Guenther Snaps Da Costa’s Formula E Streak

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Max Guenther won Saturday's Formula E event in Berlin. (Formula E photo)
Max Guenther won Saturday's Formula E event in Berlin. (Formula E photo)

BERLIN, Germany – BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Max Guenther crossed the line a tenth of a second ahead of Robin Frijns to take victory in Saturday’s eighth round of the Formula E season in Berlin.

Guenther’s second win of the season was enough to elevate him from ninth to second in the drivers’ standings while championship leader Antonio Felix da Costa finished fourth to maintain a 68 point advantage.

Polesitter Jean-Eric Vergne launched well off the line, as did the pair of Mahindras. Jerome D’Ambrosio surprised Guenther, slipping up the inside of the iFE.20 at turn one, with team-mate Alex Lynn looking to follow. Guenther kept the Brit at bay and within a lap he’d retaken second from D’Ambrosio.

Mercedes-Benz EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne was the big loser in the opening laps – falling from fourth to seventh after overcooking a stop into the hairpin, allowing Frijns then Lynn past. The Envision Virgin Racing driver made good progress from there and with Lynn quickly dispatched for fourth, he made a move stick on his team-mate for third.

Track and air temperatures had climbed since the middle of the week as a heatwave swept across Europe. Tires and batteries would require a little more care to be kept within their ideal operating windows, with the extra strain of dealing with the heat falling squarely to the drivers themselves from the confines of the cockpit.

With the scrap going on behind over the opening laps, Vergne was able to check out and pull away. He had managed things well through the initial quarter, gaining a percentage-point of energy in-hand over the chasing group.

Once Guenther had clear air, however, he put the hammer down and reduced the DS’ lead gap to less than a second – a massive uptick in performance overnight from the Bavarian squad which had struggled at the nine-day six-race season finale prior to today’s action.

On the cusp of the points, Lucas di Grassi became the first to activate Attack Mode. The 35 kW power boost helped him by ROKiT Venturi Racing’s Felipe Massa for 10th, but his compatriot wouldn’t make it easy.

With di Grassi trying to put the squeeze on his compatriot into the hairpin, the Venturi driver was having none of it, jumping inside the Audi with a nudge, leaving di Grassi sliding down the order to 13th.

On the 15-minute mark, a coming-together between Alex Sims Sergio Sette Camara saw James Calado and Neel Jani all tangled up through little fault of their own and forced the BMW i8 Roadster safety car into the fray.

On the restart, with 22 minutes to run, Vergne and Guenther leapt away. The BMW driver opted for Attack Mode, which boxed him in back in the pack and allowed the Frenchman to hit the activation zone on the next tour whilst retaining his lead.

The battle for fourth was about as intense as it gets a little further back between D’Ambrosio, Oliver Rowland, Massa, Lynn and da Costa and Vandoorne. The Belgian came off worst, with a puncture that halted his charge and effectively ended his race.

Meanwhile, the standings leader sold Lynn the dummy to pinch eighth at the hairpin before going three-wide with Lotterer and Massa to take seventh at the same spot a lap later.

Massa’s earlier move on di Grassi was adjudged to be overzealous by race control, which penalised the Brazilian with a drive-through penalty, sending him way down the order to 20th having worked his way up as high as sixth.

Round two of Attack Mode saw Vergne able to narrowly retain his advantage, though the tables had turned with Guenther now counting an extra percent’s worth of energy in reserve.

Vergne had the BMW strapped to his diffuser from there, waiting for the perfect opportunity to pounce. The DS driver fended Guenther off at turn one heading into the final five minutes. Half way around the same lap, the BMW man got the run up the inside of Turn 7 to snatch the lead.

From there, Guenther pulled clear, and having spent most of the race minding his own business in no man’s land a second clear of the battle for fourth and a second behind the lead pair, Frijns found himself able to slice past Vergne’s DS for second and in with a shout of the race win.

Guenther held firm to take the chequered flag with the Dutchman a close second. Vergne staved off the attentions of his team-mate who tore through the pack to an eventual fourth, with Lotterer for company. Rowland rounded out the top six.

“It was important to qualify on the front row near the top guys,” said Guenther. “It was a tough race and we managed it well and kept cool – taking the Attack Mode early on both occasions.

“We made the move on JEV and Robin (Frijns) was able to get a bit of a run on us but we held on. I knew the guys behind had slightly more energy than us, so I had to make the pass on Vergne as early as I could.

“I was never going to give the win up on the last lap!”