Antonio Felix da Costa delivered a beatdown on his ABB Formula E Championship rivals in Wednesday’s first of six races over nine days on Berlin’s Templehof Airport temporary circuit.
The Portuguese driver bolstered his championship lead with a decisive race win in the Berlin E-Prix presented by CBMM Niobium Round 6, securing a maximum 30-point score as well as the qualifying benchmark, Super Pole, a lights-to-flag victory and fastest lap in the process. He crossed the line with a precisely measured 0.0 percent of his available energy remaining ahead of TAG Heuer Porsche driver Andre Lotterer and Envision Virgin Racing man Sam Bird.
Da Costa fired off the line into the evening twilight at the Reverse Berlin Tempelhof Circuit, pulling out a second on teammate Jean-Eric Vergne by the end of the first tour.
The pair were able to scamper clear of Lotterer, who found himself becoming the cork in the bottle as the race approached quarter-distance. The experienced German had to throw all sorts of defensive shapes in the braking zones and on energy regen to keep those behind at bay.
Nissan e.dams’ Sebastien Buemi, a winner in Berlin in both 2016 and 2017, homed in on the back of Lotterer’s 99X Electric amid a gaggle of six cars forming between the Porsche man in third and Lynn in 10th spot. The Swiss driver was caught out by Nyck de Vries, however, with the Mercedes-Benz EQ man stealing through to take fourth on lap nine.
Envision Virgin Racing’s Robin Frijns found himself in trouble with some heavy front-end damage caused on the exit of Turn 2 after a coming-together in an attempted move on Max Guenther (BMW i Andretti Motorsport) as the pair squabbled over 11th, enforcing a period under the safety car.
For those looking at the diffuser of the two DS Techeetahs out front, hopes were pinned on something of a reset following the caution, but at the half-way stage it was looking unlikely.
With the Attack Mode energy boost coming into play during the latter half of the E-Prix, Lotterer and de Vries’ struck up their battle once more. The Mercedes driver made use of the extra 35 kW boost and Lotterer was made to pay for missing the activation point by the Dutchman, who made a move for third stick on Lap 18.
It wouldn’t last for de Vries, however, as he slipped up and lost out to Lotterer and a surging Sam Bird (Envision Virgin Racing) in one fell swoop.
Stoffel Vandoorne, meanwhile, was tearing through the pack. The Belgian had started 16th but made the most of Attack Mode to gain ground, first passing Guenther’s BMW on Lap 20 for 11th and then past Alex Lynn, who, on his Mahindra Racing debut, was now getting shuffled down the order after a strong start.
Vandoorne continued his charge, taking ninth with 15 minutes to run, while Massa found himself in the wall and the cause of a late full-course yellow.
Da Costa pulled away on the restart but teammate was soon spiralling down the order. Bird, Lotterer, Vandoorne, D’Ambrosio, Mitch Evans, Buemi and Guenther all got through but in the pinch, Evans (Pansonic Jaguar Racing) was touched by Guenther and sent spiralling down to an eventual 15th position — a big blow for the man who entered the race second in the standings.
Vergne eventually collapsed to 20th after a muscular last-lap move from Lucas di Grassi — the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler racer having clambered through the pack to ninth from 21st on the grid.
Lotterer follow da Costa home, some 5.5 seconds back, while Bird, de Vries, D’Ambrosio and Vandoorne rounded out the top six.
Da Costa’s maximum 30-point haul leaves him 40 points clear of Evans in the standings, with Guenther climbing to third ahead of tomorrow’s race, while DS Techeetah extended its lead over BMW i Andretti Motorsport in the teams’ table.
“Everyone’s assuming I have to win the title but I take that pressure well,” said da Costa. “It means it’s an important thing and yes, I want to win it, but there’s still a really long way to go.
“Hats off to the team. We’ve really put it all together and all the work heading here has come off. I moved here because I wanted a quicker car. Obviously, it’s fast and I’m so grateful. I wanted to put myself in a position to win races in my career and it’s happening.”