Two comeback drives that saved Vandoorne’s Formula E season

The first Berlin race in May and the Marrakesh round in July were two races that made Stoffel Vandoorne’s Formula E title clinching weekend in Seoul comfortable as opposed to nerve-wracking.

The Mercedes EQ driver ultimately cruised to his first ever world championship by 33 points from Mitch Evans, but it could have been very different had he entered the last event without the 19 points he collated at the two aforementioned races.

They were performances that ultimately made his title bid a success because he fought back to accrue points despite a poor start that dropped him into the midfield at Tempelhof and then a cataclysmic braking issue that anchored him to a 20th-place grid start in Morocco.

That he fought back to take a third and eighth place from the two races ultimately ensured that he was able to build the necessary buffer to capitalise on a variety of issues that nullified the title chances of first Jean-Eric Vergne, then Edoardo Mortara and then Evans as the races ticked away.

At the scene of his first Formula E victory in 2020, Vandoorne started the first Berlin race in a healthy eighth position after maintaining his then six from seven races record of making it to the knockout duel phase of qualifying.

But a poor start shuffled him back to 13th position on the opening lap. From there he scythed through the field, executing some clinical overtakes both on and off the attack boost.

By the end of the race, he was duelling with championship rivals Mortara and Vergne for a tilt at a second consecutive race win after his Monaco victory two weeks earlier.

Two comeback drives that saved Vandoorne’s Formula E season

“I think those moments definitely stand out, OK, it wasn’t a victory on that day, but it felt like it,” Vandoorne told The Race.

“I kind of recovered my championship a little bit that day because Edo was leading and he was one of my closest competitors and equally JEV was fighting for the win, too.

“It definitely felt like I pulled off something special there and managed to keep myself on track with the championship.”

In Marrakesh, Vandoorne’s qualifying fell apart with a brake material issue which had affected him on a few occasions earlier in the season.

The subsequent 20th position for the start threatened to derail his consistent momentum he had displayed throughout the campaign.

“I had a really bad qualifying, we struggled with the brakes from practice one,” said the new champion.

“It was not only in Marrakesh, but the brakes were also a bit of the story of my year, let’s say, as there were so many [practice] sessions where I struggled with brakes and differences with materials.

“For some reason, the team managed to kind of just fix it for qualifying by changing material or changing a process and gave me something to work with.

“So, in Marrakesh in some ways it didn’t surprise me that I qualified at the back because I knew it was coming that in one qualifying I was going to have a bad set of brakes and I wasn’t going to be able to do it. That’s exactly what happened there.”

Two comeback drives that saved Vandoorne’s Formula E season

It proved to be the tipping point for the team. After Marrakesh some new processes evolved to try to limit the issues with the split in material that cause such a variance in temperatures.

“I think after that the team realised how important it was and how serious my comments actually were about the severity of the problems,” adds Vandoorne.

“Since then, we’re doing some processes and got much better towards the end of the year.

“It is a very different kind of racing now where you basically have all the good guys at the front. To come back through [from 20th] and to finish eighth was definitely the best I could have done.

“Those four points, they might not seem like it made a difference to my campaign, but it certainly did.”

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