Berlin E-Prix: Nato wins race, de Vries takes title for Mercedes

Venturi’s Norman Nato won the final round of the 2020-21 Formula E World Championship at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport, as Mercedes’ Nyck de Vries was crowned champion after the majority of his title rivals crashed out.

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In a remarkable last race of the season, de Vries avoided a huge start line shunt between closest chasers Mitch Evans and Edoardo Mortara and then clashed with both Porsche drivers on his climb from 13th into eighth place.

Although his pole-sitting teammate Stoffel Vandoorne slipped to third after an early mistake, it was still enough to ensure that Mercedes earned the championship double.

The dramatic race was marred by a crash on the start line when Evans, who was third on the grid and in a strong position to depose de Vries, failed to launch properly. His Jaguar Racing machine lurched forward a matter of inches before his car stopped completely and he was left vulnerable on the grid.

Those starting directly behind on the right-hand side of the grid swerved and missed Evans as he checked his mirrors until Mortara arrived from his starting slot of 11th. Mortara, second in the points entering the race, smashed into Evans and ripped the front-left wheel assembly off his car as the rear of Evans’ car was lifted into the air and spun around.

The damaged car of Mitch Evans, Jaguar Racing, Jaguar I-TYPE 5

The damaged car of Mitch Evans, Jaguar Racing, Jaguar I-TYPE 5

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

The red flag was required, but not before Nato had sent his Venturi Racing car around the outside of Tom Blomqvist into Turn 1 for fourth after the NIO 333 driver locked up. 

Evans and Mortara were eventually extricated from their cars, with Mortara taken to the medical centre for precautionary checks.

De Vries was fortunate not to be caught up in the melee as he dived for the gap between the pitwall and the two-car wreckage and had to run under a shower of debris to emerge in 12th. 

Then a third title contender was eliminated almost immediately at the delayed race restart when BMW Andretti rookie Jake Dennis slithered into the wall on the approach to Turn 1. The Brit, who was de Vries’ closest rival after the Evans and Mortara crash, said a technical issue locked the rears as he closed on Sebastien Buemi in his Nissan e.dams car.

The rear of Dennis’ car then stepped out and he tagged the concrete and ran straight into the Tecpro barrier on the outside of the wall to bring out a full-course yellow. 

Jake Dennis, BMW i Andretti Motorsport, BMW iFE.21 after the crash

Jake Dennis, BMW i Andretti Motorsport, BMW iFE.21 after the crash

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Second-starting Oliver Rowland managed to stick with leader Vandoorne on the lap-four restart and ran close to the rear of the Mercedes as the lead duo began to edge ahead. Nato dived for his attack mode and returned in fifth but straight away passed Blomqvist again, relegated Alexander Sims for third place and then attempted to slide around the outside of Rowland through Turn 2. 

Rowland responded by going for his attack mode to leave Nato just fourth tenths behind Vandoorne, who delayed his use of the 35kW boost.  With Nato in the faster setting, Vandoorne did not resist the move from the Mercedes powertrain customer car into Turn 1 to allow Nato to take the lead.

Vandoorne then ran wide at the Turn 2 exit to enable Sims to climb into second and Rowland to pass also. Nato, who is expected to be replaced at Venturi Racing by Lucas di Grassi, began to gap the field to the tune of 1.7s as he used up the last of his second four-minute attack mode.  

A second full safety car was then called into play after Antonio Felix da Costa’s title defence came to a premature end following a collision with di Grassi in Audi’s final race in Formula E. Di Grassi lunged down the inside in third battle for 13th place on the run into the Turn 9 hairpin and at the apex the wheels of the two cars appeared to lock.

On the exit, that dragged da Costa’s DS Techeetah machine into the outside wall where he retired. That put Mercedes in position to win the teams’ title while the German manufacturer is poised to announce it will quit Formula E ahead of the new Gen3 rules coming in.

At the final restart, Rowland nudged into the rear of Nato into Turn 1 as Sims followed in a three-car train.

De Vries’ impressive rise up the order took him to fifth at the expense of both duelling Porsches.

He then thumbed the fanboost advantage into Turn 1, where Sims defended stoutly and de Vries still tried to bully it down the inside, which allowed Andre Lotterer to find space as his rivals were delayed.

At the apex of Turn 2, de Vries defended from Lotterer to leave Sims to run through and then the recovering Vandoorne made it a three-wide sprint to Turn 3. However, as Vandoorne battled Lotterer, the cars pinched with de Vries on the inside and the Dutch racer emerged with bent steering.

As Nato crossed the line for a maiden Formula E victory by 2.27s over Rowland in his last race for Nissan e.dams, Vandoorne recovered past Sims for the final step on the podium.

Lotterer bagged fourth for Porsche over Sims and Wehrlein, while Sam Bird completed a stellar rise from 22nd on the grid all the way to seventh to salvage points for Jaguar Racing.

De Vries crossed the line in eighth after a further dice with Wehrlein and Rene Rast – who opted to start from the pitlane to save energy after qualifying 19th – ranked ninth for Audi in its farewell race.

Tom Blomqvist bagged a point for NIO 333 in 10th while two-time champion Jean-Eric Vergne ranked 11th ahead of long-time points leader Robin Frijns. 

Di Grassi was handed a drive-through penalty for his collision with da Costa and finished 20th. 

Cla Driver Team Laps Time Gap
1 France Norman Nato Monaco Venturi 36 1:11'57.152  
2 United Kingdom Oliver Rowland France DAMS 36 1:11'59.422 2.270
3 Belgium Stoffel Vandoorne Germany Mercedes 36 1:11'59.989 2.837
4 Germany Andre Lotterer Germany Porsche Team 36 1:12'04.257 7.105
5 United Kingdom Alexander Sims India Mahindra Racing 36 1:12'05.605 8.453
6 Germany Pascal Wehrlein Germany Porsche Team 36 1:12'05.999 8.847
7 United Kingdom Sam Bird United Kingdom Jaguar Racing 36 1:12'07.625 10.473
8 Netherlands Nyck de Vries Germany Mercedes 36 1:12'08.260 11.108
9 Germany René Rast Germany Team Abt 36 1:12'09.341 12.189
10 United Kingdom Tom Blomqvist United Kingdom NIO Formula E Team 36 1:12'09.831 12.679
11 France Jean-Eric Vergne China Techeetah 36 1:12'10.589 13.437
12 Netherlands Robin Frijns United Kingdom Virgin Racing 36 1:12'10.900 13.748
13 United Kingdom Alex Lynn India Mahindra Racing 36 1:12'11.518 14.366
14 Switzerland Sébastien Buemi France DAMS 36 1:12'11.844 14.692
15 Germany Maximilian Gunther United States Andretti Autosport 36 1:12'12.680 15.528
16 Sweden Joel Eriksson United States Dragon Racing 36 1:12'13.092 15.940
17 New Zealand Nick Cassidy United Kingdom Virgin Racing 36 1:12'13.458 16.306
18 Brazil Sergio Sette Camara United States Dragon Racing 36 1:12'14.113 16.961
19 United Kingdom Oliver Turvey United Kingdom NIO Formula E Team 36 1:12'18.228 21.076
20 Brazil Lucas di Grassi Germany Team Abt 36 1:12'32.307 35.155
21 Portugal Antonio Felix da Costa China Techeetah 21 52'42.154 15 Laps
22 United Kingdom Jake Dennis United States Andretti Autosport 2 28'45.550 34 Laps
23 Switzerland Edoardo Mortara Monaco Venturi 0 0.000  
24 New Zealand Mitch Evans United Kingdom Jaguar Racing 0 0.000  
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