Formula E’s 2022 visit to New York will likely be remembered for the madness that was the deluge and resulting clash that brought its opening race to an end, but the trip stateside might, just might, have reduced the title fight to a three-way battle.
We take a look at the contrasting fortunes for those contenders and other high points – and low points – for drivers in our winners and losers feature.
Cassidy was imperious in New York, the scene of his impressive pole and podium performance a year ago.
The naturally ebullient Kiwi had cut a forlorn figure at the majority of 2022 races as he and Envision appeared to lose their way with the Audi e-tron FE07, which on certain circuits looked little more than an also-ran.
But Cassidy and team-mate Robin Frijns changed all that when they collected the team’s biggest ever double header points haul.
That it was done in such dramatic circumstances, with Cassidy’s car in several pieces and wedged into the Turn 6 barrier, was classic Formula E, but the unpleasant irony was that the violent triumph came back to haunt him less than 24 hours later.
Despite a petition to illustrate a perceived injustice in Cassidy’s grid penalty, it couldn’t take away the brilliantly earned three pole position points with a lap so convincing that it even had some of his rivals purring.
“I hadn’t done a good enough job at the start of the year when I had a good car,” Cassidy told The Race. “On my side of the garage we’re really starting to get to know each other in terms of the engineering team and what I want.”
Antonio Felix da Costa
The roots of da Costa’s form were actually first put down in Monaco two months ago.
From that point on, a more rounded performance window seems to have been excavated, and it showed in the genial da Costa’s more expressive racing.
He had a scrappy Saturday, which ended in a damaged car and retirement with nothing to show other than a front-row seat for the huge race-stopping accident at Turn 6.
That da Costa showed genuine concern for his rivals’ welfare tells you everything you need to know about one of the paddock’s most popular drivers and his outlook on a category he loves so much.
That apart, Sunday was da Costa’s day. There was fortune, of course, in that he inherited his second pole position of the season. But he took it and he ran with an excellently judged victory, his first since Monaco in May 2021.
With team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne leaving empty handed, and possibly committing self-harm in his quest for a third title, da Costa was freed up literally and metaphorically to deliver his fifth win with DS Techeetah.
“I’ve had to play a little bit of the team-mate game this year when JEV is around and rightly so, it doesn’t bother me, and I saw an opportunity to just do my own race and I could see, I had sights on that trophy before the race started and I didn’t want to let it go,” he told The Race.
“So, we executed a perfect race. My team, I have to thank them because it’s been a struggle this year and to bounce back like that is awesome.”
An increased points discrepancy between the quartet of Vandoorne, Edoardo Mortara, Mitch Evans and Vergne became such last weekend that potentially the reality of the title fight may have twisted further – this time into a triumvirate of suitors.
DS Techeetah team principal, Thomas Chevaucher, scoffed at this when asked by Formula E TV, if his charge, Vergne, was out of realistic title contention after a nil-points disaster in the Big Apple and, if so, could he get back into the core of the fight.
“Of course, he can,” said Chevaucher, when asked if Vergne could drag himself back in to the scrap. “It was a difficult weekend but he will come back and is still in the fight.”
This was almost peripheral to Vandoorne and the Mercedes EQ squad, as they counted themselves rightfully satisfied with a 30-point haul. This was double what the next-best title contender, Mitch Evans, mustered at the weekend.
It meant that a 14-point deficit was turned into an 11-point lead for the Mercedes driver, who drove more highly impressive races to claim a fourth and a second.
The latter of these, in the context of having his car completely rebuilt around a new monocoque, is exactly the kind of performance that stands apart when appraisal of title success is poured over at a season’s end.
“The racing is getting so intense that every weekend, every qualifying session, every practice even you need to be on it in order to deliver a result,” Vandoorne said at the end of Sunday’s race.
“That’s what I’m aiming to continue until the end of the year and then we’ll see if it’s good or not good enough.”
When Alexander Sims opened up to The Race in Marrakesh earlier this month about his decision to end his Formula E journey, it was done with a mixture of quiet resignation and self-analysis of why he just didn’t enjoy it anymore.
Many of those lines could be read between but it’s history now, and perhaps it helped just a little in his approach to Sunday’s action where he reprised his Berlin heroics and was one of the standout performers.
Sims is often perplexed by the vagaries of the Mahindra M7Electro and while team-mate Oliver Rowland can bully it into submission, Sims’s style means he sometimes struggles to coax the best from it.
Yet occasionally it all comes together and a front-row start, albeit after Cassidy’s penalty, suggested that this was one such occasion.
His race was brilliant as he duelled with the Mercedes and Jaguars – cars that the vast majority of the time Mahindra can only dream of racing with on merit in 2022. Sims didn’t let this rare opportunity slip away.
“I had to keep over consuming [energy] to keep them behind for a bit at least,” he told The Race. “It’s one of those you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t [situations].
“If you defend it hurts your pace afterwards because you over consume, but you can’t just sit by and let everyone overtake you.
“I guess it’s been a long time since I’ve been fighting at the front. It just changes your mindset; you go into a little bit of a, ‘We’re going to score points today’ rather than, ‘I want to fight for the victory’.
“It’s really nice to change the set of results that we’ve had for quite some time now into a really positive one.”
Vergne has been so consistent and reliable this season that when he has a weekend as wretched as he endured in New York, it stands out like cheap Pastrami on a stale bagel.
‘One to forget’ is a blanket phrase used in sport, but that was the reality of Vergne’s catastrophic races. He was shunted out in an accordion-style chicane debacle early on in Saturday’s race and then experienced further carbon crunching in an incident with Lucas di Grassi’s Venturi Mercedes on Sunday.
The latter came after a qualifying error damaged his car when he glanced a wall and set in motion a damage-limitation exercise in the race.
This was looking like it might muster a couple of points at best after he raced well in the early exchanges and rose from 12th but the momentum never really exploded into a performance such as Sam Bird’s stunning drive from 16th to fifth place.
Frankly, Vergne looked a little jaded in New York. Could it be that a Marrakesh-Monza-New York triple-header was slightly underestimated?
If it was, he’ll have to get used to it because he will be doing many more of those next year.
A bit like Jean-Eric Vergne’s lost weekend, Venturi’s litany of incidents and issues put its New York experience very much in the 2022 anomaly category.
That was a shame because it clearly had a quick package but Mortara’s frankly baffling penalty for surpassing the maximum speeds required under full course yellow conditions while being out of control (no, me neither) seemed to sum up a fractious weekend.
Only the return to qualifying form for di Grassi, who for the first time topped both his qualifying groups at the weekend, and then got a deserved podium in the red flagged Saturday race, gave the team cheer.
Mortara’s mysterious brake-by-wire issues on Sunday morning compromised his preparation and ultimately scuppered any meaningful laps, meaning a back-row start.
The problem was cured for the race and he drove a typically charging race, leaving his one attack mode hit late to claim the final point and an additional one for fastest lap.
But this was scant consolation for a team that had previously averaged 20.5 points per race. From New York it took 23 over two races, dropping from the team’s title lead to 10 behind its car provider, Mercedes.
The American team, which is set to essentially become a DS-operated entity next season, is hands down the most frustrating entry on the grid.
It hasn’t previously featured on the ‘losers’ side in 2022 of these features because plainly there hasn’t been anything to lose in the first place.
The Penske EV-5 has proven to have some reasonable one-lap pace but its application into anything resembling a racing car, in the sense of being able to compete, simply isn’t there.
It’s a tremendous shame for its drivers, Sergio Sette Camara and Antonio Giovinazzi, who are just on a giant hiding to nothing in the more hierarchical Formula E of 2022. For its team members too, it must be a totally crushing way of going racing.
The one-lap potential that plainly exists if tapped into was first evidenced in Sunday’s free practice when Sette Camara placed second.
This came after a diabolical Saturday, when Sette Camara and Giovinazzi were unable to muster a racing lap between them. Even for Dragon Penske this was some kind of rotten new nadir.
Sette Camara crashed in Saturday’s qualifying at the final corner in a desperate attempt to make it through to the duels for a second time this season. A day later he was able to complete the mission by being quickest but was then edged out in the quarter-final by Lotterer’s Porsche.
Still, a second row start looked good for a potential crack at getting the team off zero points this season. In truth it was never really possible as Sette Camara went through the well-worn motions of gamely fighting for track position while knowing that he would eventually sink like a stone.
He did, and it was the same old story as he slid ever backwards.
Giovinazzi qualified decently, taking his best start of 11th, but he too sank in the race after picking up damage from a head-to-head with Sebastien Buemi’s Nissan.
The only speck of positivity is that, if Dragon Penske can achieve a similar qualifying pace in London, Sette Camara could be a very sizable cork in the bottle of the natural order at the front. The other teams will be delighted at that prospect!