The Punta Del Este ePrix marked the end of the South American swing of the 2018-19 Formula E championship, and with it the half way point for this season.
Although the pre-season predictions had it as another battle between Lucas di Grassi and Sebastien Buemi, the form book has been thrown out of the window, as Sam Bird, Felix Rosenqvist and now Jean-Eric Vergne have led the driver’s championship.
With everything still to play for TCF decided to run the rule over this year’s drivers and see how they’ve performed so far.
Jean-Eric Vergne, 127 points, First
It’s hard to believe that before the last race of last season Jean-Eric Vergne had never won a race in Formula E. Since that win in Montreal the Frenchman has never looked back and now looks the strong favourite to become the fourth champion of the series in as many years. The key to building his impressive lead at the top of the standings has been his consistency. Like di Grassi and Buemi before him Vergne has scored regularly – finishing in the top five at every race, even in Mexico City when his car stopped telling him what his energy usage was. His defending has been robust at times, but effective, and his win in Uruguay from di Grassi looked like the drive of a champion.
Andre Lotterer, 18 points, Twelfth
Three races in and it was a case of must try harder for the three time Le Mans winner. Despite his undoubted pedigree he was clearly struggling to get to grips with all-electric racing, and basic errors had led to him either crashing out or being disqualified for leaving his car in an unsafe mode. His podium in Santiago seemed to be a turning point though as he helped Techeetah complete the first ever 1-2 finish in Formula E, and since then he has looked more competitive. However he is still to out qualify his team-mate, and given the clear pace in the Techeetah car you would expect him to have done better.
DS VIRGIN RACING
Sam Bird, 76 points, third
Sam Bird putting in consistently impressive drives have become a given in Formula E. Throughout his time in the series Bird has seemed to be a threat at the front of the field, yet DS Virgin Racing have never looked like having a car that was competitive enough to allow him to challenge for the championship. His win at the season opener in Hong Kong gave hope that this season could be different, but a disrupted race in Mexico City saw him finish well down the order and as such he finds himself in third place in the championship. With three podiums to his name already this season though there’s no doubt he has the potential to make a push for the title.
Alex Lynn, 17 points, thirteenth
After Lynn’s explosive debut in New York last year, where he grabbed pole in his first Formula E qualifying session, it’s no wonder he was given a race seat by Virgin. He’s found it tough going this season however, and despite scoring consistent points he’s lagging behind his team-mate Bird. There are encouraging signs that he’s on the verge of a break through however. He’s out qualified his fellow Brit in the last two races, getting into the super pole shootout both times in the process, and he had a career best finish of sixth in Punta Del Este. He’ll need to continue improving though if he’s going to hold on to his drive.
Sebastien Buemi, 52 points, fourth
Having challenged for the title in every season of Formula E it was strange to see Sebastien Buemi leave Hong Kong with just one point after two races. The usually imperious Swiss driver struggled with mechanical issues in the first race and then hit the wall in qualifying for the second race meaning he started at the back of the field. Things had to improve if he was to stay in the title hunt, and they did, with a run of three podiums hauling him back into contention. However a mistake in Uruguay saw him hit the wall again and resulted in another retirement, something he later apologised to his team for. He’s far from the form he’s shown in previous years, and while it is possible for him to catch the leading pack in the driver’s championship, it’s going to be an uphill struggle from here.
Nico Prost, 7 points, seventeenth
As poor as Buemi’s season has been, it’s been made to look far better when compared to Nico Prost’s results so far. There’s no doubting that this season’s Renault isn’t as competitive as in previous years, but the Frenchman has been well off the pace of his team-mate and has never looked in contention for a podium, never mind a win. While he has managed three points finishes none of them have been better than eighth place, and with Renault suffering in the team’s championship as a result you have to think this is his last season in Formula E unless results improve.
Maro Engel, 7 points, sixteenth
Having chosen to leave DTM to focus on Formula E it’s clear that Maro Engel wants to make the most of his opportunity at Venturi. With rumours of a tie-up with a major manufacturer it could be a competitive seat in future years, so he’ll be disappointed not to have impressed more so far this season. He’s shown few signs of the flashes of brilliance that he did last year, with his rookie team-mate taking most of the headlines. He is still comfortably faster than Mortara in qualifying though, holding a 5-1 record over the Swiss – all he needs to do is convert that form into more points finishes.
Edorado Mortara, 28 points, ninth
Edorado Mortara didn’t waste any time getting used to Formula E. He completed a masterful drive through the field in the season opener to charge from nineteenth to seventh, and then qualified on the front row for the second round in Hong Kong. While his error in the race undoubtedly costed him and Venturi their first victory in the series, the potential he showed was undoubted, which is why his season since then has been such a disappointment. He’s failed to qualify higher than fifteenth since Hong Kong, and although he recovered to eighth in the race in Mexico City that’s been it as far as points scoring has been. The Venturi is undoubtedly lacking speed compared to their competitors but it would be great to see Mortara show the same brilliance he displayed at the beginning of the season.
Antonio Felix da Costa, 16 points, fourteenth
After their disastrous run last season, Antonio Felix da Costa will be pleased to see an improvement in the Andretti car. The issues he faced under braking in 2016-17 seem to have been resolved thanks to the influence of BMW, and he’s qualified in the top ten three times including an appearance in the super pole shootout in Mexico City. Their race pace however is still lacking, and too often da Costa has slipped down the order as the race has progressed – something that both drivers have suffered with. Despite these issues though da Costa has led the team admirably, and will hope that things can only improve as BMW’s influence grows in the team.
Tom Blomqvist, 4 points, nineteenth
Tom Blomqvist’s season suffered an immediate blow when Andretti announced his debut would be delayed and that Kamui Kobayashi would drive for the team in Hong Kong. Having only carried out limited testing it left Blomqvist in an difficult position going into Marrakesh, but despite his lack of experience in Formula E he finished an impressive eighth. Things have got trickier since then, with Blomqvist behind his team-mate in terms of qualifying pace and not threatening the points positions in the last two races, but he will hope to improve as he gains more experience in the car.
Check back tomorrow for part two of our half term report.