans knew that he had to go for gold in Korea's Olympic Stadium with just two opportunities left to narrow the gap to ABB FIA Formula E World Championship leader Stoffel Vandoorne, and produced the perfect performance in race one of the Seoul e-Prix (13th August) to ensure that what is now a two-way battle for the eighth FE crown goes all the way to the season finale tomorrow.

Although he was denied a place on the front row of the grid by some fine wet-weather driving from poleman Oliver Rowland and series veteran Lucas di Grassi — who lined up second for his 99th Formula E event — Evans was not to be denied when the lights went out. Vaulting past Rowland as the Mahindra driver inadvertently fell foul of a slippery sponsors logo just ahead of his pole spot, the Kiwi had to cede first place to di Grassi entering the first corner, but lined his Jaguar TCS entry up perfectly to send it down the inside of the Brazilian in the very next braking zone, claiming a lead he would not relinquish.

Evans' initial run at the head of the pack was swiftly curtailed, however, as an eight-car pile-up at Turn 20 brought out the red flag with barely two minutes of the scheduled 45-minute (plus one lap) duration on the clock. With cars battling in the spray ahead of him, series returnee Norman Nato — in the second Jaguar TCS entry following the post-London diagnosis of a fractured wrist for Sam Bird — was forced off the ideal line and simply skated into the retaining barrier. NIO 333 team-mates Dan Ticktum and Oliver Turvey, Envision Racing's Nick Cassidy, Oliver Askew (Avalanche Andretti), Sebastien Buemi  (Nissan e.dams), Andre Lotterer (TAG Heuer Porsche) and reigning series champion Nyck de Vries all piled into the melee.

Fortunately all eight drivers escaped injury. Once the action resumed with a safety car start, Evans took control of the race, gradually extending his advantage over the pack to more than a couple of seconds and, a brief lock-up scare late on notwithstanding, was able to claim his fourth win of the season. To say that the New Zealander wasn't threatened at the end would be to ignore the fact that the race ended under the safety car after Alexander Sims lost the rear of his Mahindra entry and found the wall, but that could not disguise the imperious nature of the victory.

With title rival Vandoorne only fifth across the line, Evans trimmed the Belgian's overall points advantage to 21 heading into Sunday's finale, but knows that he will need to produce a repeat performance — and hope his Mercedes EQ opponent hits trouble — if he is to leave Seoul with the ultimate prize.

Vandoorne's race was another quiet one. Having started seventh, he gained a couple of spots due to contact ahead of him, but seldom looked like threatening for the podium. The red flag interruption allowed track conditions to improve, with dry tarmac under a blue sky emerging as the race went on, but the advantage of plumping for a dry set-up didn't pay off as much as expected.

Rowland claimed second place, and his first podium of a trying year, after pulling a brave move on di Grassi through the right-hander inside the stadium section, with fellow Briton Jake Dennis taking fourth, ahead of Vandoorne. With this third place, di Grassi achieved a 39th career podium on the day he passed 1000 points and edged closer to a century of appearances.

Jean-Eric Vergne, eliminated from title contention during qualifying, took sixth place despite hitting Edoardo Mortara under braking shortly after racing resumed. The Swiss driver was the one who copped the blame for the contact after being adjudged to have moved repeatedly in his defence of the position, but the five-second penalty he was handed proved moot after his ROKiT Venturi Racing entry cried enough with 11 minutes remaining, cementing his exit from the title fight.

Pascal Wehrlein, unable to capitalise on fourth on the grid, came home seventh, with Robin Frijns, Antonio Felix da Costa and Cassidy completing the scorers. The destiny of the 2021-22 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship crown will now be decided in the 16th and final race of the campaign, which will get underway at 15:00 local time (09:00 CET).

MITCH EVANS, JAGUAR TCS RACING, #9, said:

"There's been a lot of work since London to make this all possible. This morning was tricky as we didn't quite have the pace, but then the rain came at just the right time to save my qualifying and allow me to qualify up front. The race was really hard to manage, with conditions changing all the time, so thanks to the team for guiding me through. This is what we needed. We didn't give up and we'll go into tomorrow and keep fighting. The plan is obviously to do 'the double' — I've done it before [in Rome] so let's do it again!"

OLIVER ROWLAND, MAHINDRA RACING, #30 said:

“I can't really ask for much more, it has been a difficult season. Obviously getting the Pole Position and the 18 points is fantastic for the team. We knew this year was going to be difficult, my first with the team, but we are pushing really hard for next year and I am glad to give the whole team and these fans a great result.”

LUCAS DI GRASSI, ROKiT VENTURI RACING, #11, said:

“It is a really big honour to race here, amazing place, amazing fans - thanks everybody. We did our best today for the team on the constructor's championship, and for me personally to reach my 39th podium and 1,010 points, so I am super happy and we are going to celebrate a lot! It couldn't be better, this track and the people of Seoul have been amazing, we couldn't have had a better day. We fought very hard, we extracted the most out of it - no mistakes - and thank you to the team for the car that they gave me, and thank you to the fans for being here.”