Winners and losers from Formula E’s Tokyo debut


Formula E’s high-stakes debut in Japanese capital Tokyo was a successful one – but the same cannot be said for many of its title protagonists, in particular the manufacturer still leading (but by much-diminished margins) the teams’ and constructors’ standings.

Here are our winners and losers from Saturday’s contest.

Winners

Maximilian Guenther

One aspect of Max Guenther’s Formula E career has always been questioned – consistency.

No one has ever doubted that Guenther is rapid and can win races. He proved it at BMW Andretti before an ill-fated move to Nissan just at the wrong time in 2022.

But there was always talk that Guenther couldn’t string together a coherent stretch of results – until now. He has taken points in each of the five races this year and in Tokyo he executed a well-structured victory, his second for the team after his 2023 Jakarta masterclass.

The fact that he and the team switched to a more aggressive strategy after losing out to Edoardo Mortara at the start made the win all the more impressive. Yet, perhaps even more credible is the fact this win came after a difficult autumn in 2023 when the team had to be restructured to a large extent.

Maximilian Guenther, Maserati MSG, Tokyo E-Prix, Formula E

“I know there have been changes, I’m in the middle of all that, but at the same time I focus on the job that I need to do, that I want to do, both for myself as well as the team,” said Guenther after the win.

“We all pushed in one direction, we’re very united, and we just focus on the operational side and what we need to do.

“Big credit should go to Cyril [Blais], who has to manage a lot of things at the moment, not just being my race engineer. I’m very proud and happy to give them back such a result. I really think we are building something great here this season.”

Oliver Rowland

Oliver Rowland, Nissan, Formula E, Tokyo E-Prix

Rowland’s qualifying performance was the best seen in Formula E for a long while as he grazed the walls and gauged the tarmac in a blitz of unadulterated commitment.

His rhythm and flow through the long Turn 4 was visibly more impressive than anyone – and his final lap against Guenther was almost perfect.

“I just feel really confident at the moment, really able to push and trust what I have. It’s a great feeling to have,” Rowland told The Race.

Oliver Rowland, Nissan, Formula E, Tokyo E-Prix

“I’m not far off the top of the championship – three podiums in a row doesn’t happen for many people in Formula E, never mind in my situation by missing half of last year.”

In that sentence Rowland encapsulated his impressive start to the season and his second stint at a Nissan team that looks and feels to be on the up after a tough few years.

“We might struggle a bit more at the high-efficiency tracks, we might have to scrape out some results but the car’s good, the team’s good. I’m confident again and happy in myself,” added Rowland.

There was a slight bittersweet taste to second place after grabbing a brilliant pole and then leading for so long on Nissan’s home turf, but as the dust settles this week both Nissan and Rowland will look back on what they achieved in Tokyo with justified pride.

Mahindra

Edoardo Mortara, Mahindra, Formula E, Tokyo E-Prix

Mahindra’s competitiveness has been there to see if you looked hard enough this season, especially at Sao Paulo where many breakthroughs were made but weren’t rewarded.

Sadly, that was the case again in Tokyo after Mortara’s stellar weekend went unfulfilled for an overspend on the 32kWh usable energy allowance on the final lap.

It was a team error that proved costly as sixth place was snatched away by the FIA and left Mahindra as the only team still to get off the mark.

“We have a lot of positives; first of all, the pace is here, we’ve been in the right pace all along the weekend and then quali was very good,” Mahindra team principal Frederic Bertrand told The Race.

Frederic Bertrand, Mahindra, Tokyo E-Prix, Formula E

“The race was not bad for us. It was a bit difficult on the attack mode to create the gap we needed to take without losing too many positions.

“We were trying to see if we could get a gap on Rowland or if we could overtake Guenther before going into attack mode for us so that we could keep that position.”

The outcome felt grossly unsatisfactory after what was one of Mortara’s best outings in Formula E since he’d joined in 2017. And whatever the points table says right now, for Mahindra it is a vast improvement on last year’s capability and a testament to a much-changed backroom team’s hard work and tenaciousness.

Nico Mueller

Nico Mueller, Abt Cupra, Formula E, Tokyo E-Prix

Some of Mueller’s performances since Rome last season have been the quiet masterpieces in Formula E.

In a customer Mahindra that is the least competitive, albeit also one of the most improved packages since last season, Mueller has been a shining star.

His race was intelligent and he was able to just stay clear of trouble early on and was in a group fight with Robin Frijns, Sergio Sette Camara and Norman Nato before settling into a good race rhythm for seventh, probably the maximum he and the team were able to get on the day.

There was some frustration from Abt Cupra that it couldn’t quite match Mortara’s Mahindra giant-killing, but still a seventh place is, in all but name, a strong podium-type performance for the Bavarians.

Antonio Felix da Costa

Antonio Felix da Costa, Porsche, Formula E, Tokyo E-Prix

Da Costa had his best race of the season, finally getting on top of team-mate Pascal Wehrlein – if not in qualifying, then at least in the race.

He and the team made the right calls as the race wore on to have a crack at Rowland’s second place in the final stages.

While that didn’t work out and ultimately cost a podium position, Da Costa appears to be back in the game after lacklustre early-season races in Mexico City and Diriyah.

Antonio Felix da Costa, Porsche, Formula E, Tokyo E-Prix

Da Costa wasn’t amused by Rowland’s defence, telling The Race: “The way Oliver defended there… if I didn’t brake, I was going to hit the wall.

“I have a feeling that I need to hit the wall for the FIA to look at incidents like that. I’ve also just seen the incident with Lucas [di Grassi] and Jake Hughes, and for me, that is not acceptable. But if that is the new precedent, then we will all start to race like that.

