Formula E: Can Monaco magic a ninth different winner in ‘fantastic’ season?

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Eight winners in eight races: Formula E's back
02:34 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Eight different winners from eight races in "fantastic" season

Vergne: "No-one will take control of the championship"

Defending champion says the title race is "mentally tough"

Alejandro Agag: Don't rule out more different winners

CNN  — 

The twists and turns of the Formula E season show no signs of slowing as the championship heads to the majestic streets of Monte Carlo.

Monaco is no stranger to motorsport history and the electric racing series has been breaking new ground in Season Five.

Amazingly, there have been eight different winners from the first eight races.

To put that in context, in the last three seasons there were five different overall winners and in Season One there were six.

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“It’s fantastic,” Formula E chairman and founder Alejandro Agag tells CNN. “It’s almost unheard of in motorsport that we have eight races with eight different winners.

“If you’re in a championship and you’re in any team and you know that the next day you have a race and you may be the winner, that must be a fantastic feeling.”

This unprecedented unpredictability has kept the championship standings as tight as a Monaco hairpin.

At the top, Robin Frijns – the winner last time out in Paris – now holds a one-point lead over Andre Lotterer, with Antonio Felix Da Costa another 10 points back in third ahead of other drivers still in title contention.

“Complicated and random”

DS Techeetah driver Jean-Eric Vergne describes this season’s title fight as “complicated, difficult and random.” The open nature of the championship doesn’t help if – like the Frenchman – you are trying to defend a title.

“No-one will take control of the championship,” Vergne, who is sixth in the standings, tells CNN.

“Last year I took the lead quite early on and never left it, this year it changes all the time. Last year I won (the title) a race before. I don’t think that’s going to happen this year, it’s just too complicated, just too difficult, a bit too random as well.

“I actually believe that a guy that doesn’t win a race this year can win the championship.”

Vergne describes being in the thick of a title fight, and one where the contenders have to tune-up on track, qualify and then race all within the space of a few hours, as “very tough.”

He adds: “It’s tough mentally as well because you do a good race and the race after, even if you do a good job, you’re not quite there.”

Mixing things up

A Season Five shake-up has seen a new Gen2 car capable of going the whole race distance, the introduction of Attack Mode – where drivers can gain an extra boost of power by driving off the racing line – as well as tweaks to rules on qualifying and race length.

But is there a simple explanation as to why a different driver has won each race so far?

“For a very good reason,” answers Vergne. “Because of the qualifying format.”

This format sees the 22 drivers divided by championship position into four groups of up to six cars with those at the top of the standings taking to the track first.

“Group One is when the track is always dirtiest so it’s very difficult to go fast,” explains Vergne. “Since the level is very high and everybody has a good car, the group that goes after Group One always make a quicker time.

“So the guys in Group One don’t always score points. I didn’t score points in three races. Then I won in Sanya and I’m back in the top-three again, so then the next race it’s back to the difficulties of being in Group One. It’s very tricky.”

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For Agag, who is tasked with devising a compelling championship for both fans and sponsors, the season couldn’t be going better.

“This has been down to some things that we didn’t know how they were going to work, and they just went our way,” he says.

“The new qualifying system has been a great way to mix things up and make it more exciting … I guess we’ve just been super-lucky.”

Don’t rule out more winners

There are five races still to go – in Monaco, Berlin, Bern and New York’s double-header – and with 14 drivers yet to win a race, could we see more new faces on the top step of the podium?

HAINAN ISLAND, CHINA - MARCH 23: Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA), DS TECHEETAH, 1st position, celebrates with Oliver Rowland (GBR), Nissan e.Dams, 2nd position  on March 23, 2019 in Hainan Island, China. (Photo by FIA ABB Formula E Handout/Getty Images)
Jean-Eric Vergne ends pointless run in Sanya
05:11 - Source: Formula E

“Nissan is there ready to win,” says Agag. “They have been so unlucky with all these problems. There are a lot of drivers in the teams that have won that are also perfectly capable of winning. For example, Daniel Abt won a race last year and Andre Lotterer hasn’t won yet this season.

“So, we could still have more different winners.”

With that in mind, is it possible to pick a favorite for the Season Five crown?

“No, I don’t have one,” says Agag with a hint of glee. “I have no clue who could be the winner.

“Andre Lotterer is really consistent. Even if he hasn’t won a race he is second in the championship and he has been so unlucky.

“If he hadn’t had the problem in Hong Kong he would be leading by 25 points so maybe Andre would be my favorite but I wouldn’t put a lot of money on it.”

“If I had $10 then maybe I’d put $1 on Andre and save the other $9!”

How unusual is it to have so many different winners in top-tier motorsport?

“To put Formula E into contemporary context, there have only been seven different winners in the entire Formula 1 turbo hybrid era from 2014, across more than five seasons and 104 Grands Prix,” motorsport statistician Sean Kelly tells CNN.

“The record for different race winners in consecutive races in F1 is nine, set jointly in 1961/62 and again in 1982.

“That 1982 season also featured 11 different winners for seven different constructors, and nobody won more than two races all year.

“People also remember the 2012 F1 season because it began with seven different winners, which is a record to begin a season.”