Vergne’s tactics pay off to land Cape Town Formula E podium

The expected battle between Porsche and DS Penske took place during the first E-Prix in South Africa, with the strategies employed by the leading teams the right ones to deliver silverware.

Jean-Eric Vergne, DS Penske

The Cape Town track, specially laid out on public roads for this first E-Prix, was new to everyone. In addition to the work on the simulator, there was also a reconnaissance of the circuit on foot, a very instructive moment before the first test session where everyone was able to get a more precise idea of the layout and its demands.

"I had seen things in the simulator, such as the bumps, which are well reproduced, but there's always an element of surprise," said DS Penske driver Vergne. "And then in the simulator, when you take a corner too quickly and hit a wall, you start again."

In the heart of the South African city, on the fastest urban track of the season where average speeds exceeded 150 km/h and the cars reached 230 km/h in top speed. Not bad for a city circuit with road signs and manhole covers!

Sebastien Buemi, Edoardo Mortara and Sam Bird would all pay the price of discovering it in a rather violent way. This was also the reason why some of the drivers were on the back foot during practice and before qualifying.

“I didn't feel the car too much, so I preferred to be cautious,” Vergne said. “I really started to take risks in qualifying, where it was important to preserve the car.”

Jean-Eric-Vergne, DS Penske

Jean-Eric-Vergne, DS Penske

Photo by: DPPI

In Group 1, the two Porsches leading the championship were also back in contention, but Antonio Felix Da Costa missed out on the final phase. Vergne did the job and found himself in the quarter-finals against Nissan’s Sacha Fenestraz who was in great form and duly went on to grab his maiden Formula E pole position.

In Group B, things did not go so well for Porsche and DS Penske, as the session ended under a red flag. Stoffel Vandoorne, who had just set the fastest time in the first sector, could have some regrets as he would only line up 12th with team-mate Vergne in 5th.

Experience is the mother of wisdom

On such a complex track, where every mistake can be very costly, it is above all the correct measurement of risks and the energy strategy that allows drivers to score points. In this respect, it was once again Vergne who was dominant, as was his former team-mate da Costa at the wheel of a factory Porsche. Since the start of the season, DS Penske has been the only team to have shown a response to the German manufacturer, and the battle expected in South Africa did indeed take place.

After taking the lead in the E-Prix, Vergne found himself with da Costa in his rear-view mirror, while the latter still had an attack mode to take. It was a game of cat and mouse for the last few laps of the race, in front of a crowd that had come in great numbers and was visibly delighted by the spectacle.

Da Costa, who was daring, finally managed to get away after a risky manoeuvre and in doing so took his first victory with Porsche after starting from the 13th place.

Jean-Eric-Vergne, DS Penske

Jean-Eric-Vergne, DS Penske

Photo by: DPPI

Vergne’s strategy still paid off for second place and he also scored the fastest lap in the race.

“Of course, I would have preferred to win, but I'm happy with the result,” said the French driver. “Tonio was quite aggressive, and I chose to keep a cool head, especially as I didn't see him in my mirrors when he started to overtake me.

“If I had pushed him closed to the wall, he could have hit it, bounced off, and put us both out of the game. I think if we didn't both have a lot of experience in motorsport, it could have ended badly.”

After a very busy start to the season with rounds every fortnight since mid-January, the Formula E world championship teams have a month to prepare for the next round.

The championship will once again take them to an unknown circuit, this time in the city of Sao Paulo (Brazil), for round six on 25 March.

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