Written by Umut Yelbaşı, Edited by William Stephens
(All images courtesy of Extreme E)
Last Sunday saw the epic three-way battle for the 2022 Extreme E series championship between Rosberg X Racing, X44, and Acciona | Sainz Racing, of which X44’s Sébastien Loeb and Cristina Gutiérrez were the eventual winners.
The team narrowly missed out on a Season 1 championship due to having fewer wins than RXR, and were hungry for redemption. After some tough battles and setbacks, it all came down to the wire at the season's final race in Uruguay.
Last Sunday, X44 Vida Carbon Racing finished third by half a second in the Uruguay Natural Energy X Prix to secure championship glory in a Final that went right down to the wire, with ABT CUPRA XE securing a maiden X Prix victory.
Lewis Hamilton's outfit entered a Final that was missing three of the top four teams in the championship standings, including championship leaders RXR, who were disqualified from the Crazy Race following a switch bay violation.
It was clear from the start that the Final would be no easy task for X44. ABT CUPRA's Nasser Al-Attiyah and Veloce's Kevin Hansen surrounded Loeb as the trio approached the opening sequence of corners.
Loeb seemed to have taken the lead after a fantastic move that allowed him to carry his speed through a wider line until Al-Attiyah surged up the inside to steal first.
With the title on the line, Loeb kept Al-Attiyah within reach, but as the leading teams tussled for supremacy, McLaren's Tanner Foust timed his attack perfectly, charging through to overtake Loeb for second place.
Championship glory slipped further and further away from the challengers, as Timmy Hansen managed to get past the recovering Loeb to secure third for Andretti United. He defended hard, keeping Loeb behind, as the teams approached the Switch Zone where Gutiérrez, taking over from Loeb, would pick up the fight with Catie Munnings, taking over from Hansen.
A five-second penalty for Veloce Racing, from Kevin Hansen hitting a waypoint flag on his stint, took the pressure off X44 from behind, but they still had Andretti’s Munnings to overtake.
Gutiérrez attacked into every corner but was struggling to gain enough ground on Munnings up ahead. She was also under investigation for a collision with Veloce Racing's Molly Taylor, for which X44 would receive a five-second penalty later.
Just as time seemed to be running out for X44 Vida Carbon Racing, a seven-second penalty came through for Genesys Andretti United Extreme E for speeding in the Switch Zone.
With some more weight off Gutiérrez’s shoulders, she managed her gap to Munnings and crossed the line in fourth, within two seconds of Andretti. As their closest rivals watched on from the paddock, Sébastien Loeb and Cristina Gutiérrez secured the podium finish needed to take their maiden Extreme E title, just two points clear of RXR in the standings, having bagged a crucial five points from the Continental Traction Challenge in Qualifying 2.
Behind the tussling Gutiérrez and Munnings was Veloce Racing. Fifth place marked an impressive turnaround for the team and an amazing comeback from Molly Taylor as she returns to the Extreme E championship and competitive ways.
Further up the field, a measured drive from Klara Andersson kept Emma Gilmour in her mirrors as the NEOM McLaren Extreme E driver chased a maiden podium for the team. Gilmour secured second, while Andersson and Al-Attiyah's performances earned ABT CUPRA XE their first X Prix win and back-to-back podiums during the pair's first Extreme E campaign.
Cristina Gutiérrez said the following after their championship win: “I still can’t believe it! It was a very tough weekend for us, especially after my roll yesterday. The team did a crazy job with the (spare) car and Qualifying 2 was the first time we had driven it."
"As for the Final, on the radio, they told me someone was going to be penalised but still I didn’t know. I wanted to be sure that we won so I did not celebrate before it was official. It was a rollercoaster, but it is much better than that for us as we can now believe in what we have achieved."