“I know the risk of trying to go around the outside of somebody in this world, but when the overlap is 100 percent, I have to be left some room, and he wasn’t going to. I lost a podium there, which completely sucks.

“I thought we did a good race, made the right calls, so I’m disappointed.

“But overall it was another good weekend and created good momentum.”

Nick Cassidy

Nick Cassidy, Jaguar, Formula E, Tokyo E-Prix

An eighth place for Nick Cassidy doesn’t scream ‘winner’ for one of Formula E Gen3’s most successful drivers, but the Kiwi had a canny run to what should be considered as one of the best damage limitation results of the season so far.

He had a strong qualifying, pretty much nailing his group lap, and should have lined up in the quarterfinals had it not been for a power over-spike on the notorious Turn 12 ramp.

That set him back to 18th position on the grid and what looked like an afternoon stuck in the midfield firing-line.

Nick Cassidy, Jaguar, Formula E, Tokyo E-Prix

“I knew that going into the race that if I was patient, tried to be calm, had my moments to attack, it could work out,” Cassidy told The Race.

“Yes, I got lucky too with some shunts and some guys making mistakes in front of me but you need that at a track like this, you need to place your car, always in the right spot.”

He made progress and capitalised on others’ misfortune to get an initial eight points and retain the championship lead. That, though, became a two-point deficit to Wehrlein when the Nato/stewards ‘he’s in, he’s out, he’s in again’ nonsense resolved itself.

Sergio Sette Camara

Sergio Sette Camara, ERT, Formula E, Tokyo E-Prix

There was a feeling even before the race that the Tokyo circuit could be right up Sergio Sette Camara’s alley, and so it proved.

More than just an element of brawn was needed and Sette Camara delivered by making it into his second semi-final of the season. A very impressive fact in itself.

With a target of bringing home points, Sette Camara performed accordingly – racing intelligently and letting others, such as Mitch Evans, self-destruct.

A point for 10th was a decent result but it could have been a little bit more, felt the ERT driver.

Sergio Sette Camara, ERT, Formula E, Tokyo E-Prix

“We screwed up the strategy a bit and we didn’t take attack modes where we should have,” Sette Camara told The Race.

He is now on three points this season, representing the total of ERT’s tally.

“Now it’s difficult because the Mahindra seems really good, so it could be tough to fight them in the championship.”

Losers

Mitch Evans

Mitch Evans, Jaguar, Formula E, Tokyo E-Prix

A painful race for Evans, who registered his first non-points score of the season and dropped to sixth in the points standings.

He had a decent qualifying although initially just missed out on making the duel cut. The reprieve came ironically from team-mate Cassidy’s penalty-triggered demotion but Evans lost out to the flying Rowland in his quarter final.

He had a poor start and got shuffled back slightly before he clobbered Frijns after diving inside Sette Camara at the Turn 7/8 chicane.

Mitch Evans, Jaguar, Formula E, Tokyo E-Prix

“Unfortunately Robin was at the apex when I arrived as well and I collected him and took my front wing off,” Evans told The Race.

“It was just getting to that phase in the race where I needed to start to make progress.

“Most of the moves you had to make were quite high-risk. It didn’t feel like a high risk at the time but looking back it was just unfortunate.”

DS Penske

Stoffel Vandoorne, DS Penske, Formula E, Tokyo E-Prix

A second consecutive non-descript race – except unlike Sao Paulo this one saw the team record its first points black hole since the first London race last July.

Both Jean-Eric Vergne’s and Stoffel Vandoorne’s lack of inherent pace with the top performers rendered them much more midfielders on this occasion – with Vergne taking 12th and Vandoorne 16th.

There was little else to be said for such abject results other than that being stuck in the midfield at a track with limited overtaking was ultimately the story of their races.

The fine-tooth comb nature of Formula E combined with a narrowing up of the grid this season means that once frontrunners can now become also-rans in the twinkling of an eye, and that is exactly what happened to DS Penske in Tokyo.

McLaren

Jake Hughes, McLaren, Formula E, Tokyo E-Prix

Heroes become zeroes within a fortnight. That is how brutal Formula E can be.

Sao Paulo felt an awful long time ago for NEOM McLaren though, as both Sam Bird and Jake Hughes had dour performances in qualifying where, in Formula E terms, they were adrift of the pace.

Hughes had some shoots of positivity as he started to build a race that may have got him on the cusp of the points, only for it all to come crashing down when he got tipped into the Turn 15 wall when Lucas di Grassi made a move on him.

While Hughes recovered after repairs, Bird’s race ended early with a steering issue that saw his actual wheel become loose and detached, resulting in retirement on safety grounds.

Mahindra

Nyck de Vries, Mahindra, Formula E, Tokyo E-Prix

Ultimately Mahindra has to be in both categories. While that may seem overly harsh, the team did squander its best performance for some time with an error late in the race to lose Mortara’s sixth-place points.

That, again, means it is the only team now not to have registered a point, something which will gnaw away at team boss Bertrand for another two weeks.

That apart, its star performer in Tokyo, Mortara reckons that there are key positives on display for the rest of the season.

“I didn’t say that the package is not good, I’m saying that we’re struggling a little bit in the races because we are down a little bit on efficiency,” he told The Race.

Edoardo Mortara, Mahindra, Formula E, Tokyo E-Prix

“But the good thing is that we can prove actually our package is working quite good in qualifying.

“We’re still able in some ways to race if we start at the front, so this is going to be the goal now for the remainder of the season; qualify as well as we can.

“It’s going to be challenging, it’s not going to be easy, but I think it’s possible. We’ve shown that today.”





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