Jake Dennis in the #27 BMW i Andretti Motorsport iFE.21 scored his first-ever Formula E win in Valencia, Spain on Sunday, April 25, starting from the pole and leading the entire race. The Formula E rookie had scored his first-ever points when he finished eighth in the Saturday race. His teammate Maximilian Günther had a difficult weekend at Valencia, sliding off course and exiting the rain-soaked Saturday race, and finishing twelfth after starting from the back of the pack on Sunday.
The Valencia circuit is a closed-course race track, unlike the street circuits on which Formula E normally runs. The series had tested at the track, but had not raced there before this event.
Dennis set the fastest time in Sunday qualifying to reach his first super-pole session, and he then went on to set the fastest time among the four racers who made it into super pole. He managed his energy and his attack modes well, holding off Mahindra’s Alex Lynn early in the race, and then, when Lynn fell back after he was hit, maintaining the lead for the entire distance. He won ahead of Porsche’s Andre Lotterer and Lynn, who recovered from the shunt to claim the final podium position. Günther’s qualifying time was disallowed as race control said that he exceeded track limits. As a result, he started from the back, working his way through traffic to finish twelfth at the end.
Dennis said, “I am lost for words. The whole race inside the cockpit was incredibly technical. Pulling a gap at the right point to get attack mode was so crucial. Everyone in the team did a great job. I’m really happy for everybody. We had such a tough start to the season, but today we turned it around. We are back in it again.”
Saturday’s race started in the rain behind the Mini Electric Pacesetter safety car. Günther started second, having qualified on a dry track, but fell back as he could not keep up with the front runners in wet race conditions. He eventually slid off under braking, ending his race in a gravel trap. His off-course excursion brought out one of five safety car periods during the race. Each time the safety car runs energy is reduced for all competitors, so that racers do not have excess energy available near the end. When race leader Antonio Felix da Costa (DS Techeetah) crossed the start-finish line just after the final caution period ended, there was enough time left to run two additional laps; races run 45 minutes plus one lap. Many teams had counted on one remaining lap. The combination of energy reductions and team miscalculations left about half the pack without enough energy to finish the race. As a result, a number of racers fell back, and those that managed to cross the line were almost out of energy or had exceeded the allowable energy limits. Just nine racers were classified as finishing. Dennis was classified eighth after a series of adjustments were made by the organizers.
Formula E management pointed at the teams, saying that if da Costa had slowed the pack for just another fifteen seconds before he crossed the start-finish line for the final restart, there would have been just one more lap; in that case fewer racers would have run out of energy. Racers countered that the organizers subtracted too much energy from them during caution periods. The results clearly have a negative impact on Formula E’s image and credibility; rules may be revisited in advance of the next round in Monaco on May 8.
Meanwhile, Formula E has announced the balance of its schedule for the season. After Monaco, the series will run in Puebla, Mexico on June 19–20, Brooklyn, New York, on July 11–12, London, England on July 24–25, and will finish in Berlin on August 14–15.—Brian Morgan
[Photos courtesy BMW Motorsport.]