BERLIN, Germany – For the second time in as many days, Antonio Felix da Costa turned in a stellar performance to claim another Formula E triumph Thursday during the Berlin E-Prix.
The DS Techeetah driver extended his championship lead to 68 points, keeping Sebastien Buemi at arm’s length throughout the encounter, while Lucas di Grassi came out on top in the battle for the final step on the podium.
Da Costa again started well, and immediately closed the door on Buemi as the field worked into the first corner. Nyck de Vries produced a flyer off the line and was late on the brakes into turn one, passing Alex Lynn for third in a cloud of tire smoke.
Max Guenther had been the big climber in the opening stages, making a trio of moves to find his way into eighth position by lap two. That was the end of his progress, however, when his iFE.20 picked up a puncture on lap nine. His team later retired the car.
The lead duo stretched their legs out front, pulling out two seconds on de Vries behind as the Mercedes-Benz driver continued his duel with Lynn.
Fifteen minutes into the race, and none of the drivers in the fight for the championship were in the top-five, apart from points leader da Costa, were in points-paying positions.
The battle for sixth spot raged all the way through the race as Oliver Rowland, Sam Bird, Lynn and Edo Mortara all leapt for Attack Mode, but Lynn miscued, leaving Lynn exposed as those around him benefited from the extra 35 kW of usable energy.
Di Grassi had made his way by de Vries for fourth on lap 11, and the pair responded to the group just behind by hitting the activation zone themselves. The Brazilian made it count – getting the jump on third-placed Frijns as the Dutchman was a lap late to the Attack Mode party.
The third full-course yellow of the evening was caused by de Vries’ stricken Silver Arrow 01, after two prior cautions for the collection of some rogue debris, forcing the Dutchman out of the action.
On the restart, da Costa was able to create a two-second cushion to the Nissan of Buemi behind – enough to see him able to take Attack Mode and retain his lead with 20 minutes left to run.
Stoffel Vandoorne was quietly going about his business climbing through the field from 13th. On lap 22, the Belgian pulled off an audacious three-wide move on Rowland and Bird to go right around the outside of the pair of them and into fifth spot with Frijns the next in his sights.
Frijns, meanwhile, was scrapping hard with di Grassi for the final spot on the podium, as the Brazilian employed all of his experience to fend off Frijns’ advances – the pair very evenly matched, both running the Audi powertrain.
The two went back and forth as they activated Attack Mode one after the other for the second time, and it was a straight fight to the finish with Frijns clambering over the back of the Audi for every one of the final five laps.
Vandoorne joined the gaggle with two laps left, as did Bird, to make it four into one for the final step on the podium. Di Grassi’s experience and skill served him well, however, as he clung on for silverware with Frijns, Vandoorne, Bird and Rowland following.
Vergne’s frustrations were clear for all to hear, with complaints that he was losing his rear tyres ringing around his engineer’s ears with just less than 10 minutes plus one lap to run.
The Frenchman’s pace, as in the first running of the Reverse Berlin Tempelhof Circuit, fell away towards the end of the race, with Mortara pinching eighth and Andre Lotterer ninth with Vergne winding up 10th.
Da Costa held Buemi at bay to take the win and his dominant performance saw him extend his championship lead to 68 points over both di Grassi and Vandoorne, with 120 points left in play.
“This was really hard,” said da Costa. “Seb (Buemi) kept me honest all race. Yes, we were a little bit quicker, but there wasn’t a moment where I could stop looking in my mirrors.
“During Attack Mode, it was tight and he was fair and left me some space. We had some battery temperature issues but the team helped me out with the right info and we managed it.
“These days, and this momentum, is rare. I know how hard they are to come by and I’m so happy right now.
“I’m thinking day-by-day. We’ve got four races in quick succession. We’ll see people get closer and closer and I’m expecting it to keep getting tougher.”