Perhaps there is no better way to race in South Korea than on a street circuit — and perhaps there is also no better match for the high tech, all-expanding heart of K-pop culture than the upbeat (all-electric, all-innovative) spectacle of Formula E racing. The brightly coloured streets of downtown Seoul will welcome the double header ahead of the Formula E Championship finale — two last rounds to decide it all, win or lose, 58 points on offer and four drivers who could all, mathematically, still seize the crown.
Unlike often seen with its single-seater cousin Formula 1 — with the most notable exception of the 2021 World Championship — Formula E likes to keep its options open, and its viewers on their toes, until the very end. “Unpredictable” is the key word when it comes to describing a Formula E championship — where momentumis more important than having a head start.
Nothing is ever a given, and no lead is ever safe, no feat against all odds until it quite simply beats those odds. Last year, 18 drivers out of 24 entered the 15th and final round of the season with a mathematical chance at the title — only for Nyck de Vries to profit off the absolute chaos of the Berlin E-Prix and snatch the final points needed – a mere four – to come out on top.
Now his Mercedes-EQ team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne leads the championship with 185 points, 36 ahead of Jaguar’s Mitch Evans and 41 in front of Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara. Techeetah’s driver Jean-Eric Vergne is the last candidate to a highly unlikely bid to the title, sitting 57 points in the standings behind the championship leader.
And yet, because this is Formula E, we must also take in consideration a (miracle) scenario where the top 3 don’t score a single point and Vergne wins both rounds, scores two consecutive poles, and tops it off with two fastest laps which would make him champion with a one point lead over Vandoorne.
It seems almost impossible, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is – in fact, all it takes to transform a lead into a deficit is one bad, unlucky weekend. Vandoorne knows it — and so do his rivals.
After the Marrakesh E-Prix, Edoardo Mortara had been tagged as the favourite to win the title; but because scoring points consistently will always top winning a race and going home with zero points at the next round, the Venturi driver never let himself believe it was going to be an easy feat with six rounds left in the season. And he was — almost in a prophetic manner — proven right when his weekend in the Big Apple went all wrong, and he lost the lead to Vandoorne after only managing to score four points over the two rounds of the New York E-Prix.
Another “nightmare weekend”, as Mortara himself described it — without making any excuses for what he thought was just not a brilliant performance from him — delivered two right hooks to his title bid over the course of the London E-Prix.
With a double zero-point result dropping him to third in the standings and 41 points behind Vandoorne, who up until Marrakesh had been his closest rival with an 11 points deficit to him, Mortara’s early lead in the championship proved to be ineffective against the odds. Yet everything is still possible for the Swiss-Italian driver, and he will be given not one, but two chances to turn things back around in the upcoming, brand-new Seoul E-Prix.
Only five points ahead — but five points closer to the top — Mitch Evans will need to keep the momentum he started to build up again in London to maximise his chances with a last-minute charge to the title.
The Kiwi driver had to collect his own share of bad luck and frustrating results during the course of the season, but managed to finish on the top step of the podium three times: twice in Rome for the E-Prix in the Italian capital, and once in Jakarta for Round 9. With three race wins against Vandoorne’s single triumph in Monaco — which only goes to show that consistency is key in Formula E — Evans is in a very good position to capitalise off the chance of the championship leader falling into the same trap that led his rivals to tumble down in the standings.
Perhaps this is the reason why not only Vandoorne, but the entire Mercedes-EQ team are heading into the final stretch of the season with their guard raised high in front of them. A cautious approach is being taken, which is more than wise. A penalty can break or make a result.
The Mercedes has arguably been the most consistent car of the season, yet Vandoorne seems reluctant to admit he might have an advantage due to that — nevermind his hefty point lead in the championship. The most important challenge for the Belgian driver ahead of the double header of the Seoul E-Prix will not be winning it, but rather keeping out of trouble. A zero point result in Round 15 would compromise his chances to secure the title ahead of the very final race — unless the result is matched by his closest competition.
“It’s a more comfortable buffer to have,” said the Belgian driver right after Round 14 at the London E-Prix. “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.”
Last time around, it was Norman Nato who won the final, dramatic round of the season in Berlin — and his last race before taking on a role as reserve and test driver for Season 8. Adding to the build-up to this season finale, the French driver will make his return to Formula E next weekend for Jaguar. Nato will deputise for Sam Bird, who fractured his hand in an incident with Dan Ticktum’s NIO 333 in the second London race, and will therefore be unable to compete in the last two rounds of the championship.
Regardless of championship ambitions, everyone will be aiming for gold on new soil — which further complicates things for the four contenders. And as usual, the higher the stakes, the bigger the chance for mistakes. The added bonus — or secret ingredient — comes of course in the shape of the brand-new Seoul circuit itself: 2.618 kilometers, 22 turns designed to go around and across the Seoul Olympic Stadium and Sports Complex for a considerable, and so far unknown, technical challenge for all parties involved.
With all drivers ready to give it all in one last electrical waltz in this generation of cars, three contenders pushed to go full attack and one standing guard, Formula E has all the ingredients needed to cook yet another dramatic season finale.