Dubai: With a six-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship, Nyck de Vries can almost taste victory. But such is the nature of Formula E that we head into the last race of the season in Berlin with not just the Dutchman in with a shout to win - but astonishingly 17 other drivers. They all have a mathematical chance of finishing on top of the podium on Sunday (15 August) and it promises to be an exciting end to the season.
With 30 points available for a clean sweep in both races and with the direction of the the Tempelhof Airport circuit reversed, there is everything to gain - and lose - and the Mercedes-EQ team driver de Vries knows it.
Ahead in the standings over Envision Virgin Racing’s Robin Frijns, de Vries will do everything he can to clinch the title. "Yes, we are in the lead but we have a very minimal advantage," he says. "This is the world’s most unpredictable motorsport and I think that is the reality we are facing this season so it is hard to have any predictions going into the last race as really anything can happen. I’m starting to call it the lottery and I am hoping we win the lottery!"
Good and bad
De Vries enjoyed a strong London E-Prix weekend by taking two runners-up spots and finishing second to Jake Dennis in race one and then to Alex Lynn in race two and says the sport can be very up and down. "In Formula E, everyone has good and bad weekends and at the same time the competition is extremely close and the format in itself keeps the championship very close together and this helps to keep the excitement levels very high."
With 18 drivers still in the mix, he agrees the final race should make for very interesting viewing. "Everyone has a fair opportunity, the teams, the cars and the drivers are all really similarly matched but I think at the same time as a fan you want to see a group of drivers in with a chance. In Formula 1 there are currently two drivers battling for the championship but in Formula E we can have six or seven or eight drivers fighting it out for the championship. As a spectator it’s hard to really understand who will win because it is a bit random. It is exciting."
He knows it will be tough on Sunday but Mercedes will be doing everything they can to take both the Drivers’ and Teams’ Championships in Berlin. "We had 6 races in Berlin last year to complete season 6 and we ended it very well we progressed throughout the week there and had a strong package to end the season. This year we have made a small step and as a team we have raised the bar and I’m confident we have a good team and good package and hopefully we can have smooth clean weekend, score good points and maintain our position."
Ready for Berlin
De Vries is looking forward to the race in Berlin and has all the preparation and groundwork in place to ensure he clinches the title. "We, as a team, do 6 days of simulator preparation ahead of every event, which is a lot, we put a lot of time and effort into it in order to turn up to races as best prepared as possible, we also have a development driver coming in and we have engineering meetings, post events reports to discuss where we could have improved and we discuss the weekend to come and this all puts us in a good place and prepares us for what’s coming."
Berlin marks the first time that tickets for a Formula E race have gone on public sale this season - but how has he found racing during the pandemic with no spectators being able to watch the action? "Sport in general is there to be watched, at the end of the day we want to interact with people, sport is entertainment and so it is sad that we haven’t been able to welcome the fans and share our races and experiences together because they really do make our events different and they contribute to the spectacle. Without them it’s like an empty soul."
He has had a brilliant season - so much so that there has been talk of a move to the Williams Formula 1 team - but he is his own biggest critic and knows exactly when and where he could have done better. "I think there have been many cases and occasions that I look back to where I and the team could and should have done better - the championship has been like a roller coaster ride there have been so many ups and downs so naturally everyone will have many moments they will reflect to and look back to and think they should have done this or done that."
As we reach the end of the seventh season, de Vries feels it has the potential to grow bigger and bigger but he says it should not be compared to Formula 1. "They are very different racing championships, I think the fans have to understand that. Formula 1 is the world’s biggest sport and so well recognized and we should embrace this but we as Formula E also have all the ingredients to become an extremely big and interesting championship."
Overtaking Formula 1
With the way technology is growing and the fact that most of the world’s carmakers are adopting electric cars, does he feel Formula E will overtake Formula 1? "Electrification is the future there is no way of dismissing it anymore or hiding it, it is the direction that all of the world’s manufacturers have decided to take, so it’s just a matter of time. Formula E will only become bigger."
Meanwhile, Neom has awarded placements with Mercedes-EQ for two talented Saudi nationals from its GrOW programme and de Vries is excited to welcome them to the team. "I think it’s great we have this partnership with Neom integrated with our team, I am great supporter of young talent because I think first of all they deserve an opportunity but secondly it is always refreshing to get new thoughts into an organization so it’s always good to have this combination of experience, knowledge, maturity but also with young people who are very determined and keen to develop and show their skills. One of the graduates, Duaa Alzaher, is joining us in the corporate IT section and Ahmed Alhussain in mechanical engineering so two very different areas. I hope they will inspire more Saudi teenagers to pursue similar careers in motorsport."