Race Recap: Monaco E-Prix
Written by Olivia Hartley, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
An early start in Monaco, arising from a different schedule meant both FP1 and FP2 took place on the morning of race day. And this meant teams had no overnight data to analyse, which did shake up the pecking order later. The winner of today’s race demonstrates this, having had a lack of performance through practice and the qualifying session.
Mitch Evans went fastest of the first session of the day, setting a time of 1:30.361s, with reigning champion Vandoorne not far off, finishing 0.126s behind. Evans started the day slowly, as mechanics continued working on his car at the start of the session, despite the session getting underway. Evans only just lost out at Monaco last season, and was keen to secure the win this year, and his performance today certainly suggested that was possible.
Andretti driver Andre Lotterer caused a yellow flag after going off at Mirabeau. As a result, all Porsche-powered cars were grounded for the first half of the session to check systems, making it difficult for the quartet of drivers to make full use of the session. Di Grassi then brought out another yellow flag, induced by a spin at Sainte-Devote. He struggled to get going, but managed to limp back to the garage. Nonetheless, these incidents impacted the session, with drivers unable to set faster lap times due to the repeated yellow flags.
Gunther topped this session with a record breaking 1m29.269s; the fastest time Formula E has seen during a full length Monaco circuit, and six tenths quicker than Evans pole position time from last season. However, Evans was only 0.007s behind, adding on to his strong performance from FP1. Cassidy had limited running, as he complained about ‘massive vibrations’ under braking. He eventually got back out on track, but finished 21st.
Qualifying for the Monaco E Prix got underway with Group A out on track. DS Penke teammates Jean-Eric Vergne and Stoffel Vandoorne started strong, going quickest early in the session. However, both were later under investigation for technical infringement, and soon had all their lap times deleted due to a tyre pressure violation. As a result, they were consigned to the back row of the grid. Current championship leader Pascal Wehrlein failed to make it through to duels, and so started 11th in the race.
Group B then took to the famed street circuit, and it was Max Gunther who topped the session immediately after finishing top of FP2; a promising and consistent performance. Last year’s race winner Antonio Felix Da Costa had a slow start, reporting front left damage, forcing him back to his team garage. He made it back out but finished the session in 10th, and would start only 19th for the race.
A surprise in the duels stage saw Nissan’s Norman Nato knock out the pole position favourite, and last year’s pole-sitter Mitch Evans. Sergio Sette Camara initially outperformed Gunther, but was later under investigation for a traffic light incident upon the start of the duel. His lap time was deleted, and Gunther went through instead.
During the semi finals, Sacha Fenestraz set a record breaking lap time of 1:28.77s, beating his teammate Nato by a sizable margin. This became the fastest lap set at Monaco in a Formula E car, on the full length circuit.
The final saw two rookies fight it out for pole position, with Fenestraz up against McLaren’s Jake Hughes. Hughes made a mistake coming out of the tunnel, slipping wide across the Nouvelle Chicane, costing him a chance at pole.
Fenestraz did enough to secure pole with a time of 1:29.131s; not quite the record he set in the previous round, but still the fastest pole time seen at Monaco in FE. However, it was later found that the Nissan driver exceeded the regulatory limit for power usage (350kW) during the final, and he was penalised with a lap time deletion, leaving Hughes to inherit pole position.
Although Hughes initially held the lead, it was Nick Cassidy and Mitch Evans who quickly became the stars of the show. Cassidy made a strong comeback, after starting from 9th on the grid, and quickly climbing up the order into the lead, with several great overtaking moves.
This came as a surprise after finishing both Free Practice sessions down in 21st, and the New Zealander was happy to achieve 10th in qualifying. Similarly, Mitch Evans started sixth, but spent most of his race battling it out with Hughes at the front. The requirement to leave the racing line in order to take the attack mode twice during a race caused several position switches between the two.
The race was packed with incidents. Lotterer was out of the race after an early crash at the final corner. Later, Rowland crashed at the chicane, losing his front wing. Dan Ticktum suffered damage after nudging the rear of Nato at Rascasse, the Frenchman also suffering damage as a result. Gunther hit the rear of Ticktum up Beau Rivage, forcing the Maserati driver to come to a stop at turn three and bring out the safety car.
Ultimately, it was Nico Mueller and his crash that decided the fate of Cassidy and Evans. During the final few laps, Mueller attempted to defend from Sam Bird, and ended up in the wall. This forced the race to finish under a safety car, and saved Cassidy from further potential attack from Evans.
Other notable events included Vergne making up 15 positions during the race, having started from the back row, highlighting the difference between an FE and an F1 race, particularly at Monaco. The FE cars are much smaller (1.7m wide) with the potential to even be four cars wide at some points along the street circuit. This leads to a lot more wheel-to-wheel racing, and ultimately more overtaking, something that a race at Monaco often lacks.
In addition, the previous championship leader Pascal Wehrlein failed to score any points in today’s race. Cassidy’s win saw him take the championship lead, and heads into the second half of the season with a 21-point cushion over the rest of the field.