It was a weekend to remember for Swiss racer Edoardo Mortara in the latest instalment of Series 7 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.
The 34-year-old took an amazing double podium in Mexico, including victory in the second race of the weekend in Puebla.
It took the ROKiT Venturi Racing driver to the top of the championship standings; 10 points clear of the chasing pack.
Former champion Lucas di Grassi also claimed a victory, meaning eight different drivers have stood on the top of the podium from nine races in 2021.
More qualifying calamities for the frontrunners
With the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City still being used as a temporary hospital due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a new home for Formula E in Mexico.
Puebla is the 24th venue to stage a Formula E event and Mexico’s fourth-largest city didn’t disappoint with a socially distanced crowd enjoying two races in baking hot temperatures.
Once again, the championship contenders going into the weekend started near the back of the grid due to qualifying earlier on less than favourite track conditions.
Whilst the likes of Robin Frijns, Nyck de Vries and Mitch Evans toiled near the back, others took advantage with some consistent performances.
Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein and Nissan’s Oliver Rowland shared the pole position and front row honours for both races.
Rowland’s painful start
Briton Rowland might have fancied his chances in round eight from the front row. Those hopes disappeared though as soon as the lights went out.
He bogged down badly and slipped down to 13th place. It was the start of a character-building day for the Nissan driver.
Wehrlein held onto his lead from pole position with Maximilian Günther surging into second place from fifth on the grid.
The Safety Car was out though before the first lap was completed. Nick Cassidy went too deep into turn eight, hit the wall and broke his left-front suspension.
Cassidy’s testing rookie season continued here but he made a swift recovery as the weekend progressed.
Wehrlein remained in-control throughout the majority of the ePrix whilst a queue began to form behind the two BMWs of Günther and Jake Dennis.
The leading group included Mortara, Alexander Sims and former champions di Grassi and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Rowland’s terrible day continued when he was unable to use any of his attack modes due to technical issues.
He later stopped in the pits to retire and was later disqualified anyway for a tyre infringement.
In fact, the placement of attack mode was going to create two accidents which harmed the chances of two potential title challengers.
Vergne and Bird pay the price
First to depart in these circumstances was Vergne. Coming back onto the racing line having taken an attack mode, he appeared in the blind spot of Sims.
Contact was inevitable and the Frenchman’s podium chances were wrecked. The double champion retired in the pits and was unimpressed to say the least.
Bird would feel the same later on, clashing with Alex Lynn for the second time already this season.
In almost a carbon copy incident to the Sims/Vergne collision, the Jaguar ended up in the wall after returning to the track from taking attack mode.
Both clashes were unfortunate and led to criticism of the placement of the attack mode zone on the Puebla racetrack.
That shunt brought out the second Safety Car of the day but it didn’t stop Wehrlein’s charge.
He quickly started to rebuild his three-second lead he had before the caution period. However, there was to be a nasty sting in the tail for his race.
Disqualification for a gutted Wehrlein
With 13 minutes left of the ePrix and the former Manor and Sauber F1 driver heading for victory, he was placed under investigation for a technical infraction.
Both Porsche and Nissan drivers faced possible penalties and it later transpired that it was down to their teams not declaring the tyres they were using before the start of the race.
Wehrlein couldn’t be stopped on-the-track and he finished comfortably ahead of the pack but he would return to the pits with muted celebrations.
Seconds after taking the chequered flag, he had been harshly disqualified from the event, as was teammate Andre Lotterer, Rowland and Sebastien Buemi.
That opened the door for Audi to take a morale-boosting 1-2 finish. For the third time in his Formula E career, di Grassi claimed a victory in Mexico.
It ended his 21-race winless streak and naturally, he was overjoyed. Rene Rast brought his car home second to complete a fine day for the departing German marque.
— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) June 19, 2021
From eighth and ninth on the grid, they had just claimed the team’s third 1-2 finish of their Formula E history.
Mortara was in the hunt throughout and claimed third ahead of Sims, Dennis and reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa.
Nissan’s aggressive gamble backfires
24 hours later, the field lined up for round nine of the championship in a similar starting order to the first race of the weekend.
This time, Rowland made a successful start to convert pole position into an early lead. Meanwhile, Mortara overhauled Wehrlein for second.
The Brit immediately started to build out an early lead in an attempt not to be caught out with use of attack mode.
In fact, Nissan and Rowland had decided on an aggressive attacking strategy. He used both of his required attack modes in the first 12 minutes of racing.
It backfired and thanks to a string of consistent laps, Mortara exposed Nissan’s gamble and claimed a genuine lead through the attack mode sequence.
His teammate was out of luck though. Contact with Buemi put Norman Nato out of proceedings.
Errors from DS Techeetah
It was a miserable weekend for de Vries. A left-rear puncture meant round nine turned into a non-scoring event for the exciting Dutchman.
First race winner di Grassi blotted his copybook by whacking the back of de Vries on the entry to turn seven.
With de Vries forced to retire, di Grassi was given a drive-through penalty for his actions.
Just past half-distance and Rowland clipped the wall on the inside of turn 10. That handed second place on a silver platter to Wehrlein.
A fired-up Wehrlein began to close the gap on race leader Mortara. The 1.9 second difference quickly vanished.
After stalking the Venturi for several circuits, he seemed ready to pounce until a mistake at turn seven saw him drop back.
As track conditions started to deteriorate, drivers started making more mistakes. There were costly errors from both DS Techeetah pilots.
Vergne had a spin, dropping three places and ending a disappointing weekend down in eighth place.
da Costa slapped the wall and ended his race prematurely. Both of these were uncharacteristic lapses and cost the team big points.
Another sting in the tail for Pascal
Mortara saw off the threat of Wehrlein to take his second-ever win in the series. It was his first since Formula E’s 50th race at Hong Kong in 2019.
There would be another sting in the tail for Wehrlein. He received a five-second time-penalty for improper use of Fanboost.
That relegated him to fourth in the final classification. Having overhauled Rowland on-the-road, Cassidy was promoted to second spot.
It was a massive result for the rookie – his maiden podium in the championship.
Wehrlein’s misfortune was Rowland’s gain as he took third place following the subsequent post-race penalty.
Brits Dennis and Lynn completed the top six.
Mortara has now moved 10 points clear of Frijns at the top of the standings with just a further three points covering the next four drivers.
— Edoardo Mortara (@edomortara) June 21, 2021
In the teams’ standings, Mercedes still leads, three points clear of DS Techeetah. Neither team though could be satisfied with their points’ haul from the weekend.
Formula E’s unpredictability remains an almost virtual guarantee, even if some of the strict rules pose plenty of frustration with fans and drivers alike.
The championship stays in North America, heading next to New York in three weeks’ time.