10 May 21

Street racing at its finest: Formula E shows how overtaking's done in Monaco

Monaco is perhaps the most famous race circuit there ever has been, and one of the most renowned sporting venues full stop. Down the years, since it first hosted a motor race back in 1929, there have been so many unforgettable encounters but it's often been said that it's tough to overtake around the famous streets.

The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship hadn't got that memo, apparently, with almost 150 position changes - including 28 overtakes between the top six runners - over the course of the series' first E-Prix on the historic, instantly-recognisable full Monaco track.

Formula E is inherently close, and always has been. As it stands this season, the top three teams in the standings are split by just seven points and there's less than the points on offer in a single race - 16 to put a number on it - between double champion Jean-Eric Vergne (DS TECHEETAH) in seventh and current standings leader Robin Frijns (Envision Virgin Racing) as we approach the half-way point of Season 7.

CATCH UP: Watch highlights of the Monaco E-Prix Round 7

A first trip around the full circuit ensured engineers and drivers would be on the back foot in Monaco, too, with no real-world data on how racing up Beau Rivage, around Casino Square and the Grand Hotel Hairpin and through the inimitable tunnel would affect energy management and setup - two things teams love to simulate and perfect to a tee prior to a race weekend.

All the ingredients were there, then, and in qualifying we saw the field split by only 1.3 seconds. Three wide into Sainte Devote come the opening lap of the race set the tone ahead of a couple of the best manoeuvres we've seen in any E-Prix.

'Absolutely outrageous!'

Beau Rivage isn't traditionally a spot to get by somebody at Monaco. Jaguar Racing's Mitch Evans didn't take any notice as he spied an opening, and his chance to take the lead of the race on Lap 18.

The Kiwi had got by Frijns for second at Sainte Devote seconds prior - impressive enough but he hadn't finished there. With ATTACK MODE engaged, he swept around the outside of then race-leader Antonio Felix da Costa (DS TECHEETAH) up the hill before the pair arrived at Massenet.

"I could see him coming and I knew with the ATTACK MODE and the distance he was at that he could have a run but I thought he might use the opportunity to save some energy behind but he actually went for it," said da Costa. "He caught me a little bit by surprise and really, hats off to him for that move it was amazing – full commitment."


EXPLAINED: What is ATTACK MODE?


"I didn't expect it," added Evans. "The speed differential was huge coming up the hill in ATTACK MODE. I wasn't sure what he'd do, but everything was fair - he gave me space where others might have closed the door. There was enough room for me to squeeze around the outside."

 

Da Costa at the last

There was more to come, and there couldn't have been more riding on the champion's final lap fling by Mitch Evans (Jaguar Racing) at the New Nouvelle Chicane. 

Da Costa had started from Julius Baer Pole Position and headed the way through the opening throes but Frijns fired by on Lap 3. The Dutchman stayed there for much of the middle portion of the race - 13 laps - before Evans emerged on top following that otherworldly move through Beau Rivage.

The Kiwi held on at the front but da Costa knew Evans looked short on usable energy with the minutes ticking down. Heading into the ultimate tour, the DS driver had one more shot with Evans now on the ultra-defensive heading out of the tunnel.

"I knew I had a little bit more energy in my pocket and I was just forcing Mitch to use the energy he had left – I knew on the last lap he was really going to struggle," said the reigning champion. "I pushed as much as I could from Sector 2 to be as close as I could get by the chicane.

EXPLAINED: Why is energy management so key in Formula E?

"I’ve done a few of those and went straight on and didn’t pull the move off. I really left it all on the table there and I was like ‘oh my goodness’ we did this – it was amazing. It was the riskiest overtakes of my Formula E career. I didn't think I'd make it but I love racing these guys; so hard and so fair.

"How many lead changes? That just doesn't happen in any other racing series!"

And the incredible thing was, in spite of all the position changes between the six drivers at the sharp end, they all finished the race as they'd started it!

Catch up with the highlights for the best of the action from the 2021 Monaco E-Prix