Lewis Hamilton’s X44 won the 2022 Extreme E championship in a nail-biting final as Abt Cupra secured its first win in the series.
After a dramatic qualifying session that left the main championship challengers facing an uphill struggle going into the final day, X44’s Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez needed a third place finish in the final to take the crown.
The team began the day in the last chance qualifier “Crazy Race” with RXR, and with only one advancing to the final from that race, it was effectively winner takes all.
Both made an equal start, but contact with the XITE Energy Racing and JBXE entries left RXR limping home. A switch zone repair was made in the hope of sending Johan Kristoffersson out to snatch the five bonus points for the fastest sector time in the “Traction Challenge” – at that point held by Loeb and X44 – but they were disqualified for having too many crew members in the pit area.
That meant X44 just needed a podium in the final, and a wide line into the first corner from Loeb looked to put the team in prime position right at the start. They soon lost the lead as Abt Cupra’s Nasser Al-Attiyah snuck up the inside of the second corner and disappeared into the distance.
The pass also opened the door for McLaren and Andretti to pass X44 and, while Loeb was able to keep Andretti’s Timmy Hansen at arm’s length, obscured vision from dust prevented him from finding a way past.
When the team’s other drivers took the helm for the second half of the four-lap race, Klara Andersson remained clear out in front for Abt Cupra but behind her the race was far from over. X44’s Gutierrez mirrored Loeb’s first two laps, keeping the Andretti car, now steered by Catie Munnings, in her sights but unable to get by.
Coming to the line, positions two through four were covered by just over 2s but all held station with McLaren’s Emma Gilmour following Andersson home to give McLaren its first Extreme E podium. Munnings kept Gutierrez behind her, until a penalty for switch zone overspeeding swapped third and fourth positions.
Completing the final runners was top qualifier Veloce Racing. The new duo of Kevin Hansen and Molly Taylor began the race on par with the leaders, but lost out as the field fought for space though the first couple of corners. A missed waypoint and a subsequent penalty compounded the difficult end to their day which began with much promise after a comfortable semifinal win.
Acciona Sainz (Carlos Sainz and Laia Sanz) and Chip Ganassi Racing (Sara Price and RJ Anderson) began the day with a shot at the title, and with RXR and X44’s issues on Saturday, they had a chance to cause an upset.
Two penalties for clipped waypoints undid a rapid charge from Price in the first semifinal, freezing them out of the main event, while Acciona Sainz dueled with Andretti until Sanz’s run was stumped by a roll – one that she was able to continue from, but couldn’t recover the lost ground.