The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship makes its sixth visit to the most iconic street circuit in motorsport and Monaco this weekend, 6 May, for Round 9 of Season 9 on the glamorous riviera.
Formula E heads to Monaco this weekend (6 May) with 11 teams and 22 world-class drivers all-set to take in the historic Circuit de Monaco’s storied turns and vistas.
The field of all-electric cars will once again race up the hill through Mirabeau and the famous Casino Square, round the Grand Hotel Hairpin and through the inimitable Monaco tunnel ahead of the Nouvelle chicane – this year in its traditional configuration.
The streets of the Principality have played host to some of the biggest moments in motor racing history and Formula E itself has arguably showcased the best of motorsport in Monte Carlo since it switched to the Grand Prix circuit a couple of years ago. Season 6 champion Antonio Felix Da Costa claimed victory in Season 7 in an absolute classic – undoubtedly one of the most exciting races in the history of Formula E, capping a first outing on the full Monaco circuit with an audacious overtake at the exit of the tunnel on the final lap of the race for the win.
The race saw 28 overtakes between the top six runners alone, with the lead changing six times – including an audacious move at Beau Rivage from Mitch Evans on da Costa, before the Portuguese returned the favor on the final lap for the win. Three wide at Sainte Devote on Lap 1 set the tone early.
If this season is anything to go by, with almost 400 overtakes over the Berlin double-header last time out, and a record eight different race leaders in Round 7, then we’re in for a classic. Action gets underway with Free Practice 1 on Saturday from 07:30 local time, with Free Practice 2 from 09:10. Qualifying follows at 10:40 and Round 9 itself starts at 15:00 CEST.
Last time in Monaco
Eventual Season 8 champion Stoffel Vandoorne, then of Mercedes-EQ now DS PENSKE, mastered the streets of Monte Carlo with a tactical drive to win the 2022 Monaco E-Prix Round 6 and grasp the ABB FIA Formula E Drivers’ World Championship lead. The Belgian beat polesitter Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) to the top step, while DS TECHEETAH’s Jean-Eric Vergne came home third.
Vandoorne emerged on the right side of a mid-race Full Course Yellow and Safety Car which threw race strategies up in the air – the Belgian besting Evans after a race-long battle with the help of some expert balancing of ultimate pace and usable energy.
Having started fourth, Vandoorne had hit the front after then-leader Pascal Wehrlein (TAG Heuer Porsche) retired from the lead with technical issues on Lap 16. Once at the head of the pack, Vandoorne seized control and made good on both restarts to take the checkered flag first with race pace and energy in-hand.
As it stands…
This season, retaining the title looks to be a distant dream for Vandoorne – with a best result of just sixth in Sao Paulo, he’s 74 points from standings leader Wehrlein – the driver he pipped in the Principality last year.
More Monaco magic would soften the blow somewhat but it’s the Belgian’s teammate, Jean-Eric Vergne, that is leading DS PENSKE’s efforts and sits 19 points from top spot after another podium last time out in Berlin.
Wehrlein has headed the way for Porsche in the standings since Saudi Arabia, with a Diriyah win-double and a Mexico City podium from the opening eight rounds. It’s been a quieter spell recently, though, with Nick Cassidy in the Envision Racing-run Jaguar I-TYPE 6 the driver in form. After a win in Berlin – the Kiwi is breathing right down the neck of the German, just four points behind.
It’s now four podiums and a win for Cassidy since Wehrlein last lifted a trophy. DS PENSKE’s double champion Vergne is now third having steered to a textbook defensive victory in Hyderabad and finished a close second in Cape Town. He added silverware in Berlin and will be looking to apply further pressure in Monaco – where he won back in 2019.
Jaguar’s I-TYPE 6 has looked like the car to beat since Hyderabad. Cassidy has led the charge for customers Envision Racing who sit just behind the German manufacturer in the standings, while the factory Jaguar TCS Racing team finally capitalised on its race-winning pace and energy management for a one-three result in Sao Paulo as Mitch Evans and teammate Sam Bird took to the podium.
Evans was 42 points away in the Drivers’ table heading to Berlin but a stunning maiden one-two in the German capital helped fire Round 7 winner Evans to within 24 points of the top.
