Formula E’s first full permanent circuit races at Valencia will mainly be remembered for the energy levels fiasco at the end of the Saturday opener.
Putting that aside, how did the drivers actually perform in the sensible parts of the races? Sam Smith rates their efforts.
Antonio Felix da Costa – 7
Championship position: 14th
Da Costa was on imperious form in qualifying and initially created an air of ‘Berlin-style’ superiority in the new DS E-TENSE FE21 to claim his fifth Formula E pole.
His Saturday race was faultless and he defended expertly from a marauding Nyck de Vries, handling multiple safety car restarts with aplomb. Then came the final contentious energy-deduction-triggered disaster and a bitter disqualification.
On Sunday, just as da Costa thought his misfortune couldn’t get worse a bizarre ergonomic inspired issue falsely triggered his attack mode arming mechanism. This resulted in a race spoiling drivethrough penalty.
It meant he left Spain with zero points and another dent in his ambitions to follow team-mate Vergne in becoming a double Formula E champion.
Jean-Eric Vergne – 6
Championship position: 7th
Vergne seemed to bring the misery of his Sunday in Rome all the way to Spain after a low-key performance throughout the Saturday action in which he was never truly happy with his car whatever the conditions.
The truth was he never looked remotely in contention for points but by dint of an outrageously slow final lap (5m48s!) he was the ultimate electric zombie car and somehow took the final points allowable for ninth.
Sunday offered much more pace but still Vergne, celebrating his 31st birthday, was a shadow of the feisty proposition in previous races. Although in the leading group he faded to an unremarkable seventh at flagfall.
Sebastien Buemi – 6
Championship position: 22nd
Buemi’s awful start to the season continued at Valencia but it had started brightly with a season best grid slot of fourth for Saturday’s race.
That is where the positivity ended. He got harpooned, while fourth, by an errant Andre Lotterer at Turn 9 and that left him stuck in the gravel and out of the game on the second lap.
Sunday was equally wretched, despite a reasonable qualifying effort to place ninth.
He sustained damage thanks to an ambitious Stoffel Vandoorne move, which rendered the Nissan driver a bit-part player and a frustrated 11th place finisher.
Oliver Rowland – 8
Rowland’s mighty form continued in the Nissan e.dams squad’s final race with the old IM02 hardware and it ultimately produced his best result of the season with fourth on Sunday.
This came via a gutsy race after qualifying well, especially considering the ever-drying conditions, in eighth.
He raced intelligently, moving up the order with tasty moves on Vergne and Rene Rast but was unable to repel a recovering Alex Lynn and ultimately had to settle for fourth.
In the wet Saturday race he had excelled with arguably the move of the weekend on Maximilian Guenther, before an energetic battle with Alexander Sims’ Mahindra played out in his favour.
He took the chequered flag second but it all came to nought when he was one of six drivers disqualified for going over the 33kW maximum energy allowance.
Stoffel Vandoorne – 8
Championship position: 2nd
Vandoorne’s epic rollercoaster of a weekend began with a superb second pole position of the season for race one despite lightly tapping the chicane wall.
It all became an irrelevance when a “fat finger error” blew up just an hour later and he lost the pole through dint of a tyre identification admin error.
A spirited comeback ensured he was in line for a probable points finish anyway, but when the chaotic final lap scenes played out, he vaulted up to a somewhat incredulous third.
On Sunday he was building a promising race from a weather affected 17th on the grid but it all came unstuck when he rashly went for a gap on Buemi’s Nissan.
It broke his suspension and ruined what would have been a likely top six fightback drive, which was a shame because Vandoorne was on his usual scintillating form yet again.
Nyck de Vries – 8
Championship position: 1st
Another weekend of stark contrasts for one of this season’s star performers. But it will be his unconventional victory in Saturday’s race that will live long in the memory.
Considering he was forced to start seventh after his Rome collision penalty was applied, de Vries had a stellar run in tricky conditions to tail leader da Costa throughout the race.
His conservative approach, which was a combination of under-consuming and savvy sailing in da Costa’s slipstream, paid dividends when the race descended into farce and he took a controversial – but from the perspective of the team and driver’s execution – richly merited win.
