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Both the Mercedes Eq driver and the sim racer flying the BMW iAndretti flag took facile pole-to-flag wins
Round six, the penultimate round of the FIA ABB Formula E Race At Home challenge, went underway on May 30 at the Brooklyn street circuit, also known as the Red Hook circuit, in New York, USA, a 2.373km circuit with 14 turns. 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.
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.
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. Kevin Siggy currently leads the Challenge grid championship with 103 points, followed by Petar Brljak with 70 points in second.
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, championship dominator BMW iAndretti Motorsports’ Kevin Siggy set the fastest time to start from pole, with Mahindra Racing’s Lucas Muller in second and Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s Petar Brljak in third place.
For the Drivers grid qualifiers, it was Mercedes-Benz Eq’s Stoffel Vandoorne setting the fastest time, followed by BMW iAndretti’s Maximillian Guenther, and Tag Heuer Porsche’s Neel Jani in third. Despite setting the second-fastest time, championship leader Pascal Wehrlein started at P7 (courtesy a five-place penalty after crashing with Max Gunther last weekend). Also, Mercedes-Benz Eq’s Nyck De Vries got a ten-place grid penalty for aggressive driving, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler’ s Lucas Di Grassi got a 2-second time penalty for ‘riding the wall’ (using the wall as a support to go fast in tight turns) and Geox Dragon’s Brendon Hartley overcooked the Corners 6 left-hander, which meant he had to start the race at the last position.
Also, after last week’s controversy, where Audi ABT Sport Schaeffler driver Daniel Abt got professional e-racer Lorenz Horzig to drive his car during the race, both Horzig and Abt were disqualified from the championship, with Abt made to donate €10,000 to charity. Abt chose Allgauer Wekstatten, a charity based in his hometown of Kempten (Germany) that educates children with learning disabilities. As a result of this, the driver grid for round 6 consisted of only 23 racers
As always, the online events used the Race Royale format over 15 laps. Here, post Lap 3, the last driver in the end of each lap is eliminated. The pressure builds until only 12 racers remain, leaving a single-lap sprint to the finish line.
Race – Challenge grid
At Corner 1, Rokit Venturi’s Jacob Reid,from lower down the grid, caused a traffic jam, causing Muller and Brljak to be spun around, pushing them to P16 and P17 respectively. This gave Kevin Siggy a clear shot at the lead. Meanwhile BMW iAndretti’s Cem Bolukbasi was now P4, after starting at P10.
In Lap 2, Mahindra Racing’s Marcus Keller, who was P11, hit the wall and spun out, causing him to drop down to P15. Going into Lap 3, Kevin Siggy was still in the lead, followed by Nissan E.Dams’ Jan Von Der Hyde a full 4.4 seconds behind in P2 and Cem BolukBasi another 0.5 seconds behind, in P3. Down the line, Brljak and Mueller were in P11 and P13 respectively. By the end of the lap, Audi ABT Schaeffler’s Verena Mei was the first to be eliminated.
Lap 6, and the order remained virtually unchanged, except for Mueller having gained a place. Up front, Siggy was able to stretch his lead further, and was now close to 7 seconds ahead of Von Der Hyde. Meanwhile, third-placed Bolukbasi, close to a second behind Von Der Hyde, was now coming under pressure from Tag Heuer Porsche’s Joshua Rogers.
At the halfway mark, Lucas Mueller had now dropped to P12, while Brljak was now P10, although 3 seconds behind Audi Abt Schaeffler’s Alisdair Irvine. But going into Corner 10 of Lap 9, Mueller was able to take advantage of a mistake by Scott Sovik, and snatch P11.
Coming into lap 10, Siggy was now almost 9 seconds ahead of Von Der Hyde, who himself was 2 seconds clear of Bolukbasi. Other than the jostle between Joshua Rogers and Peyo Peev (P4 and P5, respectively) all the other drivers had nearly a second’s gap from each other.
Lap 11 had Bolukbasi spun out going into the Corner 10 hairpin, finally letting a persistent Joshua Rogers through, and into P3. Unsurprisingly, Bolukbasi was immediately hounded by Peyo Peev, a measly 0.355 seconds behind. Down the pack, Brljak was under attack from Muller, with quite a bit of wheel-to-wheel contact between the two.
