Felix da Costa wins spectacular Formula E debut in Cape Town, Wehrlein crashes early on
Antonio Felix da Costa has won an incredibly gripping first Cape Town E-Prix of Formula E. With a spectacular overtaking maneuver shortly before the end, he beat Jean-Eric Vergne in high-risk fashion to take home second place. The podium was completed by Nick Cassidy in the Envision. After various accidents, only 13 cars finished in the end..
Pole sitter Sacha Fenestraz got a good start and defended the lead. Nick Cassidy shot right past second-placed Max Guenther, who countered, however. The two drove side by side for quite a while until Günther finally prevailed. Then came the shock for all German Porsche fans: Pascal Wehrlein collided with Sebastien Buemi! The Swiss had already braked late and might not have made the turn. Wehrlein, however, braked much too late and crashed into the rear of the Envision driver.
While Buemi dropped to the back of the field but was at least able to continue, the race was over early for the world championship leader: Wehrlein was in the run-off zone of turn 10 and could no longer move his Porsche. Race control initially called a full-course yellow, but then sent the safety car out onto the track. Meanwhile, Edo Mortara also had to park his Maserati early on with a problem. Just before the safety car, Günther had passed the leading Fenestraz away from the TV cameras - possibly because the Nissan driver had braked too early at Full Course Yellow.
With the start of Lap 6, the race continued at race pace. Günther held his ground at the restart, and there were no other position changes at first. The leading duo was followed by Cassidy, Mitch Evans, Jean-Eric Vergne and Rene Rast. Sergio Sette Camara and Buemi at the back of the field were the first to get their first of two attack modes to do something strategically different from the competition. 25,000 fans watched a close and competitive first third of the race at the sold-out Cape Town E-Prix.
Penalties against Evans & Dennis, Guenther throws away possible win
Fenestraz picked up his first attack mode. One lap later, Günther also responded and went through the attack zone. He stayed just ahead of his competitor. The lead, however, went to Cassidy. Evans, meanwhile, received a drive-through penalty because his Jaguar had drawn too much power from the battery and drove through the pit lane once. While Cassidy was able to pull away slightly, Günther took his second attack mode as early as lap 14. Fenestraz consequently passed, but Vergne stayed just behind the German. Then Cassidy also got his first attack mode - and stayed in the lead!
While the race cooled down a bit for the first time, Antonio Felix da Costa quietly worked his way to the front. After 19 of 30 laps, the Porsche driver, who had started in 11th place, was already driving in 4th position.
Bad news for Jake Dennis: The world championship runner-up also received a drive-through penalty for failing to maintain the minimum air pressure in his tires - a momentous team error by Andretti.
On lap 21, Günther also made a serious mistake: the German skidded under braking and hit the wall on the right. His Maserati took too much damage to continue. Günther had to park his car. Race control briefly called a full-course yellow. Again, there were discussions about whether all four drivers in the leading group had braked in time. Cassidy stayed in front, but Fenestraz again lost two places on the brakes! Felix da Costa was now second ahead of Vergne. Andre Lotterer received a 5-second time penalty for an offense behind the safety car.
Felix da Costa misses attack mode but prevails
Felix da Costa and Vergne still had a good two percent more energy in their batteries than Cassidy after 24 of 30 laps. The Portuguese took advantage of this extra power and passed the New Zealander with a great maneuver. Then Felix da Costa put on the pressure to gain an advantage. In fact, this was enough to drive through the attack zone on lap 26 and stay in front. But: he missed the activation coils in the floor in the process and didn't ignite his attack mode. Thus, he would have to drive the long way again.
He did so on lap 28, losing first place to Vergne as expected. Behind the duo continued: Cassidy, Fenestraz, Rast and Ticktum. Felix da Costa was now putting pressure on his former teammate Vergne. Race control extended the E-Prix by two additional laps due to safety car and full-course yellow. In the battle for victory, both drivers had almost equal power. Behind them, Cassidy lost third place to Fenestraz - great maneuver by the youngster before the chicane!
Vergne found himself in a similar situation to India and made himself as wide as he could. Felix da Costa, however, finally set off on a spectacular maneuver and passed at top speed in an almost hopeless situation! Vergne stayed on, but was no longer able to counter. Felix da Costa thus secured victory in Cape Town! Vergne and Cassidy completed the podium of a fantastic race! On the last lap, Fenestraz still hit the wall in turn 7 and dropped out!
In the drivers' championship, Wehrlein continues to lead ahead of Dennis - both remained without points in South Africa. Vergne was able to catch up in third place. Felix da Costa made a big jump to fourth overall. Nick Cassidy is fifth after the Cape Town E-Prix. In the team standings, Porsche extended its lead to a remarkable 42 points. Envision Racing is second ahead of Avalanche Andretti. Nio 333 passed Nissan thanks to Ticktum's sixth place. Because ABT was unable to start at all, the Kempten-based team remains the only one without points.
The next Formula E race starts in exactly one month on March 25. That's when the electric world championship travels to the Brazilian metropolis of Sao Paulo for the first time.