The German racer drove superbly, for an almost uncontested first-place finish. Meanwhile, Lucas Mueller, also flying the Mahindra Racing colours, took the win in the Challenge race
Round four of the FIA ABB Formula E Race At Home challenge, the halfway point of the series, went underway on May 16 at Hong Kong Central Harbourfront Circuit for the second time. However, this time around there was the added element of rain, which may have quite an effect on the outcomes of the race, as variation in tyre grip, as well as damage, are both a factor to consider.
As before, the challenge comprised two distinct grids, the Driver grid consisting of the stars of the Formula E Championship competing head-to-head, and the Challenge grid, formed in part by open online qualifiers, featuring a selection of the fastest gamers and influencers on the esports scene. Through the medium of the races, the Formula E manufacturers, drivers and fans aim to raise funds for UNICEF to keep children around the world healthy, safe and learning during the coronavirus crisis.
Interestingly, this year Formula E has launched Predict-a-Game, so you can play at home by picking a favourite driver and compete against others. You’ll be able to predict the race winner, fastest lap, the pole position, first driver eliminated, runner up, and even last finisher.
But that’s not all, as viewers can also participate in the Bosch Trophy Design at Home challenge. Open to all, the best design will be 3-d printed and awarded to the winner of the Race at Home challenge. You will also get your own trophy. The deadline for the entries is May 19, so get drawing!
As before, the Race At Home challenge consists of point scoring rounds. The season will consist of seven point-scoring rounds, leading to a double-header grand final, to be held on the weekend of June 6-7, where it’ll be double points on offer for the winner and the honour of being the first Race At Home champion. Max Gunther is currently leading the Drivers grid by 20 points.
In the Challenge grid, the grand final race winner will also win a chance to drive in a Gen 2 Formula e car, along with a place in the BMW Sim M2 CS cup finals in Munich. At the moment, it is Kevin Siggy leading in the Challenge grid, with 61 points, ahead of Peyo Peev with 42 points and Petar Brljak with 41 points.
Qualifying at each event was a hurried fare. Both the Challenge and Driver grid set out in groups of six in a series of one-lap qualifiers to determine the order of the grid.
For the Challenge grid qualifiers, Joshua Rogers set the fastest time of 1:11.175 minutes to take the pole position, followed by Kevin Siggy who was just five-tenths of a second behind him, and Lucas Mueller, who was half a second off the lead pace.
The results for the Challenge grid qualifying were as under:
For the Drivers grid qualifiers, Rokit Venturi Racing’s Edoardo Mortara took the pole position, with a time of 51.692 seconds, followed by Mahindra Racing’s Pascal Wehrlein who was just a hundredth of a second behind him, at 51.702 seconds. In third place was Mercedes-Benz EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne, at 51.721 seconds and championship leader BMW iAndretti’s Maximilian Gunther was in the fourth spot, with 51.762 points.
As mentioned, Max Gunther is at the top in the points stakes with 65 points, 20 points over Wehrlein’s 45 with Envision Virgin Racing’s Robin Frijns, and Stoffel Vandoorne in third and fourth respectively with an identical 40 points.
As always, the online events use the Race Royale format over 15 laps, where the last driver in the end of each lap is eliminated. The pressure will build until only 12 will remain, leaving a single-lap sprint to the finish line.
Race – Challenge Grid
Corner 1 at Hong Kong is infamous for causing massive chaos, and as was the case with the first race, there was carnage after all the cars passed through, with the brunt taken by Joel Eriksson’s Geox Dragon which ended up almost flipped over. Past the first few corners, it was Joshua Rogers (Tag Heuer Porsche) in the lead, with Lucas Mueller (Mahindra Racing) following closely behind. Meanwhile, Axel La Flamme (Rokit Venturi Racing), who started at P12, climbed up to P8.
Going into Lap 3 and Rogers had increased his lead to over 2.28 seconds, while BMW iAndretti’s Kevin Siggy was hounding Mueller for P2. Now, usually the eliminations start at the end of Lap 3, however since Sophia Florsch did not qualify, and Remco Majoor was out of the race by the end of Lap 1, the drivers do get a few more laps’ leeway.
With Lap 4 underway, Rogers was now 3.5 seconds ahead of Mueller, though Siggy was a further two seconds behind as well, a situation which remained virtually unchanged for two entire laps. Further down the line, Rokit Venturi’s Axel La Flamme had climbed up to fifth from his initial position of 12th, an incredible feat considering the narrow street circuit. A bit lower down the pack, Nissan E.Dams’ Niek Jacobs in P13, after a few instances of contact with Audi Abt Schaeffler’s Alisdair Irvine, went right into the wall after the chicane, dropping to P14.
In Lap 7, the battle for P6 between Axel La Flamme and Nissan E.Dams’ Jan Von der Hyde intensified, with the latter breathing down La Flamme’s neck from three-tenths of a second away. However, Van Der Hyde himself seemed to be under constant attack from DS Techeetah’s Nuno Pinto, again from a three-tenths distance. Here, neither La Flamme nor Van der Hyde could afford to stray even a bit off their line, for fear of either contact, or of losing valuable fractions of seconds.
Going into Corner 1 of Lap 8, Van der Hyde tried to take the inside line on the decreasing radius hairpin, but La Flamme held on, which saw both cars going side by side and enduring constant contact till Corner 3, where Pinto took full advantage of the scuffle and sneaked through into P6, while La Flamme dropped to P8.
