When the Formula E field touched down at Marrakesh on Saturday, Antonio Felix da Costa cruised to victory on the streets of the fourth largest city in the Kingdom of Morocco.
Just two weeks after the action-packed Mexico ePrix, the 2019/2020 FIA ABB Formula E Championship headed to Marrakesh, Round 5 of the season. The race did not fail to entertain by delivering a thrilling finish to the flag.
In a race where energy management played a major role Antonio Felix da Costa has become the fifth different winner of the season. The sixth edition of the fully-electric championship has been no exception to the previous seasons with its closly-matched, thrilling, entertaining races so far.
The season kicked off at Saudi Arabia in November when the field returned to the historic surrounds of Diriyah for the double-header season opener. Sam Bird became the first winner of the season with a heroic performance before another Brit Alexander Sims secured his second Formula E triumph on the following day in Riyadh.
When teams and drivers travelled to Santiago, Chile, Maximilian Guenther proved to be the fastest to become the youngest winner of Formula E. The new round in Mexico has produced Formula E’s one of the most unpredictable races so far with Mitch Evans claiming the victory at the end of a closly-matched fight.
Taking the title lead with his win at Marrakesh, Antonio Felix da Costa praised the work his team had conducted while preparing for the fifth round of the 2019/2020 FE season. The Portuguese driver finished last weekend’s race 11.427s in front of Maximilian Guenther, but he stressed that his fight for the win was far from straightforward.
"The win today was down to the team. They gave me an amazing car and we are working together to improve. The race was actually much harder than it looked. I had to be very brave and clever when making any moves. At one point, I had to let Max get really close and push him into using extra energy, while with the second ATTACK MODE I was preventing Andre from getting within touching distance. In the end it worked out perfectly!"
A heroic fightback
After a problematic start to the season, reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne managed to fight off fever with valiant drive through the field to pick-up his first podium place of the season. The Frenchman described the Marrakesh E-Prix as his „hardest race of my entire career.”
" Despite not being able to take part in practice yesterday, I had been watching everyone from hospital. I was still not feeling well today, but the team did an excellent job. During the race I just put my head down and gave it my all. When my engineer told me midway through the race that I was in fourth, I could not believe it.”
The race produced a dramatic end with positions changes with only two corners left. The two-time FE champion was also battling hard with Maximilian Guenther for the second place on the rostrum before he had to yield in the dying moments. „I had a good fight with Max near the end… but I was sure he was going to overtake me eventually. I tried to defend second place as much as I could, however I did not have the energy left in the car. I am pleased to be back on the podium."
At a circuit that has not traditionally favoured ROKiT Venturi Racing, Edoardo Mortara and Felipe Massa made important progress in practice en route to qualifying. Mortara secured the fifth position in the Super Pole segment, but Felipe Massa only qualified himself 20th after suffering from braking issues during the practice session.
As the technical issues continued to impact Massa throughout the race, the Brazilian only finished in 17th despite to the early progress he made at the start of the race.
“Issues under braking really harmed my weekend. I had front locking throughout which meant that I was not able to stop the car in the right way. From here, I couldn’t take the optimum line through corners and sometimes I did not make the corner. We need to analyse the car because it felt very different here compared to other races this season. If we can understand the issue, I’m confident that we can score good points in the coming races,” the Brazilian said.
Expensive lesson for Mercedes
After failing to score a single point in Chile, the Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team had hoped for better fortunes in Marrakesh. However, the ePrix turned out to be another hard race for the new team. The German outfit finished the fifth round of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in Morocco out of the points. Nyck de Vries ended the Marrakesh E-Prix in P11 and Stoffel Vandoorne was in P15.
Although de Vries went through to contest the Super Pole segment of the qualifying session, his race was badly hampered by a technical infringement. The Dutchman was given a drive-through penalty for overstepping the regeneration limits that meant he rejoined the field in the second-to-last position after serving his penalty. According to the team the technical gremlin was down to an „issue with the motor control software”.
Team Principal Ian James was clearly less than happy with the outcome of another challenging race for Mercedes.
"Today was not our luckiest of days. Nyck got a drive through penalty for overstepping the regeneration limits. That was clearly not his fault and it cost him a well-deserved finish far higher up the ranks. For us, there is a lot to take home from this set-back today. We have to get rid of our own mistakes to leave decisions where they belong: on the track. But we will definitely pull everything together and regroup for the next race,” he said.
Da Costa at the top
After five rounds in the 2019/2020 season, DS Techeetah driver Antonio Felix da Costa leads the Drivers’ Championship with 67 points. The Portuguese has scored a victory and two second-place finishes so far in the first five races. Behind the current leader is Mitch Evans who has 56 points to his name, scoring the majority of his championship units with his win in Mexico and his third-place finish in Chile.
Alexander Sims sits in the third position with a victory to his name, followed by Maximilian Guenther who has become the youngest winner in Formula E at Santiago.
When it comes to the teams, it was the DS Techeetah team that has performed the best so far. The Chinese-French outfit leads the Standings with 98 points followed by the BMW i Andretti Motorsport squad. The German team is the only one to have scored two wins in the first five rounds. Mainly thanks to Mitch Evans’s win in Mexico and his third-place finish in Santiago, Panasonic Jaguar Racing sits in the third spot with 66 points. The NIO 333 FE Team is the only squad to have failed to score a single championship point.