Jaguar’s Mitch Evans climbed from ninth position to claim his first victory of the season in a dramatic race on the streets of Rome.
Mercedes EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne once again failed to capitalize on his pole position as he eventually slipped down into third place behind Envision’s Robin Frijns.
Rome always produces drama and action, and the chaos ensued right from the first minute with a five-car pileup on the very first lap.
Positions chopped and changed right up until the last minute, but once Evans navigated his way into the top spot, he cantered to victory, finishing with a five second gap to second place.
DS Techeetah’s Jean-Éric Vergne just missed out on the podium places, finishing in fourth ahead of Jaguar’s Sam Bird and his teammate Antonio Felix da Costa.
In seventh place was ROKiT Venturi Racing’s Edoardo Mortara, who retains his lead at the top of the Championship, ahead of Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne and Envision’s Robin Frijns.
From start to finish
The streets of Rome usually bring drama and chaos and this weekend was no different. As Vandoorne held off an immediate advance from Robin Frijns, the rest of the chasing pack battled through the tight, twisting corners of circuit with millimeters between them.
With a large portion of the grid racing wheel to wheel, it didn’t take long for an accident to happen, with Mahindra’s Oliver Rowland being nudged into the barrier of Turn 7 and subsequently trapping four other cars in the process.
Almost immediately after, Nissan’s Max Guenther found himself running into the barrier as well, with this incident bringing on a full course yellow and the introduction of the safety car.
After only a short delay, the safety car pulled in to allow the action to get back underway, and a tense battle for the top spot ensued as Vandoorne looked to build a sizeable gap to the lurking Frijns, who refused to concede any space.
With Frijns being the first to trigger his Attack Mode, the Dutchman used his extra power to shoot up the inside of Vandoorne at Turn 4 and into the lead. In the buildup to the race, Frijns had said it would be difficult to get past the Mercedes, but it would prove to be even more difficult to stay in front.
On the next lap, both Vandoorne and his teammate Nyck De Vries triggered their Attack Modes, with the pair rejoining the racing line just behind DS Techeetah’s Antonio Felix da Costa.
Looking to capitalize on his lead, Frijns put his foot down to build a healthy gap to the rest of the front row. With just enough space behind him, Frijns took the long way round the expansive hairpin at the Palazzo Marconi to activate his second power boost. Thankfully, the Envision driver had planned his move perfectly, as he came back out in front of Da Costa to retain his lead.
Da Costa’s own Attack Mode had finished a couple of minutes before Vandoorne’s, and the Belgian used that to his advantage to jump back into second place and resume the battle for first.
De Vries, meanwhile, had slipped back down into fifth place but looked determine to finish on the podium, and executed a perfect double overtake on the DS Techeetah pairing of Da Costa and Vergne to climb back into third place.
Elsewhere, Jaguar’s Sam Bird had made steady progress from his starting position of 13th, eventually finding himself in seventh place, but it was his teammate, Mitch Evans, that was beginning to grab people’s attention as he passed Antonio Felix da Costa, who had started to slip down the grid having been clipped by Avalanche Andretti’s Jake Dennis.
Dennis would eventually be struck with a five second penalty for the altercation, but still found himself in fifth with a hungry Evans looking for any opportunity to squeeze past.
A mistake Vergne at the hairpin allowed both Dennis and Evans to run through and to within touching distance of the front row. Vergne tried to rectify his mistake by piling on the pressure on Evans, but the Kiwi was showing great pace and began to pull further and further away.
Evans, now in fourth, began to close in on De Vries and waited for the perfect opportunity to fly past. The reigning champion was starting to slow and his hopes of a top three finish seemed all but over.
Back up front, Vandoorne was pushing to close the gap on Frijns, setting a fastest lap in the process, and with his second Attack Mode still in use, he blasted down the outside of Frijns up the hill to once again regain his lead.
However, Vandoorne’s battle with Frijns had sapped his energy, and with the Envision driver holding a two-percent energy advantage, the Mercedes man had to go on the defensive in an effort to conserve energy and his position.
He could only hold of Frijns for so long and, with his Attack Mode still active, Evans made Vandoorne pay for his energy mismanagement. In the blink of an eye, Vandoorne had lost two places, and from here on in, Evans would only get faster and faster.
Evans completed his impressive climb up the grid by breezing past Frijns, and with a decent amount of his power boost left, he soon moved well out of sight from the rest of the pack.
As Jake Dennis looked to make sure his five second penalty didn’t have too much of an impact on his race, he began to push harder and harder which landed him into third place on the track, but eight overall.
His aggression had sapped his energy, however, and Dennis soon started to fall back down the grid. He would eventually finish in 13th. Unlucky for some.
Once again, Vandoorne and Frijns’ positions chopped and changed once again, with Vandoorne making the most of his Fan Boost to jump into second. But, surprise surprise, his time there was short lived as just moments later, the Dutch driver conducted a smart undertake to straighten things out again.
Although Evans was cruising to victory, the drama for the rest of the pack continued right up until the last minute, with some thrilling wheel-to-wheel action. Vergne had briefly found himself in second place, but both Frijns and Vandoorne recovered in just enough time to hold on to their well-deserved podium places.
The race finished with Evans claiming his first win of the season, miles ahead of Frijns, Vandoorne, Vergne, Bird, Da Costa, Mortara, Wehrlein, Cassidy and Lotterer.
Image: Craig Evans Photography