Inside London’s Excel exhibition centre, fireworks are going off and there are cheers of joy as Alex Lynn and Mahindra Racing celebrate an unlikely Formula E race victory. But just a few feet away, the atmosphere inside the DS Techeetah garage is far more subdued.
Eventually the silence is broken by the voice of driver Jean-Éric Vergne on the car-to-pit radio. “This race was a pure joke,” he says. “I’m ashamed to see this type of racing. I’m in shock, honestly.” A few moments later, Vergne (known as Jev) pulls his battle-scarred single-seater into the pits and clambers out, making a circling cuckoo gesture with his finger. It’s a stark contrast to the buoyant, hopeful mood in the same pit a little over five hours earlier.
Autocar was given access to the DS garage for Sunday’s event, including the chance to listen in to Vergne’s radio communications. Initially hopes were high of making up for a difficult outing in Saturday’s first race. Mixed conditions during Formula E’s controversial qualifying format – in which the top drivers in the championship run in the first of four short sessions, when track conditions are typically at their worst – left Vergne 23rd on the grid, with team-mate António Félix da Costa a little way ahead in 17th.
Félix da Costa climbed to eighth in the race, with Vergne 14th, which became 12th after the two Nissan e-Dams machines were disqualified. The silver lining was that DS Techeetah maintained its lead in the Formula E teams’ points table.
With rain having messed up Saturday’s qualifying, the team is nervous of a repeat on Sunday. Félix da Costa is slowest in his qualifying group, with Vergne next up. After one camera shot shows what could be drops of rain, Vergne’s engineer asks: “Are you sure you want to go first?”