Stoffel Vandoorne extended his Drivers' World Championship lead from 11 to a commanding 36 points after recovering to fourth position in the SABIC London E-Prix Round 14 while his closest rivals faltered.
All of the top four drivers failed to make the Duels in qualifying for race two, which suited Vandoorne more than anybody with the rest already chasing the Mercedes-EQ driver down. This followed Saturday's action, which saw only Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) of the pre-race top four score - though not higher than the Belgian, who steered to another podium and second place. Edoardo Mortara (ROKiT Venturi Racing) and Jean-Eric Vergne (DS TECHEETAH) both failed to tally.
Come Sunday, Vandoorne started 13th and sliced his way through the pack to an eventual fourth, though bad luck via inverter failure for Jaguar's Evans turned a small points disadvantage in race two to a massive points boost as the Kiwi failed to finish entirely, having been a position ahead of Vandoorne on the road until that technical problem.
Vandoorne feels it was the maximum he could have hoped for at the outset. Incredibly, the result meant that Vandoorne - often labelled Formula E's Mr Consistency - had failed to score just once this season in the Mexico opener. Right when it matters, the title hopeful has pulled out a run of four top finishes in the last four encounters. Some marker.
"Today was an amazing drive," said the 30-year-old. "On a track like London where everyone knows qualifying is so important because overtaking can be so difficult, it was really an amazing comeback. We managed to stay out of trouble in the opening couple of laps. I had a couple of taps and some bodywork damage but I still had to make some moves to earn the position at the end. We had good pace. P4 coming from 13th was definitely the best possible.
"I’m feeling exhausted. The race was super hard. There was a lot of rubber going down and the wheel was super, super hard but it was a good day!
"I feel really sorry for Mitch, he was having an amazing race as well. Me and him were going at it very aggressively since the start. He got me at the start and I got caught up in something at the start. I followed him on all the overtakes and stayed as close as possible and it’s always a shame to see it end like that for someone."
Despite his advantage, Vandoorne knows Formula E well enough that there's still plenty of time for things to change - especially given Evans' prior form this season.
"It’s a more comfortable buffer to have," continues Vandoorne. "I’d rather be in my position than anyone else’s but I’ve got to keep my feet on the ground – it’s Formula E and it’s not over ‘til it’s over. We’ve seen Mitch has won two races in a row before in Rome this year and I can’t afford to do anything wrong. We’re going to give it all to prepare for Seoul and hopefully we can seal it there."
James: 'It was phenomenal for us'
Team Principal Ian James unsurprisingly concurred with Vandoorne's estimation of a weekend that could hardly have panned out better for the reigning champions. James wouldn't rule out the possibility of team orders coming into play in Seoul but between now and then, there's no rest for the British-based German outfit as it chases a second title double as its Formula E swansong.
"It was a phenomenal race from our perspective and it wasn’t certain when we looked at the beginning," he said, "With Stoffel starting 13th and Nyck fifth, third and fourth was pretty incredible actually. It’s an important result and race for us and it’s always a shame when a competitor has to go out in that way. I really do feel for Mitch and the Jaguar team, as it’s not deserved in that way.
"It’s always an option (to switch positions between teammates) and every motorsport team would debate it long and hard there’s no doubt about that. Stoff was a fair way back and there’s always risk when you do something like that – it has to be clear cut when you go for it. There’s also always with any of us pride at stake and it’s something that has to be measured. It’ll be interesting to see how that pans out in the next couple of races.
"I don’t know if the mindset changes because I’ve never been in this position before! If you think about it last year it was the last laps of the last race. This time, there’s a little bit more of a buffer there but it’s Formula E and until it’s done, it’s never done. From a mindset perspective, the team’s going back tonight and we’ll be in the simulator tomorrow working hard on the preparation for Korea."