Mercedes driver Vandoorne is Formula E world champion
Stoffel Vandoorne has won the Formula E championship. At the final race weekend in Seoul, a fifth and a second place were enough for the Mercedes EQ driver to win the title. The manufacturers’ championship also went to Mercedes for the second year in a row.
Races 99 and 100 in the history of Formula E marked the first time that the electric racing series made a guest appearance in South Korea – actually, this was already planned for 2020 before the Covid 19 pandemic caused a postponement. In 2022, there was also almost a threat of cancellation for the races around the 1988 Olympic venue: extreme rainfall had caused heavy flooding with several deaths in the region in the week before the race.
The weather also played an important role in the penultimate race of the season on Saturday: it was still raining during the qualifying, but then stopped. The race started at 4 p.m. local time (9 a.m. in Germany) still on a wet track. This caused a mass accident at the end of the first lap, in which eight cars were involved – only two of them were able to resume the race after the restart, so six cars had already been eliminated.
After the restart, two drivers in particular held their nerve: the two title rivals Vandoorne and Mitch Evans in the Jaguar. Evans had worked his way up from third on the grid to first place in the one lap before the race was stopped and was able to defend the top spot after the restart until the finish. Vandoorne held his own behind the leading pack in what was an uneventful race by Formula E standards, finishing fifth – 21 points of his 36-point lead after the London races remained ahead of the final race of the season. With 25 points for a win, an extra point for the fastest race lap and three points for pole position, a comfortable cushion.
However, the duel for the championship was not decided in the race, but more or less already in qualifying: Jaguar driver Evans, who had to win the race, not only missed out on the three points for pole position, but had to start the race in 13th place in the closely contested midfield. Vandoorne started from 4th place – so bringing this position to the finish would have been enough for the Mercedes driver.
In the end, Vandoorne even finished second: In the battle for second place, Jake Dennis in the Andretti (BMW-powered) had pushed António Félix da Costa in the DS Techeetah off the track – da Costa dropped to the back of the field, which meant Vandoorne slipped to third. As Dennis received a five-second penalty for the collision, he crossed the finish line in second place but was only classified third with the five seconds added. The dominant driver on Sunday was Swiss Edoardo Mortara in the Mercedes-powered Venturi. Mortara still had theoretical championship chances before the races in Seoul, but after a disastrous Saturday race the Swiss racer had to settle for third place in the championship behind Vandoorne and Evans.
This season gave light to an interesting combination: World champion Vandoorne only won one single race this season – the ePrix in Monaco. Both Evans and Mortara finished the season with four race wins each and still had to finish behind the Belgian racer. Vandoorne finished in almost every race this season – only in the third race of the season in Mexico no points were awarded for eleventh place. In all other races, the Mercedes driver scored points consistently, most recently even 13 times in a row, making for a new record. For Evans and Mortara, on the other hand, there were too many zeros to be at the top at the end of the season. Vandoorne scored 213 points, Evans 180 and Mortara 169.
Thanks to Vandoorne’s 213 points and the 106 points of last year’s World Champion Nyck de Vries (9th overall), Mercedes-EQ was also able to defend its Manufacturers’ World Championship title this season. The fact that the Stuttgart team had developed the superior e-drive train for this season is also reflected in second place: with 295 points, the RoKit-Venturi team followed the factory team in the customer Mercedes. DS-Techeetah (266 points), Jaguar (231 points), Envision Virgin (Audi-powered, 194 points) and Andretti (BMW-powered, 150 points) had to make up ground.
After a positive start with the first race win at the third round of the season in Mexico, the last season with the Gen2 race cars was a year to forget for Porsche. With 134 points, the Porsche team had to settle for seventh place – in the last three races of the season, the Stuttgart team could only score seven points. Porsche driver André Lotterer could have saved himself the trip to South Korea: In both races, he was forced to retire in an accident on the first lap. In Sunday’s race, team-mate Pascal Wehrlein also had to retire after a collision with Nyck de Vries.
At the moment, it is impossible to say whether Porsche will do better next year – which is less due to Porsche itself, but rather to the upheaval in Formula E. The much stronger teams will compete from January 2023. From January 2023, the significantly more powerful and completely new Gen3 racing cars will compete. In addition, some team partnerships are being reorganised, as Mercedes is withdrawing and the customer drives from BMW and Audi are no longer available. Envision, for example, is switching from Audi to Jaguar, Venturi is likely to become the Maserati works team (with powertrains from Stellantis sister brand DS), with DS in turn likely to part company with Techeetah and partner with Dragon in future. Andretti is rumoured to be partnering with Porsche, while the Mercedes team will continue to be employed by newcomer McLaren, who will compete with Nissan powertrains in 2023.
Shortly after winning the title, world champion Vandoorne announced that he would continue to race in Formula E in 2023 – even if Mercedes withdraws. It has not yet been confirmed, but the Belgian will probably compete for DS-Dragon – alongside two-time former champion Jean-Éric Vergne.
Another driver personnel matter has also been clarified in the meantime: Porsche has poached former champion António Félix da Costa from DS. The Portuguese and Season 6 champion will compete alongside Pascal Wehrlein from 2023. André Lotterer will remain with Porsche, but is said to be concentrating on the project with the 963 Hybrid race car for the World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Rumour has it, however, that the Duisburg native could also drive in Formula E in 2023 – for Porsche’s customer team Andretti.
With reporting by Sebastian Schaal, Germany.