Formula E: Jean-Eric Vergne wins thrilling premiere race in India, drama for Jaguar
Jean-Eric Vergne has won the Formula E premiere in India. In a highly exciting and eventful race, the DS Penske driver held his own against Nick Cassidy despite a significant energy disadvantage. The podium was completed by Porsche rookie Antonio Felix da Costa after a retrospective penalty against Sebastien Buemi. His teammate Pascal Wehrlein finished fourth ahead of Sergio Sette Camara in the Nio 333. The two Jaguar drivers had taken themselves out of the race early on with good chances of winning..
Pole-sitter Mitch Evans got off to a good start and immediately moved over to the right lane to "shut the door" on Jean-Eric Vergne. That's how he maintained his lead. The entire field was very civilized - somewhat surprisingly no collisions worth mentioning on lap 1. Nick Cassidy made up one place against Sam Bird and moved up to position 6. There were no changes in the top 5 at first: Evans led ahead of Vergne, Sebastien Buemi, Sacha Fenestraz and Max Günther. World championship leader Pascal Wehrlein, on the other hand, dropped back to 16th place in the starting phase.
Edo Mortara caused the first incident. The Maserati driver misjudged his position during an overtaking attempt: He sat next to Bird and slid past the Briton - but in the process hit the flank of Cassidy's Envision. He damaged his front wing and dropped far back. Cassidy's car apparently took no more serious damage. On lap 5, world champion Stoffel Vandoorne was the first driver to get his first of attack modes. Because Mortara's front wing fell off and was left on the track, race control had yellow flags waved to remove the part. Mortara pitted and picked up a new front wing.
On lap 7, Evans turned into the attack zone. At the same time, Buemi launched an attack on Vergne immediately behind and overtook the Frenchman - Buemi now in the lead! Evans initially sorted himself back into fourth, but quickly passed Fenestraz again. Then Buemi's next coup: the Swiss in turn took the first attack mode and lost first place to Vergne, but came back on track ahead of Evans! Vergne also reacted a lap later, drove through the attack zone and rejoined the race ahead of Evans. Bird, meanwhile, grabbed Günther and took over 5th place from the German.
Bird shoots down Jaguar teammate Evans!
On lap 13, Bird made perhaps the most serious mistake of his Formula E career: while attempting to overtake in turn 3, the Brit braked and crashed into his Jaguar teammate Mitch Evans, of all people! Bird's race was over on the spot. Evans was able to continue after a couple of turns with minor damage, but at the end of the field. Fenestraz and Günther were also affected. Their path was blocked, so they could not return to the track and also fell to the back of the field.
On lap 15, Vergne overtook Buemi and regained the lead! Meanwhile, Cassidy and also Jake Dennis worked their way forward considerably - the two now in positions 2 and 3 ahead of Buemi, who had picked up his second attack mode. In general, several drivers benefited from the incident at the front and moved up. On lap 17, Cassidy attacked Dennis and snatched 2nd place away from the Briton. Buemi also caught Dennis a little later. After an extremely turbulent phase at the halfway point of the race, the top 10 drivers were Vergne, Cassidy, Buemi, Dennis, Rast, Rowland, Felix da Costa, Vandoorne, Sette Camara and Wehrlein.
As the field was close together, some gripping duels developed in the leading group. Cassidy put a lot of pressure on Vergne, and both pulled away slightly. Then it crashed again: Jake Hughes hit the wall with the right front while accelerating out of hairpin 3 and stopped on the track with a broken suspension. "The rearview mirror got caught under the steering wheel," read the McLaren driver's confusing radio message. Race director Scot Elkins ordered the safety car onto the track so the car could be towed away with a crane truck.
Rast clears Dennis, Vergne holds his own
After a few minutes of interruption, the race resumed at race pace on lap 26. Shortly after the restart, Rast crashed into the rear of Dennis under braking, allowing Rowland to pass on the inside. With front-end damage, Rast dropped to the back of the field and had to retire. And Dennis had also suffered more serious damage to the rear, so that he first had to let Rowland go and then pit - drama for the world championship runner-up! Cassidy attacked Vergne at the front. The Frenchman defended himself, but Cassidy had about three percent more power than DS Penske at that point!
Race officials announced that the race would be extended by an additional lap, for a total of 33 laps. Rowland dared to attack Buemi, but lost a position to Antonio Felix da Costa, who was now fourth. Meanwhile, his Porsche teammate Wehrlein drove to position 7. With two laps to go, Cassidy was still gritting his teeth on Vergne. Then it was on to the final lap.
Cassidy continued to attack, but Vergne expertly made his move. The DS driver did have to slow down a bit because he only had one percent energy left - but only in places where Cassidy couldn't get past. In the end, he actually brought first place across the finish line and won the Hyderabad E-Prix ahead of Cassidy and Buemi!
Penalty against Buemi, good result for Wehrlein & Porsche
The Swiss Buemi, however, received a subsequent drive-through penalty a few minutes after the end of the race, which was converted into a time penalty. It threw him back to 15th place. The reason for the penalty: His car had called up too much power. Porsche driver Felix da Costa thus inherited the final podium position. Team-mate Wehrlein finished directly behind him. Rowland still scored eight points for Mahindra at the home race for 6th place.
German driver Pascal Wehrlein extended his world championship lead at Hyderabad as main rival Jake Dennis came away empty-handed. Jean-Eric Vergne moved up to third overall as a result of his victory. Porsche also managed to pull further ahead in the World Team Championship. Andretti remained second. Envision is now third, and DS Penske also made a big leap forward to 6th place. ABT Cupra remains the only team without points.
The fifth race of the 2023 Formula E season will take place in just two weeks on February 25. Then the electric series will start for the first time in the South African metropolis of Cape Town.