Marrakesh win slips through DS' fingers but Vergne firmly in title hunt

DS TECHEETAH looked to have the quickest car in Marrakesh, but neither Antonio Felix da Costa nor Jean-Eric Vergne could unseat Edo Mortara, with the ROKiT Venturi Racing driver able to assemble a perfect Round 10 on the way to a vital win.

Da Costa had pipped Mortara to Julius Baer Pole Position earlier in the day in the Duels, by a slender 0.081s margin, and the Season 6 champion held that lead over the opening laps.

WAYS TO WATCH: Where and how to watch every minute of Season 8

With race strategies up in the air amid 33 degree temperatures – not to mention track temperatures in the 50s – drivers jumped for early ATTACK MODE activations. The theory behind that firing an extra 30kW of power through the battery and powertrain while overall temperatures in-car were lower is the most efficient and effective thing to do over a race distance where latent in-car temperatures would only continue to rise. Excessive heat is the enemy of performance and efficiency.

So, DS went first on both of their three-minute boosts, with Mortara covering the pair off a lap later first time around and stealing the lead from da Costa on Lap 6 of 34 after hanging back a couple of laps as he took his second 30kW dose. He built enough of a margin to come out ahead of da Costa, with Vergne taking a slightly different tack – slipping to sixth, though gaining a couple of percent more usable energy to try and deploy late-on.

Mortara then led da Costa and Vergne nudged his way forward, by Oliver Rowland (Mahindra Racing) and Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) and on to the back of the sister black and gold car in second.

SIGN UP: Keep up-to-date with all the latest from Formula E

DS TECHEETAH allowed Vergne to slip past da Costa while his pace looked strong – in a bid to give the Frenchman a shot at the race leader. Vergne’s pace waned, though, and the pair returned to their previous positions as the race headed towards its finish.

Vergne ultimately fell back behind Evans on the final lap – vital championship points lost to winner Mortara and another of the Drivers’ top four, though prior standings leader Vandoorne could only manage eighth after braking issues saw him qualify all the way down in 20th.

Da Costa did hassle the leader but it was too little, too late – with Mortara unflappable.

“[Finishing on the podium] feels good," says da Costa. "We worked hard with the team before coming here and we thought we had enough control to believe we could win.

"I think, ultimately, Edo and Venturi had a little bit more than us – my race was a little bit compromised with a few things here and there. With Rowland hitting me, I almost lost the car there, which gave Edo a breather to go to ATTACK MODE and get back in front, along with the switch of positions with JEV, so we always kept giving him a bit of a breather to control his race the way you want to.

READ MORE: How Mortara managed Marrakesh heat to take crucial Round 10 win

“I would have said let's switch with JEV a little bit later, maybe let me challenge Edo, and then if it doesn't work out we can swap, but I don't know. I need to look at the numbers and all the strategy plans – the team obviously has a lot more information than I do in the car, so I had to trust them, and I did. I'll go back and have a look at that.

Antonio Felix da Costa celebrates Formula E podium in Marrakesh

“In the end, I was just trying to keep him honest, keep making the race hard for him and see if we could pull a rabbit out of the hat, but I knew it was going to be hard. It's been a few races since I was on the podium, but there have been a few good results for me lately, so it's good to start building momentum to the end of the season."

“Marrakesh worked for us, but it also worked well for a couple of other teams. Even though Edo and Venturi have the same car as Stoffel [Vandoorne] and [Nyck] de Vries, in the end, you still need to do a good job.

"I think the strength of our team is that we're never bad – there’s no track that we get really compromised with performance. We haven't been dominating anywhere, but we seem pretty strong everywhere, and that's what you need for a championship fight. Obviously, Edo and Venturi have been doing that, so there’s a big fight shaping up between these two guys [Mortara and Mitch Evans], JEV and Stoffel [Vandoorne] for the last few races."

Jean-Eric Vergne DS TECHEETAH

"It's not a nice feeling for me given I had the pace all weekend and was looking for the win, but the heat of Marrakesh decided otherwise" said Vergne. "Congratulations go to Antonio on second place - well done to him - but I would have liked to have taken a better result. I like New York - both the track and the city, though, and I won both my championships there, so hopefully we're going to have two strong races."