Formula E in Saudi Arabia: Wehrlein also wins 2nd race at Diriyya E-Prix, Rast on podium
Pascal Wehrlein has also won the second Formula E race in Saudi Arabia. As on Friday, the Porsche driver defeated his Andretti brand colleague Jake Dennis, who finished second. Behind him, the race was exciting: Rene Rast defended himself against Sam Bird (Jaguar) until the last corner and clinched the first Formula E podium for McLaren. Nico Müller dropped out after an accident.
Mitch Evans got a good start and prevailed on the inside track against pole sitter Jake Hughes. Sebastien Buemi, on the other hand, fell back to 6th place. Pascal Wehrlein, among others, was able to benefit from this and was now already fourth behind the two McLaren drivers. Good for him: rival Jake Dennis lost a place and was initially only seventh. Edo Mortara finished the first lap in fifth place. Overall, things were very civilized at the start - no major accidents on Saturday. Mortara and Sam Bird alone had a slight tangle.
Generally, the field showed more patience in the early stages on Saturday than on the previous day. Like on a string of pearls, all 21 drivers followed the leading Evans with small gaps. The first overtaking maneuver worth mentioning was made by Andre Lotterer after five laps - but it was only for position 18 against Lucas di Grassi. Hughes put pressure on Evans and showed himself in the direct slipstream of the Jaguar driver. Further back, Antonio Felix da Costa and Jean-Eric Vergne battled for 15th place, with the better end for the Porsche driver.
On lap 9, Evans became the first driver in the leading group to get his first of two mandatory attack modes. As a result, he dropped to third behind Rene Rast - a double lead for McLaren. One lap later Hughes responded but dropped back behind Evans again. Rast now in the lead. He remained in front when he also got his first attack mode a lap later. On lap 12, Wehrlein went on the attack against Hughes and easily passed the Briton in turn 18.
Wehrlein makes short work of Hughes
The Porsche driver already had a good three percent more energy than his rivals all around him at this early stage of the race! Just one lap later, the German also attacked Evans and passed in his own place. Wehrlein was now second, a good two seconds behind his compatriot Rast. A little later, Wehrlein got his first attack mode and remained second. To the surprise of many, Nick Cassidy reported on the radio that he had light rain drops on his visor. However, no water was visible on the cameras.
While Wehrlein was closing the gap on Rast, world championship rival Dennis was not yet making any significant headway. The Briton was still seventh. On lap 17, Rast drove through the attack zone for the second time, giving up the lead. Wehrlein was thus in first place for the first time on Saturday, where he had already spent large parts of the Friday race. Towards the halfway point of the race, the Porsche driver had a good one-and-a-half-second lead over Rast and a significant energy advantage. Everything was already looking like another race win for Wehrlein.
With Buemi driving through the attack zone, Dennis and Bird each made up one place. Dennis then attacked Mortara, but initially stayed behind the Maserati driver. On lap 21, however, Mortara was unable to hold the overall leader - Dennis now fifth. Just a few corners later, Bird also caught Mortara, who from then on had to settle for seventh place. Now things were really going Dennis' way: as Hughes got his second attack mode, the Andretti driver moved up to fourth place. As if that wasn't enough, Dennis also picked up Evans for third on lap 21!
Dennis marches, Müller crashes
Rast was also just a few tenths of a second ahead of Dennis. So what had to come happened: at the end of the long straight, Dennis also cashed in on the McLaren. The race came down to what many had expected: the same duel as on Friday. Dennis followed on the heels of his brand colleague Wehrlein. A few seconds later, Bird overtook his compatriot Hughes and was now driving in fifth place, directly behind his Jaguar teammate Evans. Bird overtook the "Kiwi" and chased Rast instead. On lap 27, Bird caught the German and was now third - the identical podium order as Friday.
Then it crashed for the first time: Nico Müller was clearly going too fast through turn 18 in an overtaking attempt and slid sideways into the TecPro barrier. As recently as qualifying, Lucas di Grassi - also running with Mahindra power - had an almost identical situation. Müller was unable to continue and got out uninjured. "Exactly the same as with Lucas - that's unbelievable!" the Swiss shouted audibly frustrated on the team radio. Race control sent the safety car onto the course to clear the accident scene.
After a few minutes of interruption, the race continued at race pace. Bird, in third, still had to get both attack modes and had a good two percent more energy than the two Porsche drivers in front of him. Consequently, he put pressure on Dennis. He got his attack mode but fell behind Rast. When he tried to overtake the McLaren again a lap later, he misjudged his braking. Bird took a wide turn in turn 18 and dropped back to fifth place. Oliver Rowland, meanwhile, was forced to retire from the race with a puncture.
Evans pushes Hughes to the finish, Buemi benefits
Wehrlein and Dennis, meanwhile, were able to pull away slightly from the chasers. Behind them, an exciting battle raged for 3rd place, with Bird putting Rast under pressure. Behind them in the top 10: Evans, Buemi, Mortara, Stoffel Vandoorne and Sacha Fenestraz. Race control extended the race by one lap due to the safety car period. Bird launched further attacks on Rast, who defended the podium with all his might. Wehrlein at the front managed to manage his lead over Dennis and crossed the finish line as the winner again after 40 laps! Rast thwarted another desperate attack by Bird and secured 3rd place!
Hughes ran out of energy just before the finish line, so Evans had to push him and thus lost another position to Buemi - but Hughes did not. What a curious final scene! Fenestraz brought home a good eighth place and scored his first Formula E points. Dan Ticktum also secured another point for Nio 333 in tenth.
After three races of the season, a clear leading duo has already emerged: The new world championship leader, Pascal Wehrlein, now has a six-point lead over his pursuer Jake Dennis. Neither has been worse than second place so far this season. With exactly half as many points as Dennis, Sebastien Buemi follows in third position ahead of Sam Bird, Jake Hughes and Rene Rast. Among the teams, Andretti is still just ahead, two points ahead of the Porsche factory team. McLaren is third. With ABT Cupra, only one Formula E team is still without points in 2023.
The next Formula E race will take place in just two weeks on February 11. Then the electric series starts to the Hyderabad E-Prix - race debut in India!