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Stoffel Vandoorne EXCLUSIVE: “My mind’s there [Seoul] already, I’m on the plane”

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Credit: Simon Galloway courtesy of FIA Formula E

Stoffel Vandoorne is one-step closer to becoming the 2022 ABB FIA Formula E World Drivers’ Champion, after a remarkable comeback drive saw the Belgian driver extend his lead to thirty-six points. Vandoorne goes to the season finale in Seoul with one hand virtually on the championship trophy.

The Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team driver had a disastrous Sunday morning, where he qualified in thirteenth-place after failing to make it to the duels. However, luck was clearly on the Vandoorne’s side, as all three of his championship rivals also failed to make it past the qualifying groups.

In the race, Vandoorne calved his way through the field behind main-title rival Mitch Evans, who was in need of strong points to reduce his deficit to the Mercedes driver. The duo looked set to finish fourth and fifth, with Vandoorne in the latter position. With two minutes two go, though, Evans’ car suddenly shut-off! Vandoorne watched on as his main title threat pulled off the circuit at the Custom House chicane, meaning that the Belgian driver inherited an incredible fourth-place finish.

There was yet further outstanding news for Vandoorne, as the other two title challengers, Jean-Éric Vergne and Edoardo Mortara, also both failed to finish in the points. It was a champions drive from Vandoorne, who told The Checkered Flag after the race that he actually had to overcome a “little bit of damage” during the E-Prix.

“Yeah, it was a fun race, to be honest. Although my car was a little bit damaged after the race and the mechanics have a little bit of work to do. But it was a good race considering where I started. Made my life a little bit more difficult after qualifying, to be fair. But yeah, on a day like today, when there was so much carnage in the first couple of laps, I managed to avoid everything and I managed to make some great overtakings as well to come through the field. So it’s been a good day.”

With his rivals failing to score any serious points across the weekend, and with Vandoorne seriously extending his championship lead, some might say it was the “perfect weekend” for the Mercedes driver. Vandoorne thought otherwise.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a perfect weekend. I think if I didn’t mess up my qualifying then I probably would have been on the podium again today, so it could have been better.”

Evans and Vandoorne both drove superbly on Sunday, given that they started from the seventh-row of the grid at the London ExCeL Centre. Evans told TCF that he felt like he had a problem a couple of laps before his car shut-down, Vandoorne; however, had “no awareness” that his rival was suffering from a serious issue.

The Belgian driver admitted that he felt sorry for Evans, after what he called an impressive “recovery drive” just like his own.

“No awareness of the problem, to be honest. I just saw him lock up and turn one once in front of me, and then I think about two laps later or something, he suddenly kind of came to a stop or something, so don’t really know what went on. It’s really a shame to see him lose a good result like that because he’s been having an amazing race as well.

“He’s been there all season as well and often struggled a bit more in qualifying, but the recovery drive that he’s been able to do has been impressive. And today was another one like those. I was following him through and yeah, I just feel sorry for him.”

Vandoorne has two weeks to wait until the season finale double-header at the Seoul E-Prix; however, he admitted that his “mind’s already there” as he sets his eyes on claiming the crown.

“My mind’s there already, it’s on the plane,” Vandoorne joked.

“I’m going to have a beer tonight and then I’ll be in the simulator this week. So Thursday, Friday. So, yeah, I think we’ll debrief this race first. Try and take the positives and the negatives and then go to Seoul.”

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