Formula E in Rome: Mitch Evans wins on Saturday, Sam Bird uninjured after horror crash
Mitch Evans has secured victory in Saturday's Formula E race in Rome. In an extremely eventful race, the Jaguar driver held his own against his title rival Nick Cassidy (Envision), who nevertheless took the world championship lead after his second-place finish. Maserati driver Max Günther completed the podium in third. The race had been interrupted after a mass collision, in which a total of eight drivers were eliminated from the race. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured.
At the start, both Jaguar drivers got away well, but pole sitter Mitch Evans seemed to deliberately go off the power pedal in time for the lead. Sam Bird thus passed him and took the lead from his teammate at turn 1. Edo Mortara launched an optimistic attack on the inside against Sebastien Buemi and just about squeezed past. But not without slight contact with the TecPro barrier. This situation led to a small traffic jam, which Pascal Wehrlein fell victim to. The German lost a few positions and had to come into the pits with a damaged front wing - a bitter setback for Wehrlein and Porsche in the title fight!
In the lead group, Bird continued to lead from Evans after three laps, giving his teammate slipstream to conserve energy. Then Evans showed up next to Bird for the first time, but he closed the door on him, almost causing contact. Then there was a crash: Like Jake Hughes in qualifying, Andre Lotterer lost his race car in the fast uphill passage and hit the right-hand wall. His Andretti was badly damaged, but Lotterer was able to get out under his own power. Race control sent the safety car onto the track to have the accident site cleared.
At the end of Lap 4, the race continued at normal pace. Before turn 7, Evans finally mounted an attack on the fifth lap and passed Bird. Behind: Sacha Fenestraz, Rene Rast, Jake Dennis and Nick Cassidy. Several drivers at the back of the field each got their first attack mode, including Wehrlein. Further ahead, Fenestraz attacked Bird, the driver in front, and surprisingly passed the Jaguar driver on lap 6. Then Rast also overtook Bird and was already in a podium position. Antonio Felix da Costa grabbed Norman Nato for 9th.
Mass crash takes half the field out of the race
Then came one of the most serious accidents in Formula E history. Sam Bird lost control of his car on the fast uphill section, hit the right-hand side wall and spun. He came to a stop halfway across to the left-hand side of the track. His immediate pursuers just managed to avoid him, but the first to hit the Jaguar hard was Sebastien Buemi. As a result, Bird was pushed into the middle of the track. Several drivers brushed the crashed car or alternatively the wall while swerving out of the way. Mortara was unable to move aside in time, and slammed into the side of the Jaguar at high speed.
Miraculously, all the drivers were able to get out without any serious injuries. Bird in particular was very lucky when Mortara crashed into his survival cell. The track, on the other hand, resembled a debris field. Eight drivers were directly involved in the accident and retired on the spot: Bird, Buemi, Felix da Costa, Mortara, Lucas di Grassi and Robin Frijns. Race control stopped the race with red flags and ordered all remaining drivers back to their pits.
After a 42-minute break, at 4:05 p.m. local time, the race continued with a total of 13 cars remaining. The safety car first led the drivers to the starting grid, with the order on the standing restart being: Fenestraz, Evans, Rast, Dennis, Cassidy, Günther, Ticktum, Müller, Sette Camara, Merhi, Vergne, Wehrlein, Vandoorne, and Nato.
Dennis fights his way to the top
Fenestraz got off to a good start on the restart and defended the inside lane vehemently against Evans, who backed off. Dennis made up one place against Rast on the way to turn 7 and was now third. Günther also improved by passing Cassidy on the inside. He then tried to do the same against Rast, but lost momentum as a result and instead forfeited his fifth place again to Cassidy. On lap 12, there was another crash, although not as big: Dan Ticktum drove into the rear of Nico Müller. The Nio 333 had to come into the pits with a destroyed front end to get a new wing.
Rast also had to head for the garage with a problem. Shortly before, he had lost a position to Dennis, who was now third behind Fenestraz and Evans. The reason for Rast's retirement was not initially apparent. A number of gripping duels developed in the midfield - in this case around position 5. On lap 15, Dennis attacked Evans and overtook the Jaguar driver for 2nd place. Just a few seconds later, the Andretti driver also overtook Fenestraz - back into the lead for the world championship leader!
One lap later, Fenestraz also had to let Evans by - the efficiency problems of the Nissan powertrain in race trim were beginning to become apparent. Consequently, on lap 17, Cassidy also passed the Frenchman. This meant that three of the four title contenders were now in the top three positions. Wehrlein continued to bob around at the back of the field in 11th place. On lap 18, Günther overtook Fenestraz for 4th place.
The battle for the win was now also between Dennis and Evans over the right attack mode strategy. Dennis moved ahead and fell behind Evans. On lap 20, Evans reacted - and missed the activation loops in the attack zone! Apparently he had forgotten to "arm" the sensors under his car, as he told his team on the radio! One lap later, he finally managed to activate the 350 kW mode. On lap 22, he was able to pass Dennis in the uphill passage and regained the lead.
The drama continued: race control announced an extension of the E-Prix by two laps due to the safety car phase - but Andretti had apparently only calculated with one extra lap! Dennis was therefore forced to drive much slower from then on in order to reach the finish at all. He fell back accordingly - a major setback for the Briton in the title fight, while his main rivals continued to battle for victory.
Evans went into the final three laps as the leader ahead of Cassidy. Günther followed in third. In 4th place, Dennis defended with everything he (still) had against Vergne and Müller. Yellow flags were waved again in turn 7 because Vandoorne had lost his front wing there after making contact with a rival. Dennis, however, had in the meantime saved himself back to a similar energy level as his opponents.
Tacky battle for 4th
On the final lap, Vergne tried again against Dennis, but the Briton closed down the inside lane to secure his fourth place. Nothing more happened at the front either, with Evans driving home his third Rome win in a row! Cassidy finished second, retaking the world championship lead from Dennis. Günther gave his employer the next podium - at his home race, of all places. Müller brought home a strong sixth place for ABT Cupra behind Vergne. Wehrlein collected points in seventh.
In the overall standings, Nick Cassidy now leads Jake Dennis by five points with three races to go. Mitch Evans moved up to third place as a result of his victory, while Pascal Wehrlein is now only fourth. Apart from the top four, no one else is likely to be able to intervene in the battle for the championship. Max Günther, for his part, climbed to sixth place. In the team standings, Envision has taken the lead and is now six points ahead of Porsche. Jaguar remains third.
The next race will already take place on Sunday at the same time, i.e. at 3 p.m. (CEST).