Stoffel Vandoorne felt the whole opening race of the Rome ePrix weekend was compromised by a tangle with Andre Lotterer just after the start, with the Belgian feeling his move on the first racing lap at turn seven was an unnecessary one.
Having qualified on pole position earlier in the day, the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team driver led the field away after the safety car left the track, but TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team’s Lotterer attacked at turn seven and pushed Vandoorne off the track. He re-joined down in thirteenth position and was tasked at climbing back through the field.
“That was an unfortunate race all round, but for me it was compromised from lap one,” said Vandoorne. “It was a bit of an unnecessary risk from Lotterer to attempt the overtake in turn 7, especially as the track conditions were still very slippery and damp at the start.
“That dropped me back to around P13, but from then on, I had a good race. I managed to overtake a lot of cars, we had a good strategy with the attack mode, and the pace was also really good.”
Vandoorne had recovered back into the top five, but the Belgian’s race was to come to a crushing end when, while avoiding a slowing Lucas di Grassi, he hit a raised manhole cover and struck the wall. He was also hit from behind by team-mate Nyck de Vries, with both Mercedes drivers ending their day in the incident.
“I was able to carve my way back through the field and had sight of the podium again,” said the Belgian. “But then di Grassi had that sudden slowdown in turn six, which is the quickest corner of the circuit.
“I had to take avoiding action, the car hit a bump in the road and took off, leaving me as just a passenger. It was a mighty crash. Luckily, I am all right, but the car is obviously damaged quite a lot.
“It’s not a nice feeling to finish the day like that, especially after starting on pole position. We have been competitive all day, so today was a missed opportunity to score some big points.”
“A very unfortunate outcome to what had been quite a good race” – Nyck de Vries
Team-mate de Vries felt like he was on course for some big points before the incident, although he hopes the team can identify the reason to why he lost some pace in the closing laps.
The Dutchman was in contention for the podium all day long in Rome but dropped a few positions just prior to the crash that took both himself and Vandoorne out of the ePrix. As a result of his failure to finish, he lost the lead in the Drivers’ Championship to Sam Bird.
“That was a very unfortunate outcome to what had been quite a good race up to that point,” said de Vries. “I stayed on track, stayed out of trouble and actually had a solid race until then.
“Just towards the end, I was starting to lose a bit of pace, which is something we need to analyse. I was able to follow the guys in front of us quite comfortably for the whole race, but on the last three laps I was losing some speed.
“Still, it’s a massive shame it ended up like that because I think we could have brought very big points home for the team and for us in the drivers’ championship. It was a very unfortunate incident, but one we could do nothing about. It is the way it is.
“Still, tomorrow is a new day, and we get another chance.”