In the penultimate lap, Markus Keller would be the last driver to be eliminated. With a lap-and-a-half to go, Irvine was putting everything on the line to keep Brljak and Muller behind. The last lap started with Brljak just briefly passing Irvine, before losing his momentum in the Corner 2 right-hander.
Ultimately, it was BMW iAndretti’s Kevin Siggy who took the win, his third pole-to-flag victory this season. In second place was Nissan E.Dams’ Jan Von Der Hyde, a whopping 12.246 seconds behind the leader, with Tag Heuer Porsche’s Joshua Rogers rounding off the podium.
The win gave Siggy yet another boost, as he now had 129 points, a huge gap from Peyo Peev’s 76 and Lucas Mueller’s 73.
Race – Drivers grid
The race started with Mercedes-Benz Eq’s Stoffel Vandoorne coming out unscathed from the chaos in the first corner, which also pushed BMW iAndretti’s Max Gunther to the back of the grid, with Tag Heuer Porsche’s Neel Jani in second place and Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s Mitch Evans in third.
Going into lap 2, and Vandoorne was already 4.134 seconds ahead of Jani, who was just half-a-second ahead of DS Techeetah’s Antonio Felix Da Costa, with Mitch Evans now having fallen to P6. The next lap saw Nio 333 Racing’s Oliver Turvey take the advantage of a scuffle between Tag Heuer Porsche’s Andre Lotterer and Nissan E.Dams’ Sebastien Buemi to slip past Lotterer and into P9. The very next corner saw DS Techeetah’s Jean Eric Vergne hit the inside and spin out, not only dropping from P12 to P21, but also sustaining repeated battering from all the racers behind him. The resultant damage, though not visible, would surely have a adverse effect on the car’s handling.
Lap 4 and Wehrlein was now in P4, giving a hard time to Nissan E.Dams’ Oliver Rowland, who was the winner in the previous round at Berlin. This situation with the front-runners stayed about the same going into Lap 7 as well, with Vandoorne now having capitalised his lead to a solid 5.3 seconds over Jani, with Rowland and Wehrlein scarcely a second apart. Down the line Wehrlein’s Mahindra Racing teammate Jerome D’Ambrosio was facing elimination, with Vergne just one spot ahead.
At the halfway mark, the gap between Rowland and Jani had now spread to over 2 seconds, with Wehrlein still snapping at Rowland’s heels. Lap 9 saw Gunther climbing to P12, just ahead of teammate Alexander Sims in P13. But soon, Envision Virgin Racing’s Robin Frijns passed Sims. Meanwhile, Vandoorne was a good 6 seconds ahead of Jani, who himself was close to 2 seconds ahead of Rowland. Wehrlein, still in P4, had his work cut out for him, as anything less than a podium here could lower his chances that much of retaining his championship lead, especially considering the double-points’ stakes of the grand finale.
Stepping into the final third of the race, Neel Jani let his concentration slip for just a moment in the Corner 6-7 chicane, which was all the time needed for both Rowland and Wehrlein to pass him, snatching P2 and P3 respectively. This turn of events was a second wind for Wehrlein, as he played his cards right for Corner 10, and snatched P2 from Rowland, amid quite a scuffle. Hence, starting Lap 12, Wehrlein now had his eyes firmly set on Vandoorne, who was a daunting 11.88 seconds ahead.
Entering the penultimate lap, and Vandoorne was flying through, having spread his lead to roughly 15 seconds ahead of the competition, while Rowland was at his aggressive best with regards to Wehrlein’s hypothetical rear bumper. Going into the final lap, and a particularly cheeky move from Jani trying to get the inside line on Rowland in Corner 1 backfired, with him spinning out and dropping two places. Meanwhile Rowland was still hot on Wehrlein’s tail, trying all he could from a scant 0.386 seconds away.
Ultimately, it was Mercedes-Benz Eq’s Stoffel Vandoorne who took the win, a staggering 17 seconds ahead of Mahindra Racing’s Pascal Wehrlein, with Oliver Rowland in third place. Vandoorne’s victory now puts him just a single point behind Wehrlein in the overall championship standings, adding that much excitement to the double-header grand finale to be held throughout the first weekend of June.