German manufacturers Mercedes and BMW claimed top honours in the Valencia Formula E double-header.
Nyck de Vries became the first double winner of Season 7, prevailing in a Saturday race dominated by energy usage.
The Sunday race was won by rookie Jake Dennis, claiming his first major success in the championship.
It was a weekend which saw many teams left with nasty headaches as the all-electric series continues to provide unpredictability.
Not a fine start for Mercedes
With two wins already, Mercedes have threatened to take control of the season.
Their weekend though at the Ricardo Tormo circuit got off to a shaky start.
Rome race winner Stoffel Vandoorne had put his car on pole position for Round 5.
However, he was sent to the back of the grid after the team made an administrative error.
It was an extremely severe penalty for the driver who was punished for a team mistake.
De Vries also started five places further back from where he qualified after collecting a post-race penalty for his late Rome clash with championship leader Sam Bird.
More woes for Andre
Reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa was the beneficiary. He inherited pole position before the weather gods changed the race’s outcome.
All engineering plans went out of the window as the heavens opened approximately an hour before the race start.
This was quite possibly the wettest-ever race in Formula E’s fairly short history.
For the third successive race, the Safety Car led the field in a rolling start format.
It would experience a busy afternoon, coming out on four separate occasions during the Round 5 ePrix.
Two of those incidents were because of Andre Lotterer, whose troubled season with Porsche continued.
He turned series two champion Sebastien Buemi into the turn nine gravel trap, leaving the Nissan beached and Buemi dumbfounded.
Lotterer picked up a penalty for this overzealous overtaking attempt. He later ended in the kitty litter himself after a clash with Edoardo Mortara.
Other incidents included a third crash of the season for BMW’s Maximilian Guenther, wrecking his chances of a top-six finish.
Championship contender Mitch Evans was also in trouble. He was forced to retire in the pits with terminal damage after his own skirmish with Sergio Sette Camara.
At the front, da Costa led the entirety of the race but was hounded throughout by de Vries.
Mercedes were constantly onto the Dutchman’s radio; reminding him to save his energy where possible. It was inspired given the energy chaos that would follow.
The final Safety Car period was towards the end of the allotted time limit. Once Lotterer’s car was moved away from danger, da Costa had control of the overall pace.
The FIA anticipated the Portuguese driver would go as slow as possible to ensure only one more racing lap was required.
Da Costa though had other ideas. He was much quicker than anticipated and crossed the line too quickly.
With two laps now of full racing to complete, the majority of the field had no energy left and were doomed to failure.
Over half the field were ultimately either not classified or disqualified in the case of Brits Oliver Rowland and Alexander Sims.
Mercedes couldn’t believe their luck. They and Dragon Penske were the only teams who had enough energy to finish the race without significant conservation required.
As a result, they claimed the podium places. De Vries took his second win of 2021 with Nico Muller a surprise second – Dragon’s best result for some time in the series.
Despite a time penalty for an earlier on-track incident, Vandoorne had played a similar game.
He earned himself a deserved place on the rostrum given his unfortunate earlier demise.
Race 2 Qualifying Provides More surprises
Qualifying for round six provided more surprises. The championship leaders all ran on a wet track and that meant, none of them finished in the top 15.
It was rookie Jake Dennis who took pole position. The bottom six in the championship locking out the top six places on the grid.
Thankfully, Sunday’s race was run in more traditional dry conditions.
The first half of the race was fairly processional. This was probably understandable given Saturday’s energy nightmare for over half the field.
Dennis led from start-to-finish. He was chased for much of the race by Alex Lynn.
The Mahindra racer though was pushed back to sixth after being nudged wide at turn nine by Norman Nato.
The contact resulted in a five-second penalty for Nato, meaning another maiden podium opportunity was lost.
Lynn recovered to finish third, behind Lotterer who finally scored his first points of the season. It now means all 24 drivers have scored points already this season.
A Dream Realized for Dennis
Dennis might have got the best of the track conditions in qualifying. Nevertheless, he seized his opportunity to score his first Formula E victory.
He showed plenty of calmness throughout, proving you can win from the front in one of motorsport’s most unpredictable series.
It was a bad second ePrix for all of the championship contenders.
Vandoorne was the race’s only DNF. He had to pit with damage after contact with Buemi saw him clip the barriers.
De Vries, Bird and Robin Frijns all finished but well outside of the points.
Double champion Jean-Eric Vergne claimed a solid seventh place on his 31st birthday.
With da Costa well out of the points though, DS Techeetah’s weekend didn’t exactly go according to plan.
It was a chastening weekend for many of the established force in the championship.
Leading every single lap
First win of his @FIAFormulaE career
— BMW Motorsport (@BMWMotorsport) April 25, 2021
Advantage Mercedes as we head to Monaco
Jaguar’s failure to score a single point in Valencia means it is advantage Mercedes now in both championships.
Despite a pointless round six for the German marque, their drivers are now 1-2 in the standings.
De Vries holds a useful nine-point lead over his teammate Vandoorne.
Bird leads the chasing pack with Dennis’ 33-point haul from the weekend souring him up from 23rd to eighth in the standings.
Reigning champion da Costa sits a lowly 14th in the standings. His hopes of defending his title successfully already look remote.
Jaguar also forfeit top ranking in the teams’ standings to Mercedes. Mercedes now 23 points ahead in this championship with Envision Virgin Racing holding onto third spot.
The season seven calendar has officially been completed with further double-headers to come in Mexico, New York, London and Berlin.
Next up though in three weeks’ time is the jewel in the crown for motorsport and the series with two races in Monte Carlo.
If there’s one thing that is a guarantee in Formula E, it is always expect the unexpected.