Antonio Felix da Costa claimed the ABB FIA Formula E drivers’ championship and DS Techeetah the teams’ title in Berlin E-Prix Round 9, with the Portuguese following teammate and race winner Jean-Eric Vergne home at Tempelhof.
Vergne secured his first victory of the 2019/20 season, with da Costa finishing the race second, the pair having fended off the advances of Nissan e.dams’ Sebastien Buemi to ensure DS Techeetah took the team crown.
Da Costa holds a an unassailable 76-point advantage over teammate Vergne, who now sits second with 60 points left to play for. No driver has won the title with two rounds to spare until da Costa did just that in his first season with DS Techeetah.
The team has now secured victory in four of the last five rounds, including three at the intense season finale that is hosting six races in nine days at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport, and there’s an additional accolade for DS Techeetah to chase this season. No outfit in Formula E history has seen its drivers finish one and two in the drivers’ standings, which is now a firm possibility with two races of the season left to run at Tempelhof this Wednesday and Thursday, August 12-13.
Vergne launched well from pole position with da Costa following suit. Oliver Rowland (Nissan e.dams) fired off the line well, too, and took a look at the pair of them on the run into Turn 1 but thought better of a move, while Mahindra Racing’s Alex Lynn completed a switchback on Felipe Massa to pinch sixth two turns later.
Down the order, da Costa’s closest rival Max Guenther (BMW i Andretti Motorsport) got caught unsighted as the field bunched ahead of him, smashing the nose off of his iFE.20 and forcing the BMW i Safety Car into the fray.
A fairly calm restart followed with just over 35 minutes to go. Thunderstorms were in the air as the field held station, as drops of rain fell in the pit lane. The weather held off, though, leaving the drivers to it.
Rene Rast (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler), Alex Lynn (Mahindra Racing) and Felipe Massa (ROKiT Venturi Racing) were the first to jump into the Attack Mode power boost activation zone, with Nyck de Vries (Mercedes-Benz EQ) following a lap later. The quartet fought over fifth with Lynn heading the way from de Vries, Rast and Massa when it all shook out.
The Nissan e.dams’ were next, with Rowland and Buemi next opting to take the 35 kW boost, leaving them to slot back into that pack while Vergne and da Costa did likewise a lap later — the lead pair emerging first and third, now split by a charging Rowland.
Da Costa had enough in hand to retake second with a minute’s Attack Mode left to use, and sliced by Rowland on the next tour. The teamwork that both DS drivers referenced before the race was clear for all to see when the standings leader was allowed to trade places with Vergne for the lead at the half-way stage.
A little further back, Edo Mortara (ROKiT Venturi Racing) managed to squeeze by Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s James Calado into turn one for 12th, with BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Alex Sims pulling the exact same maneuver to pass Sam Bird (Envision Virgin Racing) for 14th — the BMW driver also sneaking by Calado to take 13th for good measure a lap later.
Mahindra’s Jerome D’Ambrosio was among the first to take a second dose of Attack Mode and made it count by stealing 10th and the final points-paying position from Rast. Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi was also making up good ground — his latest move on Mitch Evans (Panasonic Jaguar Racing) for seventh.
It was status quo at the head of the pack during the second phase of Attack Mode activations with the DS Techeetah duo of da Costa and Vergne leading the Nissan e.dams pairing of Rowland and Buemi, with di Grassi quietly dispatching Lynn to round out the top six with 10 minutes plus one lap to run.
The lead pair once again switched road order as they sought to optimize their remaining energy and fend off the Nissans just behind. Vergne now had the race lead from da Costa, Rowland and Buemi with de Vries joining the party. Di Grassi, meanwhile, was in a race of his own in sixth.
Massa flew up the inside of Evans into the final turn, repaying the Jaguar driver for a similar move earlier on Lap 28. Tidily done from the Brazilian for seventh but Evans was able to make it back past as the clock ticked down, leading home Andre Lotterer (TAG Heuer Porsche) and Lynn, whilst the ROKiT Venturi Racing man slipped to an eventual 10th.
Nissan e.dams employed the same team ethic as DS had displayed, as Rowland moved aside for Buemi who had more usable energy remaining and felt best placed to set about chasing the leaders. Rowland was bested by De Vries, however, with the Mercedes-Benz EQ man finding his way into fourth with a late dive half way around the final lap.
Vergne and da Costa were able to hold station under pressure from Buemi to take a DS Techeetah one-two and lock up both championship titles in their favor.
“I have no words right now,” said the emotional da Costa. “The bad times immediately come to the forefront of my mind because I came so close to giving up on many occasions in my career — thanks to everyone around me I never did.
“This team knew what I could do even when I was finishing nowhere and they brought me back. A massive thanks to my teammate Jean-Eric Vergne too. He’s a hard competitor but he has helped me out a lot and it’s also thanks to him that I was able to be so quick straight away in this team.
“We had a game plan and we executed it perfectly today. JEV and I have helped each other out. We were pushed all the way and it was super intense at the end. I had to cover JEV and I had to cover myself a few times too. It was pure teamwork.”