Edoardo Mortara hit the top of the Drivers' World Championship with victory in the Marrakesh E-Prix Round 10, as the ROKiT Venturi Racing driver fended off severe pressure from the DS TECHEETAHs of Antonio Felix da Costa and Jean-Eric Vergne throughout.
Da Costa started on Julius Baer Pole Position and, after falling behind Mortara during the early duo of ATTACK MODE activations, he clung to the back of the Silver Arrow 02 as the race reached its climax. The Season 6 champion couldn't make it by the Venturi driver, though, who looked utterly unflustered on the way to the top step and his third win of the season, as well as the standings lead - with prior table-topper Stoffel Vandoorne recovering to eighth after a braking glitch in qualifying left him down in 20th on the grid.
Vergne had found himself second heading into the closing stages with two percent of usable energy in-hand before he slipped back behind da Costa to an eventual fourth position. Fellow title challenger Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) clambered from sixth on the grid to the podium with a final lap lunge on Vergne for silverware and a handful of extra, crucial World Championship points.
In the searing 33-degree heat, drivers and engineers elected to jump early for their two mandatory ATTACK MODE boosts with the school of thought being that it would be more efficient and effective in the long run to ply that extra 30kW through the batteries and powertrain. In the mix was Lucas di Grassi (ROKiT Venturi Racing), who clambered to a battling fifth and a bundle more points for the Monegasque team - very useful in the Teams' World Championship scrap.
Reigning champion Nyck de Vries (Mercedes-EQ) clambered to sixth and Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) would have to settle for seventh. Vandoorne did make up an impressive 12 spots to finish eighth in the end after his qualifying disappointment. Sam Bird wound up ninth for Jaguar TCS Racing, and Oliver Rowland - who ran as high as second spot early on - rounded out the points-paying positions in 10th.
All that saw Mortara jump to an 11-point Drivers World Championship lead, with Vergne second and Vandoorne now third, having led heading into this Marrakesh E-Prix race weekend. Evans finds himself just 15 points shy of Mortara, with the top four breaking well-clear of the chasing pack to set up a four-driver, six-race shootout.
Next up, in two weeks; a double-header in the Big Apple in the shadow of the inimitable Manhattan skyline as the 2021/22 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship as Season 8 heads towards its business end and its final half-dozen rounds.
As it happened...
The lead trio - headed by polesitter da Costa - filed through Turn 1 as they were despite a poor start for Mortara, while Evans fell from fifth to sixth with Porsche's Pascal Wehrlein squeezing by. The Kiwi tried to bite back into Turn 3 with no room to breath between the German and the wall but had to settle into the train in sixth spot.
That battle raged throughout the opening two tours, with Evans gesticulating, clearly unhappy at Wehrlein’s defensive manoeuvres but the Jaguar driver did make a move stick at Turn 12 – unconventional but vital with a growing, two-second gap between da Costa, Mortara, Vergne, Dennis and Evans in fifth.
Meanwhile, de Vries made a move stick to pinch ninth from di Grassi – completely sideways under braking but well held and more provisional points to the reigning champion’s name.
On Lap 4, both DS TECHEETAHs activated their first mandated 30kW, three-minute boost of the race in ATTACK MODE – the first drivers to do so with a school of thought that it’s more efficient to put more energy through the battery and powertrain while it’s cooler early on. A lap later, Mortara made the jump – as you were with the Venturi driver filtering back into second.
Evans, meanwhile, lost a spot to Rowland through the first activations, with the Brit also jumping countryman Dennis for a net fourth position. The Yorkshireman’s progress continued on Lap 7 as he dispatched Vergne for a net third through the second round of ATTACK MODE. Evans followed to shuffle his fellow title protagonist down to sixth.
On Lap 9, Rowland had his sights on second and the back of da Costa’s DS. He did make it by, briefly, but nudged the Portuguese E-TENSE and was told to cede the position by his team. He wouldn’t have to wait long to make it by for good though, taking second spot at Turn 10.
With all bar Evans of the top runners having taken both their doses of ATTACK MODE, it was Mortara who’d profited to take the lead from Rowland who was on a real mission. Da Costa followed with Evans fourth and Vergne fifth while Dennis rounded out the top six.
Evans' strategy looked to be paying off, though, with his late jump for that second 30kW boost seeing him by both da Costa and Rowland, and the former also shuffling by the latter in the mix. The Jaguar driver now had eyes on leader Mortara at less than half a second back.
A little further down the order, di Grassi showed why he can never be ruled out with a well-timed lunge on de Vries to pinch seventh on Lap 15.
Vergne had taken a slightly different strategy after slipping to the cusp of the top six. Back in the pack a little, the Frenchman had managed to save a couple of percent’s usable energy on the leaders. After dispatching Dennis for fifth, his eyes were firmly forward with 20 minutes plus one lap to run.
Formation flying from the DS pair saw da Costa slice by Evans and Vergne by Rowland for second and fourth, respectively, into Turn 1 on Lap 18. DS’ Team Principal Thomas Chevaucher looked more than pleased with that back in the garage.
Further progress followed for Vergne, who was measuring things beautifully. The Frenchman took Evans for third at Turn 1 on Lap 21, and set about chasing teammate da Costa for second and leader Mortara.
Di Grassi’s progress continued as Dennis became more marginal on his usable energy remaining – the Brazilian stealing sixth with de Vries following, leaving the Andretti racer eighth, just ahead of teammate Askew.
The battle for the championship lead looked to have kicked up a notch as DS told Vergne he could pass his teammate for second at Turn 7 on Lap 24. With JEV having two percent more usable energy in his battery than leader Mortara, he had every chance of taking the win and the lead in the Drivers’ World Championship.
That wouldn't quite work out for the Frenchman, though, and on Lap 29 Vergne gave back the spot to da Costa who felt he had a shot at taking the lead from the Venturi out front.
That left a straight fight between Mortara and da Costa for the win and it looked as if the Swiss-French-Italian had the measure of the Portuguese. Vergne, in third meanwhile, was tasked with fending off a feisty Evans for the final spot on the podium. He couldn’t do so, as the New Zealander made it by around the outside of Turn 3 while Mortara took the chequered flag and the top step.
Published on 2nd July 2022
7 min read