Da Costa wins first ever Formula E race in South Africa with audacious drive

RIYADH: Antonio Felix da Costa won the first-ever ABB FIA Formula E World Championship race in Cape Town to claim his first win for the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team thanks to an audacious overtaking manoeuvre executed not once but twice to take the lead.

The Season 6 champion returned to form in the previous race in Hyderabad with a third-place finish. But on a new track that saw Nissan’s Sacha Fenestraz claim Julius Baer Pole Position with the fastest lap in Formula E history at an average speed of 154.987kmh, Da Costa’s devastating drive delivered a well-earned victory.

The Porsche driver started in 11th but worked his way through the top 10 and into the top three by lap 20. With the pack squeezed by a full course yellow on lap 21, the top four were split by just 1.5 seconds. Envision Racing’s Nick Cassidy had outdone Fenestraz and Maximilian Gunther (Maserati MSG Racing) through the first round of attack mode activations, going longer before opting for his initial 50-kilowatt boost and easing into the lead.

Da Costa’s move for pole position was one of the best motorsport fans will ever see.

On lap 24 his outrageous pass to steal the lead from Cassidy at the trickiest part of the track – a tough turn seven, eight, and nine combination that had been the site of three crashes earlier in the weekend – saw him go around the outside of turn seven and hold his position inside at turn eight.

The Portuguese driver pulled enough of a gap to take his second mandatory attack mode and retake the lead, but he missed the activation loop – handing the lead to Hyderabad winner Jean-Eric Vergne a lap later. The Frenchman had never had back-to-back wins to this point.

The former teammates then fought to the flag – Vergne having taken just one of his 11 victories to date by more than two seconds – and fresh off a vintage defensive drive to win in Hyderabad. The gap was half-a-second with the full 30 laps down and just two added for the time lost to cautions.

On lap 21, Da Costa again tried the same stunning overtaking manoeuvre, this time on Vergne – one of the toughest competitors on the track. As before, there was no room to breathe but Da Costa went around the outside of turn seven, into eight and nine, and onto a memorable race win under severe pressure from Vergne.

Following his victory, Da Costa said: “For the first time I don’t have a lot to say. There was a lot of weight on my shoulders – thanks for the ones who have stuck with me and helped me get here. It has been a journey, it feels nice.

“I knew it was going to be a strategic one, I’ve done this race before where you have to give that lead away and really plan a late move in the race because the energy was playing a big part, and so following was a bit of an advantage.”

Runner-up Vergne said: “I’m very happy for him (Da Costa), he did a fantastic race, very good move as well. I am very happy with my race, second is good points – good for the championship. Well done to him, he used that to his advantage. But I am frustrated of course.

“It was close, but there are some reasons today I am willing to take, and some not. I think in the view of the championship I am happy to take the second-place points rather than a crash. I am a bit in-between, but at the end of the championship I am sure I am going to be happy with that race,” he added.