De Vries’ Sunday was, like the rest of the championship leaders’ days, doomed by the weather and he lined up one place behind team-mate Vandoorne in 18th on the grid.
His race started strongly but a mistake and some sketchy strategy calls weighed him down to an unremarkable 16th place finish.
Envision Virgin Racing
Robin Frijns – 6
Championship position: 4th
Frijns’ usual acrobatics were in evidence with a lurid spin in free practice two on Saturday morning but he did a solid if unspectacular job in qualifying to claim a 15th place start.
A meteoric race, where he and team-mate Nick Cassidy rose through the ranks mostly together, took him to an eventual fifth on merit before slipping to sixth in the final lap energy-death struggle.
Frijns started a weather affected 16th on Sunday but had a quiet and dispiriting race to place a limp 19th. Balance issues triggering poor recuperation and strategy complications rounded out a depressing day.
Nick Cassidy – 7
Championship position: 8th
Like Frijns, Cassidy endured fluctuating fortunes in his third Formula E race weekend and oscillated between being a rookie genius and a haphazard upstart.
On Saturday he looked set for a crack at a second pole in as many races but an error in the final sector rendered that unachievable and he lined up 11th.
He drove an excellent race with a constructive ascent up the field to take his first race-finish points with fourth. It came after a conservative strategy paid dividends when others faltered on energy around him.
Sunday brought deja vu in qualifying with another error in the final sector when he lost it on the shallow painted kerb again at Turn 12. Despite this rooting him to the back, the FIA applied salt into his wounds with a penalty for track limits abuse.
From the back row he battled gamely with the Jaguars and Guenther’s BMW to finish a fighting 13th.
BMW i Andretti
Maximilian Guenther – 6
Championship position: 21st
Rightly considered one of the quickest around the Valencia track, Guenther played to that type by being fast but ultimately unable to sustain the promise through the weekend again.
He had a positive qualifying, made his third consecutive superpole session of 2021 and placed a highly encouraging third on the grid.
Initially he made a strong race running second before being demoted by de Vries and then slipping down to fifth. But he then blotted his copybook once more with a terminal spin at the first turn.
Sunday was equally tough with a track limits error in qualifying preceding a strong recovery race which probably deserved a point but garnered only 12th after a late race battle with Cassidy.
Jake Dennis – 9
Saturday’s race was built on a stable base from strong work in the mixed practice and qualifying conditions as Dennis quietly got on with accruing more and more Formula E knowledge.
Starting mid-grid he raced gamely and was on the cusp of the points on merit at the end.
Then his initial 11th was upgraded to eighth and his first points after energy anomaly penalties were dished out to others.
Dennis’s breakthrough in FE performance had previously been masked by ill-fortune but the lanky Midlander delivered on the promise on Sunday and rewarded the faith shown in him by BMW i Andretti as Sims’ replacement.
His maiden victory was clinically achieved and probably as well executed a race win as there has been in Formula E in recent seasons. He and the team thoroughly deserved every single accolade.
Lucas di Grassi – 7
Championship position: 19th
In many ways di Grassi had his standard double-header weekend, but one in keeping with his propensity to score points whatever is thrown at him and the Audi team.
It was little consolation though for a driver who so far this season has deserved much more than mere peripheral points scores.
A disastrous qualifying on Saturday rooted him to a 22nd grid start but he soon made progress in the race but was stymied by having to serve a stop/go penalty for work carried to repair his gearbox after it was damaged in the Buemi triggered accident in Rome.
He also served a post-race 30s penalty for non-use of his second attack zone boost.
Had these incidents not occurred d Grassi could easily have claimed a strong top six finish but ultimately he crossed the line 10th before being upgraded to seventh once penalties were applied.
Sunday brought little in the way of improvement from a results perspective with a mistake at Turn 2 ensuring another lowly start in 22nd.
His recovery drive though was strong with several excellent moves to claim a hard-earned 10th.
Rene Rast – 8
Championship position: 6th
Rast continued to impress in his first full campaign with a healthy points total but yet again he had to work ultra-hard for them.
He plugged away on car balance during free practice but was a disappointed 14th on the grid. Rast transferred that frustration into a positive race but lost time with a gravelly escapade.
