Jaguar TCS Racing’s Mitch Evans claimed back-to-back victories in the Rome E-Prix doubleheader of races with a dramatic win in Round 5 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.
The New Zealander led poleman Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Techeetah) in second and Envision Racing’s Robin Frijns, who couldn’t top yesterday’s second place finish to come home in third.
Vergne pulled away from pole while his former teammate and TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team driver Andre Lotterer passed Avalanche Andretti’s Jake Dennis into second. By the top of the hill and Turn 7, Dennis had reclaimed second, dropping Lotterer back down to third.
With a collision between Mahindra Racing’s Alex Sims and Nissan e.dams’ Max Guenther, the German driver retired to the pits, ending his race inside five minutes.
Despite setting the fastest lap in qualifying earlier in the day, Dennis started losing ground after Lotterer attacked at Turn 7, reclaiming second. Shortly thereafter, Evans slipped past into third.
Squeezing into Turn 4 side by side, series leader and ROKiT Venturi Racing driver Edoardo Mortara tried to pass DS Techeetah’s Antonio Felix da Costa, with the Portuguese racer closing the door on the Swiss, damaging the front wing of his car. Mortara then clipped the wall on Turn 19 and retired from the race with a suspected driveshaft failure.
Local favorite and Dragon/Penske Autosport driver Antionio Giovinazzi stopped on track between Turn 8 and 9, resulting in the deployment of the safety car. Racing resumed with 24 minutes left on the clock, as Vergne led Evans for less than a lap before opportunist Evans overtook into Turn 4 to take the lead.
Dennis continued to slip down the order to seventh as the race passed the halfway mark. At the front, Evans continued to lead Vergne, with Porsche’s Lotterer in second and Frijns in third. Enjoying the benefit of the extra power gained through his eight-minute Attack Mode, Frijns made his way up the order and overtook race leader Evans up the hill on Turn 7.
Paying the price for closing the door earlier on Mortara, da Costa received a five-minute time penalty while back at the front, Lotterer was looking to take the lead with extra power gained through Attack Mode. Now in second, the German driver was close on the tail of Frijns, who was desperately trying to hold on to the lead.
With seconds of his Attack Mode power left, Lotterer made his move on Frijns to take the lead into Turn 4. Now setting the pace, the German driver was closing in on his first series win with 10 minutes left. But after a short safety car to recover Sims’ Mahindra car after a spin on Turn 14, the racing was back under way — now with 5m15s of TAG Heuer Added Time to extend the race.
Saving his Attack Mode until the end of the race, Evans took the boost with less than eight minutes of the race remaining. With extra power, Evans went after Lotterer, hunting the German driver before taking the lead on the hill up to Turn 7.
With Evans holding firm, Vergne slipped past his former teammate Lotterer, jumping to second, before Frijns made a move on the German to knock him off the podium and into fourth.
Envision Racing’s Nick Cassidy hit the wall at the top of Turn 7, so the safety car made a brief appearance before coming in to leave a last-lap dash for the finish. With Evans out in front and Vergne close behind, the Frenchman was on the attack to regain his lead. Unable to catch Evans, the Jaguar driver crossed the line victorious.
“This is a result of pure graft, hard work. I just want to thank everyone at the team because the last eight weeks have been insane with the amount of work that has gone in,” said Evans. “I didn’t know if we could manage two — doubleheaders are tricky to back up — but we showed good quality. The race was a carbon copy from yesterday — the car was working perfectly. It was trickier today because of the temperature and the longer Attack Mode — I almost got caught out with that during the safety car — but a huge thanks to everyone on the team. Hopefully this isn’t just a one-off but it feels good.”
Vergne admitted he couldn’t quite match Evans on pace at the end.
“It was a chaotic race. I didn’t know what was happening in terms of our strategy, the Jaguar and Mitch were way too fast this weekend,” he said. “I hope that is only going to be a one-off from their side, otherwise it might be difficult to beat them. Today it was impossible.
“I am fairly happy with second, it was the best I could do, but I am going to urge my team to do better if we want to fight for wins. The championship is still very long — consistency is key, and I think we were fairly consistent throughout the season, but if we want to win we need to have more pace.”
The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship moves on to Monaco for Round 6 on April 30.