Formula E in Rome: 1st free practice on Friday goes to Pascal Wehrlein & Porsche
Pascal Wehrlein was the fastest in the first free practice session of Formula E in Rome. He took first place as session time expired, beating Sam Bird in the Jaguar and Edo Mortara in the Maserati. Mitch Evans was fifth, while the two drivers at the top of the world championship - Jake Dennis and Nick Cassidy - finished far behind.
The first regular session after the rookie practice on Friday afternoon began at 5 p.m. local time. In scorching heat and 49 degrees Celsius asphalt temperature, the regular drivers took to the track for the first time - all except Lucas di Grassi and Roberto Merhi. A short time later, the two Mahindra drivers also drove out of the pits, but repeatedly struggled with technical problems throughout the session. After just under five minutes, race director Scot Elkins had full-course yellow practiced as usual.
At the top of the timesheet were initially the two McLaren drivers Jake Hughes and Rene Rast. However, their lap times quickly fell below the best time set by Felipe Drugovich in rookie practice. After ten minutes, Max Günther took the lead at Maserati's home event ahead of the two Envision cars of Sebastien Buemi and Nick Cassidy.
However, Günther was not to enjoy the lead for long, as first the two Jaguar drivers were faster, then Pascal Wehrlein in the Porsche. Buemi and Edo Mortara (1:41.297 minutes) joined them with new best times. The track record set by Mitch Evans in 2022 was still some way off (1:38.127 minutes), though the track had gone a good second faster on Sunday than on Saturday last year.
Felix da Costa & Vergne save themselves
At the halfway point of the 30-minute session, Antonio Felix da Costa slipped wildly under braking and went straight into a 180-degree spin, narrowly skidding the rear of the car past the wall - all going well. Norman Nato in the Nissan, meanwhile, set a new best time, still in race mode at 300 kW.
Jean-Eric Vergne also outbraked himself - in turn 14 for his part - and had to turn in the run-off zone. His DS teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, on the other hand, drove the fastest lap to that point. Then the Jaguars picked up speed again and took over the top places: Evans ahead of Bird.
Now things were starting to get serious. Mortara took three tenths of a second off Evans and moved up to P1. Then time ran out. Almost at the same moment, Wehrlein set the new fastest time, becoming the first to crack the 1:39 mark. Only Bird was to achieve this a little later, but even the Briton was still almost three tenths of a second off Wehrlein.
Wehrlein delivers, rivals stumble
The "session victory" thus went surprisingly to Wehrlein and Porsche, who have rarely been at the front this season when it comes to pace on a fast lap. Bird was second ahead of Mortara, Buemi and Evans. The other title contenders, Nick Cassidy and Jake Dennis, finished only 13th and 18th, respectively.
The 2nd Free Practice for the first race of the Hankook Rome E-Prix will take place on Saturday morning at 8:10 am (CEST). We will be there for you and will be providing, as usual, a free live stream of the session on our website.