He recovered to gratefully benefit from others’ energy dramas after he banked a fair chunk while at back of field to come through for an unlikely fifth.
Another struggle with balance issues in Sunday qualifying left him starting 14th but he was meteoric in the race and eased into the points, then made even more progress to run a sensational third.
What looked like a surefire podium drifted away unluckily when he picked up trackside signage which was dislodged by Vandoorne. This compromised his pace and he dropped back behind Lynn, Rowland and Nato for sixth.
Mitch Evans – 6
Championship position: 5th
Evans struggled with handling issues and only started 17th on Saturday but managed some strong progress in the early running.
It all came to halt though when he tripped over Sergio Sette Camara’s Dragon Penske and parked with a bent steering arm.
In race two Evans was compromised by being in the less favourable group one and from there it was all about damage limitation.
The Kiwi again delivered and was in 10th when a gamble on the race running a lap longer backfired and he was forced to infuriatingly trickle down the order to an eventual 15th.
One of his less effective weekends but with others in and around him in the title fight generally not capitalising he still sits reasonably pretty in the table.
Sam Bird – 5
Championship position: 3rd
Like team-mate Evans, Bird struggled with under rotation and getting properly to apexes in much of Saturday’s pre-race running and this rooted him to a 20th place grid start.
In the wetter race he was happier and made some exceptional progress with the usual incisive passes, looking as if he was going to protect his points lead at least to some extent.
But he was one of the five drivers that was disqualified for finishing the race with no useable energy left.
Sunday’s murky weather was an omen for Bird as he was one of many to be unfairly compromised by Formula E’s group qualifying system and the ever improving conditions. Starting 20th, he made up a few positions to a relatively anonymous 14th.
Championship-wise he dropped from leader to third in a nil points weekend but like Evans lucked into more than a degree of damage limitation thanks to Mercedes and Frijns’ non-scores on Sunday.
Andre Lotterer – 7
Results: DNF/ 2nd
Championship position: 16th
Lotterer finally delivered after a messy start to 2021 and claimed his first points with a finely judged and trouble-free run to second on Sunday that was constructed via a solid qualifying performance in the best conditions.
The day before his race had effectively ended early when he triggered a collision with Buemi at Turn 9 and was given a drive-through penalty before a further brake issue orientated shunt with Mortara caused retirement and a further three place grid drop penalty applied for Sunday.
He did well to put all that aside and his assured Sunday drive was the tonic he and Porsche needed.
Pascal Wehrlein – 5
Championship position: 10th
Wehrlein’s points scoring run came to a disappointing end in Spain after a generally insipid weekend.
He was decent in Saturday’s qualifying session and just marginally slower than the flying de Vries. This was good enough for a 10th place start but in the race he was muscled out by an aggressive Nato after placing well in sixth.
As per Lotterer, subsequent brake related problems spoiled any fightback plans and he pitted before the energy crisis to park his Porsche 99X Electric.
Despite a fine effort to top his group in the damp conditions on Sunday, Wehrlein was forced to start mid-grid in 13th. His race never really took off with a combination of balance and an as yet undiagnosed technical issue which contributed to a dejected 18th place finish.
Alexander Sims – 7
Championship position: 13th
A written-off weekend for Sims after the dizzy heights of Rome’s second place but unpacking the result-affecting issues he was actually just as impressive.
A reasonable run to 12th from group two in qualifying and the poor race conditions sparked a dynamic race where he ascended to race with team-mate Lynn and place a highly impressive third after a delicious around the outside of Turn 1 move on Rowland’s Nissan.
But while looking good for at least that position and ignoring lose front bodywork acquired via contact with Guenther, Sims like most watched haplessly as the energy drama unfolded and he, like team-mate Lynn, was disqualified
Sunday’s possibilities from 11th on the grid were wrecked by having to take a first lap 10-second stop/go for not respecting the minimum coolant temperature.
Fastest overall lap was little in the way of consolation for the unlucky Sims.
Alex Lynn – 9
Championship position: 15th
If Sims’ potential went unfulfilled, Lynn was at last able to deliver the strong result he has threatened since he first appeared to Formula E almost four years ago.
It all came together on Sunday but in fact Lynn was excellent during the entire weekend in by far his strongest all-round performance to date.
