2023 season start: Dennis wins 1st Formula E race of Gen3 era, Frijns breaks wrist
Jake Dennis has won the first Gen3 race in Formula E history. At the 2023 season opener in Mexico City, the British Andretti driver confidently beat last year's winner Pascal Wehrlein - a strong start for Porsche! Lucas di Grassi brought his Mahindra home in third place after a thrilling multi-fight for the podium. Andre Lotterer took fourth place, Formula E debutant Jake Hughes was fifth. ABT driver Robin Frijns broke his left wrist in an early rear-end collision.
Pole sitter Lucas di Grassi got off to a very good start and maintained his lead without any danger. Jake Dennis had his difficulties against Jake Hughes, but remained second - no changes at the top. In the rear of the field there were some duels, but initially there were no accidents. But then Robin Frijns was hit: The ABT Cupra driver crashed into the rear of Norman Nato in the new chicane without any external impact and destroyed his front end. But not only that: Frijns broke his left wrist in the impact and will have to undergo surgery in the near future, as ABT announced during the race.
The Dutchman stopped in front of the TecPro barrier - an early setback for ABT in its Formula E comeback. Race control called the safety car onto the track. Accident victim Nato also had to head for the Nissan pit and end his race early. Meanwhile, his teammate, Sacha Fenestraz, was the only top-10 driver to make up a position by then: He had passed Sebastien Buemi on the outside of turn 1 right at the start.
At the end of the fifth lap, the safety car came back into the pit lane - it continued. There were no attacks in the first few corners, but Sam Bird rolled out and stopped just beyond the exit of the pit lane. He reported a problem with the drive shaft over the radio. The mechanical damage to his Jaguar had already occurred during acceleration in the "Peraltada," so Bird was already just rolling down the start/finish straight. Once again, the safety car came onto the course so that the Jaguar could be removed from the inside of turn 2.
Dennis takes the lead and flies away
After nine laps with little full power, the race continued at race pace. Once again, there were no direct attacks at the restart, with Di Grassi leading the field ahead of Dennis, Hughes, Andre Lotterer and Pascal Wehrlein. The German had made up a position against Dan Ticktum away from the cameras. The Nio 333 driver received a drive-through penalty a little later because his car had called up too much power due to a software error and dropped to the back of the field. The first drivers already collected their first of two mandatory attack modes. Since this season, each pilot can choose one of three combinations: 1+3 minutes, 2+2 minutes or 3+1 minutes.
On the twelfth lap, Dennis di Grassi attacked and took the lead at the Mexico City E-Prix. The Brazilian tried to counter on the outside but stayed behind. Hughes sensed his chance but didn't make it past di Grassi. Dennis stepped on the power pedal and pulled away a little. Behind him, everything remained close together. Lotterer lost a place to his old teammate Wehrlein when he activated his first attack mode - the Porsche driver thus now fourth.
At race half-time, Dennis had built up a lead of almost four seconds. Di Grassi, on the other hand, was obviously holding up the cars behind him. Then the next accident: Edo Mortara lost his Maserati while braking before turn 1, spun 180 degrees and hit the TecPro barrier rear first. Mortara was uninjured and was able to get out under his own power. For the third time, race control ordered the safety car onto the track - Jake Dennis' lead was thus gone.
Wehrlein makes up ground
From lap 21, the race continued at race pace. Dennis immediately tried to pull away again, which he managed to do to some extent. Two seconds behind, the rest of the leading group around di Grassi, Hughes, Wehrlein and Lotterer followed. The two Germans got their second attack mode at the same time on lap 25. However, Lotterer now had three minutes with the full power of 350 kW ahead of him, Wehrlein only two. When Hughes drove through the attack zone, Wehrlein slipped through and took over third place. One lap later, leader Dennis - with a good 3.5-second lead - also took his final three-minute attack mode.
On lap 29, Wehrlein attacked di Grassi at the chicane and passed the Brazilian. This meant that a customer Porsche was now ahead of a factory Porsche. Hughes also continued to try to get past di Grassi, as the Mahindra had a clear disadvantage in terms of energy - three percent less than Dennis! Porsche told Wehrlein to concentrate on his energy management. Of course, last year's winner would have liked to fight for first place again, but Dennis was almost 4.5 seconds clear on lap 33. Because of the three safety car phases, race control announced that the race would be extended by five laps.
Then the battle for third place heated up. Di Grassi made himself as wide as possible, Hughes gritted his teeth. Lotterer followed in the direct slipstream and sensed his chance. There were repeated light touches between the three fighting cocks. Sebastien Buemi was also able to keep up with the group and closed the gap to Lotterer. In the last five laps, the tension grew - would di Grassi be able to defend himself to the finish?
Wild battle for 3rd
Further back, Jean-Eric Vergne took his second attack mode late on and damaged his front wing away from the cameras. He may have had contact with Rene Rast, who had to park his McLaren. Despite the yellow flags, the leading group continued to fight bitterly for third place. In the meantime, even Antonio Felix had joined das Costa. Two laps before the end, di Grassi was still second and had virtually made up his energy deficit - great defensive performance by the veteran!
On the last lap Hughes and Lotterer still clashed, a little later the German actually passed the debutant - Lotterer now fourth. Meanwhile, Jake Dennis took the first Gen3 victory in Formula E history without a problem! Wehrlein was second, just under eight seconds behind, and di Grassi actually saved third place for the finish. The top 10 was completed by Buemi in sixth place followed by Felix da Costa, Mitch Evans, Nick Cassidy and Stoffel Vandoorne. Max Guenther narrowly missed out on the points in eleventh.
ROUND 1, P1!!- Avalanche Andretti Formula E ? (@AndrettiFE) January 14, 2023
JAKE DENNIS WINS THE MEXICO CITY E-PRIX! ? pic.twitter.com/QfKxElvYwD
With his fourth career victory, Jake Dennis took over the top spot in the drivers' championship. He is followed by Pascal Wehrlein and Lucas di Grassi with equal points after the first race of the season - the Brazilian had already received three points for pole position. Among the teams, customer team Andretti leads ahead of the Porsche works team. Mahindra is third ahead of McLaren and Envision. Four teams remained without points at the start of the season: Maserati, ABT, Nissan and Nio 333.
The second race of the ninth Formula E season will take place in just two weeks on January 27 in Saudi Arabia. Due to the different track characteristics at the double night race in Diriyya, it is not yet clear whether Dennis will be able to repeat his opening success. One thing is clear, however: Porsche has obviously built a strong drive.