• Valencia 2021: Spanish debut full of surprises.

Last weekend, the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship made its first ever stopover in Spain. Hosting the event was the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, located just outside of Valencia. And what a spectacular race debut on Spanish soil this turned out to be for the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team!

"Going into this race weekend, we expected an action-packed event," said team boss Ian James at the end of a crazy Saturday afternoon. "But if anyone in the team had told me it would go like this, I certainly wouldn't have believed it." But let's start from the beginning...

 

Perfect energy management earns Nyck de Vries his second win of the season

Nyck de vries celebrating after winning in valencia

Ahead of the third race weekend of the campaign, Stoffel Vandoorne predicted that energy management would be a major challenge on the permanent Valencia circuit with its fast and long corners. And he was to be proved right.

But before the team were to apply skillful energy management to their advantage, there were a number of other setbacks to overcome. Stoffel and Nyck finished the Super Pole session in first and third positions, but with Nyck having to carry over a grid penalty from Rome and Stoffel having his lap times cancelled as a result of a minor administrative error, the Mercedes-EQ duo were obliged to start from P7 and P24 respectively.

From the off, the race was chaotic but at the same time thrilling for the fans. Nyck mastered the difficult weather conditions to battle his way through to second place. Shortly before the end of the race, canny energy management paid off as he took the lead and brought home his second win of the season.

"What a race!" said Nyck. "To be honest, I'm even happier today than when I won my first race in Diriyah, especially with this victory coming as such a surprise. After the really tough race weekend in Rome and the five-place grid penalty for this race, I definitely wasn't expecting it. But it's a fantastic way for me to bounce back. Today has turned out to be a simply fabulous day for our team."

Team Principal Ian James was equally full of praise for Nyck: "He made a fantastic start to the race, quickly moving up into the Top Four and showing his talent by taking every opportunity that came his way. It was one of the most impressive performances I've seen Nyck deliver for our team so far."

Following the high on Saturday and in line with this season's rollercoaster ride, Sunday turned out to be another low. Both Nyck and Stoffel were allocated to the first qualifying group, and with the track still in the process of drying, they were unable to qualify any higher than 17th and 18th on the grid.

Ian James standing in the box in Valencia

"Unfortunately, it stopped raining just before qualifying, so the track gradually dried out, which really put drivers in Group 1 on the back foot. In the end, everyone in the fourth group went through to the Super Pole session. From the back of the grid, we didn't have it easy right from the start."

In the first half of the race, Nyck initially managed to fight his way through the extremely tightly packed field to within reach of the points, ultimately crossing the finish line in 16th position after 30 laps. "We got away well," said Nyck, "but then I made a mistake, and we didn't always make the right calls at the right time either. All in all, it was a tough race."

Charge from midfield with a surprise ending for Stoffel Vandoorne

team celebrating after winning in valencia

Stoffel's weekend was also dogged by one problem after another. After his qualifying times on Saturday were scratched, he had to start the race from the last position on the grid. In the course of a race dominated by five safety car deployments (including the SC start), Stoffel also benefited from shrewd energy management. This enabled him to pass a lot of other cars in the closing laps and finish the race in P3 - his sixth podium in Formula E.

"I'm really surprised to have finished the race on the podium," said Stoffel after getting out of his car. "Somehow it almost feels like I shouldn't be here. The race was incredibly tense, and so much happened today. In the race, I had contact, went through the gravel and had to conserve energy towards the end. Our pace was good, and our strategy proved to be the right one."

But that wasn't all by a long shot, as the action really hotted up in the closing stage of the race. "The laps after the final safety car restart were crazy," Stoffel agreed. "I was overtaking cars left and right that had run out of power. But that's what is so special about Formula E - one moment you're down, the next you're on the podium. You should never give up."

Ian James was at a loss for words after this fantastic recovery: "Stoffel's race is almost impossible to summarise. He used the word 'redemption' last race weekend in Rome after his win. I think that might once again be fitting for him after today's performance."

Less than 24 hours later, Stoffel was brought back down to earth again with a bump. Starting from 17th on the grid, he had a difficult job on his hands right from the outset, but Stoffel mounted yet another strong recovery. He used his two attack modes early on and fought his way up into the top ten. But at this point, he got into tussle with Sébastien Buemi in the chicane, which resulted in him glancing off the track barrier and sustaining suspension damage that forced him back to the pits where he had to park the car.

Stoffel vandoorne standing in the box at the valencia eprix

"Today was a very different day to yesterday," said Stoffel. "I settled into the race OK and made good a lot of places. I think I was in P10 when I had an incident with Buemi. After that, unfortunately, I had to retire from the race because my suspension was damaged. It was a racing accident, which is frustrating because we could have taken some points today from 17th on the grid."

Valencia: Opportunities taken and opportunities missed

Although the two drivers' efforts in Sunday's race went unrewarded, the team leaves Valencia not only with plenty of new insights but also with a win, a third-place finish and the knowledge that the pace of the car and both drivers was strong on both days in different conditions.

What's more, the double podium on Saturday also took the team and drivers to the top of both championship tables. After the sixth race of the 2020/21 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team (105 points) now leads the team standings by 23 points ahead of Jaguar Racing (82 points). Nyck (57 points) and Stoffel (48 points) are meanwhile first and second in the drivers' standings.

The next challenge for the team is just around the corner. In less than two weeks (8 May), they will be competing in the seventh round of the season - the Monaco E-Prix on the streets of the Principality. Ian James: "I think the whole team will be looking forward to that next set of opportunities."

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