For polesitter and Mercedes-EQ driver Stoffel Vandoorne, the Season 8 opener of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship looked like a prime opportunity to open his 2021/22 points account with a maximum and the race winner's trophy. Instead, a missed ATTACK MODE activation zone proved costly, with the Belgian feeling he'd "handed" the victory to his Mercedes teammate and reigning champion Nyck de Vries.
"I'm a little bit disappointed," admits Vandoorne, masking his frustration in the immediate aftermath of round one of the doubleheader season opener in Diriyah. "But I don't think it's bad to be disappointed with a second place," he adds with a smile.
READ MORE: The full Round 1 report
Despite starting the race on Julius Baer Pole Position, Vandoorne squandered his lead after missing the ATTACK MODE activation loop during the second round of 30kW boosts. "I was leading the race with pretty much everything under control - I think we had really strong pace in the car today - and then I missed my loop on my second ATTACK MODE activation and just handed the position to Nyck," he admits.
Now in his fourth season in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, Vandoorne's experience and characteristic metronomic consistency would suggest he's in for a strong shout of taking the World Championship trophy from the grasp of his teammate. De Vries is fresh from claiming his first title last season and, now, with another win in hand, the Dutchman is the driver who's stolen a march in his title defence.
"I think for a team result, it's been a great day - I can't be disappointed to qualify on pole in the new format and to finish second today is a good one and we have another opportunity tomorrow," said the 26-year-old.
"You can never have relief in Formula E - the nature of the championship is so close that the moment you give up a little bit of performance, there's someone else that's going to be there."
WAYS TO WATCH: Where and how to watch every minute of Season 8
The ultra-competitive nature of the championship means there's plenty of time for Vandoorne to make amends, especially considering the outright pace of his Mercedes.
"It's not a guarantee that because we won today, we're going to win tomorrow but we're going to try and do everything and repeat the qualifying performance and, from my side, try and do things a little bit better in the race."
With de Vries heading the way in the Drivers' table on 25 points to Vandoorne's 21, Mercedes-EQ sits at 46 points, 28 ahead of its closest competitor, ROKiT Venturi Racing - also running the Mercedes powertrain.
If the opening round in Diriyah is anything to go by, Mercedes looks to have performance in hand. Stringing that performance advantage into a series of strong results is the next part of the puzzle as the German marque seeks to retain its World Championship honours.
Published on 28th January 2022