Fastest in qualifying on Saturday, he lost out in the final sector but was still in a good position with a third place start once the Mercedes pair’s penalties were applied.
His race was tough but he kept at it and was well-placed in the top six when he like the majority of the field fell victim to energy-gate.
It all came together on Sunday with another superpole appearance, his fourth of the season, and his second place start fed into a stalking of Dennis’s leading BMW.
Just when it looked like Lynn had a very decent chance of victory, Norman Nato’s Venturi struck.
But an excellent recovery netted a well-deserved first podium and what is likely to be a springboard to more big points, if not wins, this season. Lynn also took the fastest race lap point.
Edoardo Mortara – 5
Championship position: 9th
Mortara endured a fraught first race with a trip through the gravel at Turn 5 in the poor visibility and then had his race ended by an errant Lotterer. Prior to that he had made decent progress from 16th.
He found the gravel again in practice on Sunday and his qualifying was ragged in the drying conditions, rooting him to a 15th place start.
From there he raced solidly and was able to pick off several cars in the opening laps before what he felt was an overly conservative strategy on energy meant more points that were on offer were squandered.
Norman Nato – 7
Championship position: 23rd
Nato carried his momentum from Rome into the Spanish weekend and placed a solid sixth on the grid for race one.
That translated into a strong race where he held a place in the top six at times but eventually lost out and was placed ninth when the late race energy calculations dropped him out of contention.
Sunday was another fine showing with sixth on the grid and a race long fight with Lynn and Lotterer that got too spicy when he outbraked himself at Turn 9 and swiped the Mahindra off.
The resulting five second penalty cost Nato a podium and dropped him to fifth. He apologised for the error but can take many more positives from another strong weekend.
Dragon Penske Autosport
Nico Mueller – 6
Championship position: 11th
Mueller’s second place had several huge chunks of fortune on Saturday but that shouldn’t be taken away anything from the unflappable Swiss ace’s drive and the hard work by the dedicated DPA crew.
He somehow survived two trips through the gravel and a drivethrough penalty (actually an energy benefit at Valencia!) for another power overuse to secure Formula E’s most unlikely and bizarre podium ever.
Dragon Penske came back to reality on Sunday with another flat performance as the car’s pace dropped away in the consistent conditions, with Mueller starting 21st and finishing a completely hamstrung 20th.
Sergio Sette Camara – 6
Championship position: 20th
Sette Camara endured another difficult weekend that was punctuated by a series of team errors and the committed Brazilian’s efforts to wrestle time from the old Penske EV-4.
It resulted in some off track moments but Sette Camara was also compromised by myriad technical and handling issues.
He actually ran reasonably well in the murk of Saturday, even getting to the cusp of the top 10 but it was all too shortlived and he was turfed out of the race by Evans.
Sunday was uneventful race as Sette Camara dropped back from an eye-catching 10th place start after a stellar qualifying effort. He came in a dejected 21st but in reality deserved so much better.
Oliver Turvey – 8
Championship position: 18th
As expected Turvey bounced back from his ill-starred Rome event and was again the consistent and highly polished performer we’ve come to expect.
A software issue in qualifying meant his time was unrepresentative and he lined up 23rd.
A strong race followed and he carved his through to the top 10 before getting caught out in the last lap energy debacles.
Sunday was another strong showing with Turvey taking fifth on the grid in the drying conditions.
He took team-mate Blomqvist at the start and then built up a rhythm. Despite some inevitable losses to quicker packages he stayed firm and took an assured eighth and NIO333’s fifth points score from six races.
Tom Blomqvist – 6
Championship position: 24th
Blomqvist didn’t get the results this weekend but his pace was strong when it was allowed to flourish.
On Saturday Blomqvist, like Turvey, fell to the energy disasters. Prior to that he couldn’t make any real progress from his 19th place start and confessed he and his side of the garage got a bit lost.
Next day he outqualified Turvey with a fine effort for fourth but his race crumbled quickly after initially holding places in the lower portion of the top 10.
This was because of an unspecified issue and it eventually dropped him down to a lowly 17th.
NIO333 is making progress and is able to capitalise for genuine on merit points but the feeling is that much more can still be tapped into.