Rowland scores first virtual FE win as Vandoorne, Abt collide
Oliver Rowland scored his first victory in the Formula E Race at Home Challenge after early leaders Stoffel Vandoorne and Daniel Abt collided at the virtual Berlin Tempelhof Airport circuit.
Nissan driver Rowland had not yet led a lap of the Esports championship prior to the race, but profited from his rivals’ frequent crashes to triumph by 0.296s in the race, which ran in partnership with Motorsport Games to raise funds for the UNICEF coronavirus relief fund.
Vandoorne overcame the reverse-championship order group qualifying system to bag his third series pole position by 0.256s over the Audi of 2018 Berlin E-Prix victor Daniel Abt.
Mercedes pilot Vandoorne enjoyed a strong launch to hold position on the run to Turn 1, but he braked deep into the corner which then afforded Abt the opportunity to attack.
But the track snaked back round for Turn 3 and so put Vandoorne on the inside line meaning he could maintain position before Abt made another attempt on the approach to Turn 6.
Vandoorne was too cautious through the left-hander so lost out to both Abt and third-starting Rowland, but on the next tour at the same corner Vandoorne found far more pace and took a tight exit to out-drag Rowland and set off after Abt.
The pair ran nose-to-tail on the sixth lap and, again at Turn 6, Abt pulled to the inside of the circuit to defend from Vandoorne, but the pair collided at the apex and ran wide.
This delay allowed Rowland to sweep by on the inside for first place, and from there he held position over Vandoorne to triumph and become only the third different winner in the championship.
Abt’s early race pace ebbed away for the remainder and so he finished a distant third- 3.2s in arrears - but kept the Mahindra of Pascal Wehrlein at bay.
Wehrlein was somewhat fortunate to maintain his championship lead after he crashed with main title rival Maximillian Gunther on the second lap but avoided a subsequent penalty.
At Turn 9, fifth-starting Wehrlein lunged down the inside of BMW Andretti’s Gunther and forced him into the wall and then a spin. That allowed in-form Venturi driver Edoardo Mortara to pick up fifth place ahead of the Dragon of Nico Muller.
Gunther was only able to recover one position to seventh, with Andre Lotterer pulling clear of real-life FE championship leader Antonio Felix da Costa.
Jaguar driver Mitch Evans rounded out the top 10 ahead of Neel Jani and Rowland’s teammate Sebastien Buemi.
Kevin Siggy became the first repeat winner in the parallel Challenge grid contest for sim racers after surviving an opening-corner scare when he was hit off line by battling duo Petar Brljak and Peyo Peev.
The win ensured Slovenian competitor Siggy maintained his 100% podium record as he stretched a standings advantage to 32 points, with the eventual virtual champion winning a real-life FE test drive.
Formula E Race at Home Challenge - Championship standings
1 Pascal Wehrlein 82 points
2 Stoffel Vandoorne 78
3 Maximilian Gunther 71
4 Robin Frijns 48
5 Oliver Rowland 43
6 Nico Muller 27
7 Edoardo Mortara 25
8 Neel Jani 24
9 Oliver Turvey 20
10 James Calado 19
11 Daniel Abt 15
12 Antonio Felix da Costa 12
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