Written by Olly Radley, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
After Formula E’s longest season yet, the championship’s 8th season terminates in Seoul this weekend, for the first ever Seoul E-Prix and the Formula E Season 8 finale.
Following on from the London E-Prix, the Formula E circus heads east to South Korea for the debut Seoul E-Prix: the final race of Season 8. The Seoul E-Prix has been a highly anticipated event that’s been in the making for years. Having made an initial agreement with Formula E in 2018, the Seoul E-Prix was due to take place from 2020 to 2025. As we know, Covid then hit the world and South Korea was hit badly. The ongoing 2020 season closed in an epic Berlin finale at the Tempelhof Airport with 6 races taking place in 9 days to see off the remainder of the season after a long-break due to the global lockdowns.
In 2021, as things began to return to normal, Formula E revealed its calendar with Seoul marked as one of the venues for the upcoming season. However, due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation in Korea, the race was once again cancelled and taken off of the calendar. Flash forward to 2022, and finally, after such a long wait, the Seoul E-Prix is here.
The 2.6km Seoul street circuit works its way through the Seoul Olympic park, and even winds through the Jamsil Baseball stadium in front of a crowd of spectators. The stadium usually fills to a capacity of 25,000 people, so it’ll be great to see a big turn out from fans all over the Pacific-Asian region. Following on from the technical 8-corner stadium section, the track opens up into a faster section with longer corners and 2 grand straights. Accompanied with 90 degree corners to conjoin the straights, the track races through the olympic park, before heading onto the starting straight. It is important to note though, that the start and finish lines are at different points on the circuit. The start line comes before the final corner, while the finish line is just 1 corner later. The pits are on the finish straight, with the entry on the inside of 22 and the exit rejoining the track just before the cars wind left into Turn 2.
The only big news to come out of the 2-week hiatus post-London was a broken hand suffered by Jaguar’s Sam Bird. The Briton, currently 13th in the championship, has had a tough year and won’t be in the car this weekend in Seoul. Former ROKiT Venturi driver and current Jaguar reserve driver, Norman Nato, has been called in to replace the injured Sam Bird. Nato took his one and only win in last season’s finale in Berlin after a pretty poor year for the rookie Frenchman.
Of course with the championship not yet decided and it being the season finale, the championship battle will be the main focus of the weekend. While 4 people are mathematically in contention for the title, it’s only really a 3-horse race and even then, there’s a clear favourite for the championship out of those 3. Stoffel Vandoorne sits atop the standings on 185 points ahead of Jaguar’s Mitch Evans who’s behind by 36 on 149 while Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara lies 3rd on 144. The 4th man, Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne, is mathematically in contention by 1 point, but if any of the top 3 were to score points, then the Frenchman would be out of the race.
While Evans is significantly behind Vandoorne heading into Seoul, that is not reflective of Mitch’s performance in London. Bad qualifying was a running theme for Jaguar on both Saturday and Sunday, meaning the Kiwi started 14th on both days. Despite this disadvantage, Evans worked his way up the field on both days to recover from his poor starting position. On Saturday, it was a complete success for Mitch, not leaving anything on the table and pushing up into the points. While he benefited slightly from the over-ambition of others on the brakes, as well as penalties and energy miscalculations, it was a great drive. His rival Vandoorne meanwhile was more fortunate, starting and finishing in 2nd.
While Mitch started 14th once again on Sunday, Vandoorne started on the same row as him in 13th and the stage was set for the two championship protagonists to fight for vital points towards their championships. Throughout the race, it was a similar story to Saturday for Evans, although this time he had to deal with his rival following his every move and mirroring his moves to similarly work his way towards the front. Come the final stages of the race, Evans was 4th, unable to progress to the podium but seconds clear of Vandoorne in 5th. This was good enough to reduce the gap to 22 points, perfectly setting up what would surely be a thrilling finale in Seoul. That was until tragedy struck Evans just like last season. A brake-by-wire issue on his Jaguar ended his race from 4th, and the Kiwi had to watch his championship rival inherit his position and extend the championship lead to 36 points. A devastating end to a brilliant race.
London was no fun for the other two championship hopefuls either. Mortara suffered front wing damage on Lap 1 on Saturday, putting him nearly a lap down on the leaders and out of the running. Vergne struggled to 14th. It would be JEV’s turn to suffer a Lap 1 collision on Sunday, though, getting spun around by Jaguar’s Sam Bird, and ending both his race and his hopes of a 3rd Formula E championship. Mortara fought for points towards the end of the race, but only managed 13th.
That leads us into Seoul. The odds are very much in Vandoorne’s favour going and the Belgian will feel less pressure with his comfortable points lead. If either Evans or Mortara want to mount a challenge, they will need to produce two outstanding races and bank on Vandoorne not performing well. If either of the challengers cannot reduce the gap to 29 on Saturday, then they’d be out of contention. Their competition is no slacker either: Vandoorne is a fierce opponent and has been pointless only once this season in Mexico, where he finished 11th. He has finished in the Top 5 in 11 of the 14 races so far. As I said, the odds are really in Stoffel’s favour.
In the teams’ championship, it’s once again a 4-way race with only really 3 competitors. Like in the drivers’ championship, it’s Mercedes-EQ on top with 291 points as they enter their final Formula E race before they transition into McLaren next season. ROKiT Venturi are in 2nd by some way on 255, while DS Techeetah are 3rd with 244. Jaguar TCS Racing are the stragglers in the race for the teams’ championship in 4th with 200 points. Like in the drivers’ championship, it’s looking hard for Mercedes to lose their lead.
Elsewhere in the field, Andretti had their best weekend of the season in London, with Jake Dennis showing blistering pace on both Saturday and Sunday, shocking the field. A double-pole for the Briton was converted into 1st on Saturday and 2nd on Sunday. Even teammate Oliver Askew showed good pace in the sister car collecting 12 points in 4th from only his 2nd points score of the season. A 63-point haul for Andretti Autosport meant they scored more points in London alone than they had throughout the season. This has closed them right onto the back of Porsche in the Teams’ standings and Andretti head to Seoul 16 points away from the German outfit.
Even if you’re not a Formula E fan, make sure to tune in to the season finale at Seoul. It’s sure to be a thriller (albeit very early in the morning for Europe). That’s it from me then, so goodbye for now.