Formula E is back – but the title race might already be over.
Antonio Felix Da Costa won both of the opening round of the Berlin season finale’s races to put one hand on the championship.
It marked his second and third win of the season and now his lead at the top appears unattainable as rivals such as Alexander Sims and Mitch Evans had disastrous outings.
However, trouble could be brewing at DS Techeetah with reigning two-time champ Jean-Eric Vergne struggling.
Here are all the key talking points from rounds six and seven of the Formula E season…
Da Costa dominates to lay down the gauntlet
After Round 6 last year Antonio Felix da Costa was leading the Drivers’ Championship by a single point – only to blink and score just eight more points in three races to wreck his title challenge. This time around the Portuguese looks a steelier, more determined figure after victory in Round 6 was replicated in Round 7 to cement his place at the top of the standings.
The 28-year-old dominated the rest of the field to open a whopping 68-point lead at the top of the Drivers’ Championship with four races across six days to go in the most intense season finale in motorsport history.
Da Costa admitted after Round 6 that he was feeling “a lot of pressure” at being labelled the championship favourite with still five races to go but he showed none of this on track with two Julius Baer pole positions and two wins from Rounds 6 and 7.
Formula E is famed for its unpredictability with equal opportunities for all drivers to win races thanks to uniform car components and a reverse qualifying format.
But with three poles and three wins in a row in a car that looks fiercely quick, few would bet against Da Costa bucking the trend and securing a first ever title in the all-electric series.
Former champions come to fore in Round 7
Nissan e.dams’ Sebastien Buemi and Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi had made steady starts to their title challenge prior to the Berlin races with only one podium each for the former championship winners.
But the pair showed all their experience and aptitude in Round 7 to grab podium finishes, with Buemi finishing second and Di Grassi third after holding off challenges from Envision Virgin Racing’s Robin Frijns and Mercedes-Benz EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne, the latter producing a stunning drive to rise eight places from 13th to finish fifth.
The result extended a stunning record for Di Grassi in Berlin, achieving six podiums in eight races for his German manufacturer on the track, putting the Brazilian in second place in the Drivers’ Standings. Buemi, meanwhile, has now lost his record of being the only driver to win three consecutive races in Formula E.
Trouble in paradise at DS
The DS team were set for a 1-2 finish in Round 6 with Jean-Eric Vergne starting in second place behind pole setter Da Costa, however the reigning champion’s race fell apart with just minutes to go as his pace fell away forcing him down to eighth and then into the pits after a collision with Lucas di Grassi.
Vergne was left frustrated with his team after the race, with reports claiming that the team plan was to run close together with Da Costa to fend off competition, something the Portuguese did not adhere to.
And all eyes will be on the rivalry between the pair – the reigning champion and the likely challenger – for the final races in what is looking like an intriguing subplot for the season.
Formula E takes moment to reflect with #PositivelyCharged
Ahead of the Championship’s return the paddock paid an emotional tribute to those affected by the global coronavirus pandemic and renewed its commitment to delivering a better future for all through racing.
With the world having changed immeasurably since through coronavirus and the fight against discrimination, the sport made a statement of intent through a moving, visual show of solidarity.
Led by Chief Executive Officer of Formula E Jamie Reigle, the paddock engaged in a one-minute’s silence to reflect on lives lost during the pandemic and the healthcare heroes fighting the virus every day. Each person then used their phone to light up the night for a striking photo revealing the series’ #PositivelyCharged message of inclusivity and a brighter future for people of all backgrounds.
Mercedes-Benz EQ also raced and will continue to race in an all-black livery in Berlin, representing the stand against racism and discrimination.
- Watch Round 8 of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in Berlin live on BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button & BBC Sport website and Eurosport 2 at 18:00 BST on Saturday 8 August.
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