Stoffel Vandoorne relishing life with Mercedes but shirks Formula One success comparisons

Samuel Wakefield

Stoffel Vandoorne believes the arrival of his Mercedes-Benz EQ team has lifted the standard of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship but has played down the chance of the team transferring its Formula One dominance to its electric cousin.

Vandoorne, who is enjoying a fruitful second season in the all-electric series after making the switch from Formula One, leads the Drivers’ Championship by three points over Brit Alexander Sims following two podiums from the first three races.

The 27-year-old has spearheaded a remarkable start to their rookie season for Mercedes-Benz EQ – joined by TAG Heuer Porsche as this season’s newcomers – with the team already sitting second in the Teams’ Championship behind BMW i Andretti Motorsport.

The three German giants round off a full grid including a large number of prestige manufacturer teams such as Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, Panasonic Jaguar Racing, Nissan e.dams and Mahindra Racing as well as experienced campaigners Envision Virgin Racing and ROKiT Venturi Racing.

And while Vandoorne insists the Mercedes-Benz package will be key in his continuing title fight, the Belgian expects a few bumps along the road for the rookie team especially with Formula E famous for its close, competitive, unpredictable racing.

“I think it is wrong to compare Mercedes’ success in Formula One to the Formula E project,” said Vandoorne, who will compete live on BBC Red Button, BBC iPLayer and BBC Sport online at 10pm on Saturday February 15. “It is a completely different game and a completely different Championship.

“The teams are a lot closer in Formula E. The competitiveness of the teams with new manufacturers has definitely lifted the Championship.

“Even though there is so much heritage and resource in this [Mercedes-Benz] team, it will still take time to get everything right. But what is certain is that we have a really good baseline in the car, it is giving us something to work with and that is what is important at this stage. They have given us drivers something good so hopefully we can be consistent this year.

Stoffel Vandoorne leads the Drivers’ Championship by three points (Getty)

“In terms of pace I have always been up there, I’ve had some very good qualifying as well as a couple of podiums, and now I am leading the Championship so I really want to stay in the mix [for] the whole season.”

Vandoorne’s impressive performances for Mercedes-Benz EQ has seen the former McLaren man, who drove for two seasons from 2016-18, replace Esteban Ocon as Mercedes’ reserve driver in Formula One.

But his focus will be on a far improved drive in Mexico City – after finishing 18th here last season in only his fourth Formula E race for HWA Racelab – to continue holding off the challenge of Brit duo Sims and Sam Bird who sit second and third.

Last year saw Mahindra’s Pascal Wehrlein pipped to the chequered flag metres from the line by Audi’s Lucas di Grassi after running out of energy and fans will be hoping for a repeat of the excitement – if not perhaps the drivers.

The 2020 CBMM Niobium Mexico City E-Prix is live on BBC Red Button, BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website at 10pm on Saturday.