Mercedes-EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne admits he is wary of complacency as he looks to secure a maiden ABB FIA Formula E World Championship crown this weekend at the inaugural 2022 Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix.
Vandoorne heads into the weekend 36 points clear at the top of the Drivers’ Championship ahead of Jaguar TCS Racing’s Mitch Evans, with ROKiT Venturi Racing’s Edoardo Mortara five points further adrift.
With a maximum of 29 points on offer for each race of the Seoul double-header it puts the Belgian in a very strong position to claim his first – and his Mercedes team’s second consecutive – championship title.
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However, Formula E’s renowned unpredictability – this season has seen nine different race winners across the 14 races – means anything is possible heading into the final weekend.
And speaking ahead of the race, Vandoorne was quick to acknowledge that he will need to have his wits about him to hold off the challenges of Evans and Mortara if he is to secure his first title.
“I definitely have to have to be wary of them [Evans and Mortara],” he said. “I'd rather be in my position going into the last race with the advantage that I have, but I also can't be sleeping. I still have to perform because we've seen Mitch win a double header in Rome.
“If they have a good package, then you can expect them to be strong. Edo basically has the same power as us, so I expect him to be strong. Venturi and Edo have been doing a good job as well during this season, so yeah I have to be wary. My best chance to beat them is to try and be in front of them, and that's what I'm going to try and do.
“I joined in Season 5 when you had a pretty dominant DS TECHEETAH at the start of that new generation. And I think that made everyone wake up to raise their standards and raise their game.
“I think since then, the teams have become massively competitive, and the margins now between everyone are just getting smaller, so it's becoming harder as well to achieve those good results.”
Vandoorne has been the all-electric series’ most consistent performer this term, having scored in all but one E-Prix so far (Round 3).
The 30-year-old only has one race victory to his name in Season 8, but podium finishes in half of the races (seven out of 14) has propelled him to the top of the standings.
The Mercedes driver has looked unfazed all season despite being in the midst of a tight championship battle and remains characteristically calm going into the weekend.
“I’m feeling good. I mean I've been on a pretty good run recently of consistently scoring points. And now I just have to conclude it basically, which maybe sounds easier than it is. There is still some tough competition, some quick guys, and I still have to do the job.
“I’m just going in with the same approach really as I've had since the start of the year, to think about it race by race and make sure that we have a competitive car.
Stoffel Vandoorne in action in his Mercedes
Image credit: Eurosport
“I've been sleeping quite okay, to be honest. To be fair, it's been quite busy. It has been one race and then kind of a week off and then race again, but that week off is not really that as it is straight to the simulator again, debriefing the last event and getting ready for the next one.
“I've been in a situation like this before in previous championships. And at the end of the day, I think it's kind of normal to have this kind of pressure. But it's something I enjoy as well.”
The Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix will represent the first time in nine years that South Korea has hosted a major motorsport event – the last being the Formula One Korean Grand Prix held in 2013.
It is another milestone race for Formula E and is the second debut for the Net Zero Carbon Championship this season alongside the Jakarta E-Prix.
Vandoorne admits the unknowns of a new track, in addition to the forecast of a torrential downpour of rain, adds an extra obstacle to overcome in his title challenge.
“The circuit has quite a special characteristic, with the first part of the lap a very slow speed and very tight into the stadium section, [whereas] the last part of the track has some big strides, different tarmacs.
“From the simulator it looks like it's quite a bumpy circuit, it is not the most energy sensitive one, so the overtaking will probably be a little bit harder. That makes qualifying even more important.
“I think the weather is probably the biggest point you'll have to deal with during the weekend, to be honest. I've seen some people that are out there already and it's definitely a lot of water coming down.
“As a new track there's a lot of unknowns for everybody, and no one really knows what it's going to be like exactly. We won't really know what the tarmac is like and how the tyres behave. We just don't have any historical data there, so it definitely it brings some level of randomness.
“I feel as a team we are usually doing quite well when we go to new venues, I'm feeling positive and I'm looking forward to it.”
Season 8 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship reaches its conclusion in Seoul, South Korea with a double-header on August 13 and 14, with both races live on Eurosport 1 from 08:00 BST.
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