Mid-season review: Intense competition
Season 9 is now 50% complete. The first eight races have seen six different winners for five different teams with only TAG Heuer Porsche steering both drivers to the top step. A total of 10 drivers have finished on the podium and every full-time driver has scored a point, while only one driver – Norman Nato (Nissan) – has failed to make the Duels in qualifying.
Some 18 drivers have led a lap so far in 2022/23 – that’s a Formula E record – with every team managing to lead a race for at least a lap. The Jaguar-powered teams have led the most laps – Jaguar TCS Racing 65 to Envision Racing’s 64 – but neither lead the Teams’ World Championship.
Amid all of that, Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein leads the championship heading to Monte Carlo but now just by four points; the closest it has been since he took the lead after winning race two in Diriyah. One pattern has emerged, though, with the six drivers to win this season forming the top six in the Drivers’ standings.
Berlin itself saw records smashed for lead changes and race leaders. Prior to the double-header in the German capital, the record number of lead changes – when recorded at the start-finish line – was eight, at Rome 2021, with the most different leaders in a single race being six, not seen since the days of Gen1 car changes in Miami in Season 1 and Putrajaya Season 2. By contrast, Round 7 from Berlin saw eight different leaders exchange top spot some 20 times in 43 laps, and Round 8 saw seven exchange P1 16 times. Not a single retirement in Berlin either, for the fourth time – Tempelhof is the only circuit to see every driver finish a race.
Last time out, Maximilian Guenther and Maserati MSG Racing secured a first podium of the season and the first since the team partnered with the famed Italian automaker from the start of the GEN3 era.
That was the Trident’s first top tier single seater silverware since 1957 – a season in which one of the sport’s all-time greats, the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio, won the last of his five Formula 1 World Championship titles. That same campaign, the Argentine, nicknamed El Maestro, steered to victory on the very same streets we’ll be racing on this weekend in Monte Carlo.
Can the Monaco-based outfit repeat the feat on home soil and could they go one better to reach the top step and match Fangio’s feat from 1957?
“This is such an incredible feeling,” Guenther said after his Berlin podium. “After the season we’ve had and the challenges we’ve faced and now overcome, it feels so good to be on the podium.
“It’s a big relief, to be fair. We’ve seen great progress in the last few races after a tough start to the season, but we couldn’t score the points for different reasons. We just always kept going, kept believing in ourselves, and just kept working and improving.
“Achieving it at my home race in Berlin makes it an even more satisfying way to celebrate. Also, knowing that I’m the first driver since Fangio to finish on the podium for Maserati in single-seater motorsport is a great honor.”
“We have celebrated many milestones in our long racing history, but today we made a mark in this championship and look forward to the future with optimism and resilience,” added Giovanni Sgro, Head of Maserati Corse.
The impressive list of former winners on the Monaco streets includes Fangio, Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna, who won six times here, including a record five in a row.
“Monaco is Monaco, it’s just magic,” says Frenchman Vergne (DS PENSKE). Vergne’s one of four drivers on the grid to have taken the checkered flag first in Formula E around Monte Carlo’s hallowed harbour front, with a lights-to-flag masterclass on his way to Drivers’ Championship number two back in 2018/19.
Sebastien Buemi (Envision Racing) is a double winner – the only driver to do so in Formula E – and the Swiss is hoping to stake a definitive claim to the “Electric Mr Monaco” moniker with his Jaguar I-TYPE 6 looking the package to beat at the moment.
Da Costa’s win in Season 7 was unforgettable, and he’s in with a shout in the Teams’ table-topping Porsche 99X Electric. Vandoorne took to the top step here last year but it looks to be a long shot if the reigning champion’s current form is anything to go by.
The full, traditional Monaco circuit
For the 2022 Monaco E-Prix, the amended Nouvelle chicane made way for the full, traditional circuit layout around the Principality’s harbor front and the same instantly-recognizable track, which has barely changed in layout in almost a century since its first running in 1929, is in play for GEN3.
The 19-turn, 3.337 km track will see the all-electric cars climb the hill at Sainte Devote and travel through the iconic Casino Square, Mirabeau, Grand Hotel Hairpin and of course, the tunnel.