At the head of the pack, Mueller was just seven-tenths of a second behind Rogers – whose lap times had dropped to 1:0.3 minutes – despite which he showed no signs of letting up. This was a huge opportunity for Mueller, as he would be taking a big chunk out of Rogers’ points if he got the job done, consider he had a third place and a second-place finish in the last two races. Mueller did momentarily get past Rogers, before some deft wheelmanship from Rogers saw the positions once again reversed.
Going into Lap 12, and there seemed to be a five-way battle for the lead, as Kevin Siggy, Peyo Peev and Petar Brljak were gradually catching up. Meanwhile, Axel La Flamme, after running as high as sixth in the order, was now the back marker at P14, and one of the last two drivers to be eliminated, the other one being Mercedes-Benz EQ’s Noah Reuvers.
Going back ahead, it looked like Rogers and Mueller started to pick up the pace, as Siggy had fallen back to almost 3 seconds away, and fending off Peev’s advances. As it was now Lap 13, the tyres, too, had started wearing out. An unintended advantage was that Mueller was now able to ‘swing’ his way through the tighter corners.
In the penultimate lap, Mueller once again dove to the inside of the Corner 1 hairpin, and this time his gamble paid off, as he was able to immediately pull at least car-length’s lead away. This was actually the tactic used by Rogers against Brljak in round 1, and seemed to pay off just as well for Mueller. Additionally, the wet conditions seemed to have abated as well, though how fruitful it would be for any of the racers to start pushing this late in the race is anyone’s guess.
Progress across the last lap remained quite the same. Though there was some contact among the racers at the back of the grid – Hoerzig, Hitz and Irvine – there was no change in the grid positons. Finally, it was Lucas Mueller, flying the Mahindra Racing colours, who took the lead, his third consecutive podium and first win this season.
Further, Mueller’s win also means he’s been successful at chipping 10 points off Siggy’s tally, putting him just about 15 points lesser than Siggy’s score. Meanwhile, his Mahindra Racing teammate Markus Keller finished 15th, and has accrued only 4 points so far.
The final finishing sequence and the overall championship points tally is as under:
Race – Drivers Grid
As the lights went green, Rokit Venture Racing’s Edoardo Mortara got an early jump and swung to the inside to best tackle the Corner 1 hairpin. His quick reactions paid off immediately, as he was able to negotiate the corner and speed off before the gridlock, which saw most of the cars going into the wall or each other.
Hot on Mortara’s heels was Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s James Calado, followed by Mercedes-Benz EQ’s Nyck De Vries and Mahindra Racing’s Pascal Wehrlein. Meanwhile, as result of the Corner 1 chaos, championship leader BMW iAndretti Motorsports’ Max Gunther was down to the eleventh position. By the end of Lap 1, Mortara was leading James Calado by 1.7 seconds.
Going into Lap 3, and Gunther fell down the grid to P13, probably due to connectivity issues. Further down the pack, Audi ABT Schaeffler’s Lucas Di Grassi was pushed off the line by Nissan E.Dams’ Oliver Rowland. Due to this, Di Grassi went down from P14 all the way to P20. Meanwhile, second-placed Calado was under almost constant attack by Wehrlein, with Mercedes-Benz EQ’s Vandoorne too not far behind. Come Lap 5, and Wehrlein had wrested P2 away from Calado, whith Vandoorne, too, making his move and relegating Calado to P4 in short order.
Down the pack, Gunther was still in P12, having got ahead of Calado’s teammate Mitch Evans. Meanwhile in a shock upset, Mortara went off the line in Corner 3-4 chicane, handing the lead to Wehlrein, while himself falling rapidly down to P5. Another fact to consider is since Mortara’s car went head-on into the wall, it sustained quite a bit of damage as well. A small relief, though, was his 8-second lead over DS Techeetah’s Antonio Felix Da Costa in P6.
At the halfway point, Calado was able to climb back to P3, with Mercedes-Benz EQ’s Nyck De Vries a good 5 seconds behind him. Meanwhile Gunther’s luck was not favouring him; the championship leader who had won at his previous outing at Hong Kong, went off the line at the Corner 3-4 chicane, ending up in P18 behind Rokit Venturi’s Felipe Massa, and was finally eliminated.
With two-thirds of the race down, Wehrlein was still holding on to the lead with a 3.5-second gap between him and Vandoorne, while Tag Heuer Porsche’s Neel Jani was now the last man on the grid. However, in the final few corners of the lap, Jani was just able to sneak past Mahindra Racing’s Jerome D’Ambrosio, and was able to stay in contention for one more lap, with his Tag Heuer Porsche teammate Andre Lotterer just ahead of him.
Lap 11 and Wehrlein was still going about his merry way, having accrued a 3.6-second lead over Vandoorne. Down the line Mortara was now under serious pressure from Da Costa, as was Nio 333’s Oliver Turvey in P9, who was being hounded by Nissan E.Dams’ Sebastien Buemi. The lap ended with Jani’s elimination, leaving Lotterer in the last point-winning position.
Entering Lap 13 and Da Costa was still hounding Mortara, with even some contact between the two at Corner 1. Wehrlein, for his part, was keeping up a good clip, at 4 seconds ahead of Vandoorne, with Clado still in third, though a hefty 7 seconds behind.
The final lap saw Pascal Wehrlein at about 4 seconds ahead of Vandoorne, and a leisurely drive for the German racer to a well-deserved first-place finish, after the chaos in the early stages. This was his second win in a row, after a second-place start. Additionally, with Gunther having been eliminated in this race, it means Wehrlein now takes the overall lead in the championship, quite a turn of events especially considering Gunther’s domination in the early stages.
The final finishing sequence and the overall championship points tally is as under: