Formula E: Floersch, Martin and Powell complete Race at Home season
The Formula E Race At Home Challenge reached its final weekend with a double-header that featured Sophia Floersch and Charlie Martin on the "Challenge Grid" and saw the debut of Alice Powell on the "Drivers' Grid".
After being one of the first major international racing series to commit to an official simracing championship, Formula E entered its final weekend of virtual races after a 9-weeks tournament. The Formula E Race At Home Challenge smartly included two races per race event - the Challenge Grid, featuring world-class simracers and selected guests, and the Driver Grid, starring the entire Formula E official lineup of teams and drivers.
The final weekend presented a double-header for the first time: on Saturday, drivers battled on the New York street circuit for the seventh championship round, while the Berlin Tempelhof track was the stage of Sunday's competitions.
Saturday's Challenge grid again hosted Sophia Floersch on the Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team car and Charlie Martin in the NIO. The New York race proved to be especially important for championship standings, as Sunday's race featured a starting grid decided by classify order and a "winner gets it all" format.
German simracer Lucas Mueller edged championship leader Kevin Siggy after 1:11.006 pole lap, 75 thousandths of a second faster than the Slovenian BMW driver. Joshua Rogers and Peter Brljak shared the second row, as the title contenders all locked-in the top-5. Sophia Floersch, also practicing for the upcoming Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans, was P21 (1:13.668), and Martin slotted in in 23rd grid position (1:15.276).
It was a cleaner start compared to last week's race, as Mueller held on to first with Siggy and Rogers behind. Both Floersch and Martin gained one position after the start, before contacts at the back of the field briefly relegated the British racer to the bottom end of the pack. After three laps, it was Alex LaFlamme to be eliminated first by the Race Royale format, putting Charlie Martin under pressure for the following lap. The NIO driver concluded her championship with a 23rd place in New York, having raced in a massively competitive grid of professional simracers. Floersch was out on lap 7, finishing 21st after a long battle with Sovik Yi Yefei and Mercedes teammate Reuvers.
In the midfield, star simracer Cem Bolukbasi recovered through the grid after a mistake in the first stages of the race to advance to P11, despite a last lap tangle with Alisdair Irvine.
Lucas Mueller crossed the finish line and won after a faultless drive ahead of Kevin Siggy, who was a safe second in front of Rogers and an ever-improving Kush Maini. The Indian real-life racer managed to stay ahead of two championship contenders like Brljak and Peev.
The first Driver Grid's race saw the debut of Kelvin Van Der Linde in the Audi. The South African - a pretty experienced simracer - immediately showed his potential and claimed an impressive first row start with the second fastest laptime. Wehrlein stripped the Audi driver of pole position on his very last attempt, as his championship rivals were third (Maximilian Guenther) and fourth (Stoffel Vandoorne). The Belgian Mercedes racer entered the penultimate round with a one point advantage over Wehrlein.
When the lights went out, Rowland had a good start and was up to fourth, while his Nissan teammate Sebastien Buemi, protagonist of a great qualifying performance, was sandwitched and spun around, then collected by the whole incoming field. Ahead, Wehrlein controlled from Van Der Linde and Guenther, with Vandoorne dropping to fifth. At turn 10, the former McLaren F1 driver was briefly up to third after a double pass at the hairpin, but Rowland quickly regained third place.
Buemi, after his first lap incident, was the first driver to be eliminated.
Van Der Linde initially held on to second despite huge pressure from Rowland in the Nissan - the Brit having improved massively since the beginning of the Race At Home season. Their battle allowed championship contender Vandoorne to close in on a potential fight for the podium.
After 15 laps, Wehrlein took victory unbothered from his competition and gained a favorable position for tomorrow's season finale, as Van Der Linde was passed in the final corners by Rowland for second, but still claimed his maiden podium finish at his Formula E debut in third. Vandoorne was only fourth, ahead of Guenther.
The Berlin Tempelhof Airport circuit hosted the eighth round and season finale of both Formula E virtual championships.
All the eyes were on the Challenge Grid, with Kevin Siggy starting from pole ahead of Mueller, Peev and Brljak as per championship points. Both Sophia Floersch and Charlie Martin were not part of Sunday's race, as only the 17 points scoring drivers entered the Grand Finale.
After a race start without major incidents, Mueller immediately chose an aggressive approach but Siggy was very alert and covered the German driver's attacks.
By the fourth lap and after an initial siege by Mueller, Siggy managed to put one second between his BMW and Mueller's Mahindra.
Alastair Irvine was out on lap 11 due to the Race Royale format, followed by Veltens and Reuvers. Bolukbasi passed Golombeck for ninth, who also lost a place to Von Der Heyde.
Finally, Kevin Siggy crossed the line to win after a dominant championship and secured a prestigious prize: a test drive in a real Formula E car once the series will be back on track. Lucas Mueller and Peter Brljak completed the podium.
The Driver Grid final event saw the debut of British W Series star Alice Powell, subbing in for Robin Frijns at Envision Virgin Racing. Powell previously tested for the team in this year's Marrakech young driver test. Sam Dejonghe also made his debut in the Driver Grid, despite the Belgian had already raced in the Challenge Grid in a guest appearance.
Powell clocked in a 1:12.273 lap in the first qualifying group, lamenting a force feedback setting issue on her steering wheel.
Buemi took provisional pole after showing again good improvements, but it was his teammate Oliver Rowland to set the fastest time, claiming the final pole position of the season. Wehrlein was second, as Vandoorne slotted-in in third alongside Guenther, heating up the championship battle.
It was a great start for Rowland while behind him a fierce battle between Wehrlein and Vandoorne ended in tears for the Mahindra championship hopeful: a major car pile-up started at the back of the field, igniting a reaction-chain of contacts that involved also the frontrunners. Vandoorne, tagged at the back of his car, couldn't avoid to hit Wehrlein, who spun around and got stuck in another series of clashes.
Rowland disappeared into distance, with Vandoorne also managing to survive the madness ahead of Guenther.
Alice Powell avoided the first lap carnage and was temporarily up to 16th place, before being sent into a spin by Neel Jani on the second lap, dropping again to last. Powell's race wasn't short of accidents, as the Envision Virgin racer started a long battle with Ma Qing Hua. The pair survived the first elimination, but more spin caused by Lucas Di Grassi further compromised Alice's race.
With her car feeling inevitably damaged, Powell was out on lap 7, finishing P20. "It was a bit like bumper cars" - she commented, after a nevertheless entertaining experience.
Wehrlein was quickly up to 13th, but the German's chances were very slim: with Vandoorne in second, the Mahindra driver needed at least a fourth place. Wehrlein gained some more positions, but he struggled for pace due to his damaged car.
A long battle between Felix Da Costa and Van Der Linde allowed Wehrlein to pass both and advance to 9th, but it was ultimately not enough: Rowland secured the race victory ahead of Vandoorne and Guenther. Mortara was 4th and Buemi 5th after a race-long fight.
Stoffel Vandoorne was then crowned champion of the Formula E Race At Home Challenge inaugural season. The double-points collected at the last round brought the Belgian's tally to 154 in the driver's standings, with Wehrlein at 130. Rowland managed to pass Guenther in the final classify after a stunning end of the season (122 to 118).
No official news have been released regarding Formula E resuming its on-track activities so far.