Hamilton's X44 snatches Extreme E title from Rosberg: 'It was in our hands'

Extreme E

Extreme E put on a thrilling 2022 finale as Lewis Hamilton's X44 team overcame numerous hurdles to wrest an unlikely title from Nico Rosberg's RXR

5 X44 at Extreme E Uruguary Energy X Prix

Loeb and Gutiérrez celebrate remarkable championship victory

Extreme E

Continuing the fireworks from a decades-old rivalry, Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Extreme E team snatched the 2022 title right at the death from Nico Rosberg’s RXR squad, clinching an unlikely championship victory on a weekend of high drama and tension in Uruguay.

Nine-time WRC champion Sébastien Loeb and Dakar star Cristina Gutiérrez secured the crown from WRX legend Johann Kristoffersson and 2022 breakout driver Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky at an Energy X Prix event that was witness to an unprecedented number of crashes, controversial on-track incidents and a number of hugely significant penalties which ultimately decided the title fight.

Loeb, whose X44 team had been 17 points behind going into the weekend with a maximum of 30 available, said the spectacular performance came from a race where there was “nothing to lose”, whilst RXR boss Rosberg commented that “it would have been difficult for it to go more wrong it we tried.”

Drivers predicted the course would be tricky prior to the event, and that assessment proved an understatement.

JBXE’s Hedda Hosas, RXR’s Åhlin-Kottulinsky and X44’s Cristina Gutiérrez all had spectacular rolls in that order during their qualifying runs, each accident worse than the next.

X44’s damage was so severe it was forced to use Extreme E’s spare car, but then Loeb decided to limit its use in one of the two qualifying races. The canny Frenchman dropped behind the field to get a clear run at the ‘Continental Traction Challenge’ (setting the fastest time in the ‘Super Sector’, for which the winner is awarded an additional five points), doing so with a blistering time half a second quicker than anyone else to secure an extra five points.

The other qualifying race saw Kristoffersson controversially smashed from behind by the Abt Cupra of Nasser Al Attiyah. The RXR car – with most of its rear-end missing – was ultimately unable to continue, meaning the two main title contenders of RXR and X44 would both compete in the ‘Crazy Race’, a ‘last chance saloon’ opportunity to get into the final in which only the winner can progress.

From the archive

The first semi-final was as chaotic as what had come before, with Ganassi’s Sara Price – an outside title contender – losing control and spinning on the first jump before valiantly fighting back to bring the car into contention again by the time she handed over to debutant team-mate RJ Anderson.

Anderson managed to finish second whilst driving with his driver-side door missing – it had flung itself off mid-course – but was unable to pull out the gap needed to overcome the 10sec penalty as dust and mud flew into his cockpit, with ABT CUPRA’s Klara Andersson and Veloce’s Molly Taylor ultimately finishing first and second.

The next semi-final managed to provide just as much drama, with title-contender Laia Sanz flipping her Acciona Sainz in a double barrel roll before immediately hitting the accelerator as soon as the car landed on its wheels, and somehow dragging the car back into the race as broken parts of the car flew around her in the cockpit.

Laia Sanz at Extreme E Uruguary Energy X Prix

Sanz finished semi-final despite spectacular roll

Extreme E

In the end, team-mate Carlos Sainz would ultimately fall short to the Andretti United of Katie Munnings and Timmy Hansen and the McLaren of Gilmour and Foust respectively, therefore eliminating another title contender.

After the almost non-stop drama and excitement, things then ramped up even further in the ‘Crazy Race’.

Loeb’s do-or-die effort in this round to get into the final came off in incredible fashion.

His co-driver Gutiérrez leapt into the lead whilst the RXR car fell victim to heavy contact from the JBXE of Fraser McConnell, leaving its steering broken.

Whilst Loeb brilliantly pulled out the five seconds over second-place Xcite car, after his team was given a penalty for using the championship’s spare car, and also being rear-ended in the pitlane by Xcite’s Ezequiel Companq, RXR desperately tried to fix its bent Spark Odyssey in the hope Kristofferson could snatch X44’s ‘Super Sector’ points.

With the other competitors having finished the race but with Kristoffersson sitting in his car waiting for it to be repaired, the tension mounted – only for the Swede to be remarkably disqualified as the car rolled out of the pitlane for exceeding the number of mechanics allowed to attend to the car.

This meant it was all down to X44’s Loeb and Gutiérrez, need to finish at least third in the final if they wanted to snatch a remarkable title from RXR.

They did just that by finishing fourth on the road in a tense final race, promoted to third after the Andretti car ahead was given a seven-second penalty for speeding in the driver switch zone.

RXR 3 at Extreme E Uruguary Energy X Prix

RXR team were devastated in aftermath of race

Extreme E

The ABT Cupra of Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson won the final from the McLaren of Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour, but most of the attention was directed towards the team owned by Hamilton.

Whilst the jubilant X44 squad celebrated the remarkable achievement, the RXR pair had faces of thunder on the championship podium, refusing to join in with the celebrations as the champagne flowed courtesy of Loeb and Gutiérrez.

From the archive

“It was a very tough weekend for us,” said the later after experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions. “Especially with my roll yesterday, I tried to put my mind in order and after the crash, the guys did a crazy job with the car [to fix it].

“We needed to do everything to win the championship and we made it, it was a crazy weekend, but I think finally we deserved it and this is the most important thing.”

With RXR team members looking almost inconsolable, Nico Rosberg was philosophical in the aftermath, if not slightly shellshocked by events.

“It’s unbelievable how that much can you go wrong in motor sport sometimes,” he said, with his team also missing out on the chance to wrap up the title a round early in Chile before being struck by a software problem.

“I can’t believe we lost the championship. I mean, it was like so in our hands since ages now.

“It just went so wrong, it would have been difficult for it to go more wrong. But of course, also some of it is our responsibility.”

For Loeb, the title was another achievement in his glittering motor sport career.

“For sure I enjoyed the moment because it’s a new championship,” he said. “A hard battle on the track, sharing the cars between us, being able to share the victories together is also good.”