Formula E: Nick Cassidy wins hectic debut in Portland, heavy crash for Nico Müller
Nick Cassidy has won the first Portland E-Prix of Formula E. The Envision driver from New Zealand prevailed in a gripping and spectacular race against Jake Dennis (Andretti) and Antonio Felix da Costa (Porsche), who completed the podium. In addition to numerous overtaking maneuvers, one of the topics of conversation was a serious accident by Nico Müller (ABT Cupra), which fortunately ended with the Swiss driver unharmed.
Pole-sitter Jake Dennis got a good start and maintained his lead through the first chicane. Rene Rast directly made up a position against Norman Nato and was thus third behind Sacha Fenestraz. Despite the tight combination of corners, there were no collisions worth mentioning. Antonio Felix da Costa made up several ranks in the early stages and was already running in fourth place on lap 3.
It's a clean start for everyone here but it's Nick Cassidy who's made the biggest impact early on!- ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) June 25, 2023
He's made up FIVE places on the first lap and moves into P5.@Southwire #PortlandEPrix pic.twitter.com/DpWoBGe5x5
Rast, on the other hand, soon began losing positions while Nato worked his way forward. After the third lap, Nick Cassidy was suddenly in the lead ahead of Dennis and Rast - the predicted slipstream games and position changes were already taking shape. Yellow flags were initially waved in turn 8, then race control called the safety car onto the track. The reason: Roberto Merhi had ground to a halt at the end of the field and stopped on the track. His Mahindra had to be towed away.
The order of the top 10 during the safety car period: Nato, Felix da Costa, Dennis, Cassidy, Rast, Fenestraz, Günther, Hughes, Frijns, di Grassi. Due to slight damage to the front wing, which Fenestraz sustained on the restart, Nissan ordered their youngster to pit - a bitter setback for one of the candidates for victory, who slipped to last place. The race resumed at "race pace" on lap 8, but it was nearly ten seconds slower than the best times in qualifying due to the energy intensity of the track.
Heavy impact for Nico Müller
Then it came crashing down hard for Nico Müller, who went off the track in a high-speed passage and hit a wall at high speed - fortunately almost sideways. His ABT Cupra took heavy damage, but Müller was able to get out under his own power. Shortly before, he had radioed to his team, "I had no more brakes and just went straight!" It was not the first time this season that one of the Mahindra cars had crashed with a momentous brake failure. Sensors measured 27 g on impact.
Once again, the safety car came onto the track for a few laps so that the ABT wreck could be towed away. After a long interruption, the race finally resumed with green flags at the end of lap 16. Nato regained the lead from Cassidy on the restart. Following behind the duo were the two Maserati drivers, among others, but they then drove through the attack zone and dropped back.
On lap 18, there was another clash, this time in turn 1: Pascal Wehrlein clashed with a rival at the back of the midfield and lost parts, but was able to continue. Jean-Eric Vergne also experienced a moment of shock when he went off the track at the same point as Müller, but managed to save himself. The field drove so close together that further collisions were actually already preprogrammed.
Tacky fight for the podium
After 22 of a regular 28 laps, Felix da Costa led ahead of Cassidy and Günther. Vergne had worked his way up from the back of the field to 4th place, but also expended a lot of energy in the process. Bird and Dennis followed behind him. In order not to give their opponents a slipstream, many drivers zigzagged on the start and finish straight - which was not without danger when setting up for overtakes. Race control announced a race extension of four additional laps because of the two safety car phases.
It gradually became apparent who would be battling for victory in Portland. That included Cassidy, Felix da Costa, Dennis, Günther and Bird. On lap 28, Dennis passed Felix da Costa with a sensational manoeuvre. However, the Porsche driver countered a little later and retook the place. Bird pushed Günther slightly off the track in the duel, causing the German to drop back to 9th place. Bird then let his teammate Mitch Evans through for 4th.
On lap 29, Felix da Costa attacked Cassidy and went by! However, the Kiwi in the Envision countered a short time later and regained the lead in turn 1 - gripping final phase in Portland! Mortara drove across the grass and lost places. Suddenly, Sebastien Buemi was also part of the leading group in fourth place and in attack mode. But on the penultimate lap, his teammate Cassidy was still in the lead ahead of Felix da Costa and Dennis.
Dennis takes second place in the final meters
Last lap: the chasers gave it their all once again, but Cassidy managed his energy perfectly to bring home his third win of the season! Dennis attacked Felix da Costa on the long straightaway before the last combination of corners and passed him - 2nd place for the world championship leader. Felix da Costa finished third ahead of Evans, Buemi, Günther, Bird, di Grassi, Wehrlein and Nato.
In the overall standings, things continue to be extremely tight: Dennis leads the world championship thanks to pole position and second place, but only a single point ahead of race winner Cassidy. Wehrlein follows another 17 points behind, with Evans in fourth. In the teams' championship, Porsche continues to lead thanks to Felix da Costa's points haul, but also just four points ahead of Envision. The next Formula E race will take place in three weeks: On July 14 and 15, the electric series will make another guest appearance in Rome - for the penultimate "double-header" of the 2023 season.