In normal circumstances starting from pole position in your long-awaited home E-Prix and then finishing on the bottom step of the podium would trigger little in the way of celebration.
But Alex Lynn’s race in the first of two London E-Prix was a highly polished drive masked by the shortfalls in the vehicle dynamic package beneath him that saw him defenceless against Jake Dennis and Nyck de Vries in the face of a pace compromising overheating tyre quirk.
It was also a race that saw Lynn, born just 15 miles away from the London ExCeL Arena venue in Romford, pump in what he described as “like driving 33 qualifying laps” just to ensure he could soak up the post-race pomp and ceremony.
A stellar pole position, his second in Formula E after a sensational debut top spot at New York City in 2017, set a slightly false scene though.
Within laps of the start of the race, deep-down Lynn knew that he would be unlikely to resist his good friend Jake Dennis who seemingly had pace to throw away.
The reason for that was the ease with which the BMW iFE.21 works its all-weather Michelin Pilot Sport tyres. In contrast, the Mahindra M7ELECTRO struggles – and has done all season.
This is a legacy of a heftier mass on the rear axle of the car which contributes to higher degradation of the rear tyres.
The team has tried several cures this season to combat the effects but over the duration of a race on course asphalt, and with an epoxy-sand derived surface for some of the ExCeL track, Mahindra was always going to be on the backfoot to some degree today.
“It’s no secret that we do struggle a bit in the race to keep our rear tyres alive,” Lynn told The Race.
“After we’d already done free practice one we knew the race was going to be tough because the rear tyres were already struggling.
Lynn admitted to “dreaming of the win today” but he pulled himself back down to reality, and clearly read the writing on the wall, which clearly spelt out that Dennis’ BMW was simply quicker in most areas of the track and over the duration of the race.
“To be totally honest when I was sat behind Jake and he wasn’t in attack and I could see he had a lot of pace, it was clear,” said Lynn
“It was like, ‘okay, there is not a lot I’m going to be able to do about it’ and it was at that moment I knew he’d got one up on us.”
After taking the second attack loop, Lynn sat close to Dennis for several laps saving some energy but it was telling that the BMW was comfortable even in the lower power mode.
When Lynn locked-up after a tiny mistake at the Turn 10 hairpin, Dennis was able to extend the advantage to 2.3 seconds, more than enough of a margin to complete his off-line extra power acquisition and retain the lead.
“That (lock-up) was just because I was pushing so hard to not give him a free run at taking attack and keeping me behind,” said Lynn.
“But I was fighting the grip a fair bit and made that tiny mistake.
“I know the podium is mega and don’t get me wrong it is, but obviously I just don’t like going that way from pole.
“But it’s where we’re at and we got the maximum from what was underneath us here today.”
Even the expansion of the attack mode from two hits of four-minutes to two boosts of eight minutes went against Lynn today.
Put simply, the more power you get the more the rear tyres suffer. It eventually told its own tale as he also lost second position late on to a flying de Vries.
Lynn’s perceived lack of defence was misleading. Such was the struggle he was experiencing with the tyres that compromising his own line with aggressive defending would likely have shuffled him behind the following Buemi and possibly others too.
Mahindra claimed its third podium of the season after a campaign that has evidenced both Lynn and Mahindra’s excellent one-lap pace.
The races though have generally been a struggle and when high tyre degradation is involved things become very tricky, very quickly.
But team principal, Dilbagh Gill, still cut a positive figure in the paddock immediately after the race, telling The Race that “we were good on energy but the tyre issue compromised us a fair bit today, but a podium is always nice to have.”
“Lynn was on it in qualifying and did a great lap,” added Gill.
“Ever since we unloaded the car he’s been fast and ‘on it.’
He’ll be fast again tomorrow, and with inclement weather forecast it could just be the change of luck that assists the Mahindra’s and their tyre burning habits.