Formula E: Wehrlein defeats Dennis in high-class Friday race in Saudi Arabia
Pascal Wehrlein has won Friday's Formula E race in Saudi Arabia. In an incredibly gripping E-Prix, the Porsche driver came within a hair's breadth of beating Andretti driver Jake Dennis, who is now just one point ahead of the German in the world championship. The podium was completed by Jaguar driver Sam Bird ahead of Sebastien Buemi (Envision) and Rene Rast (McLaren)..
Pole sitter Sebastien Buemi got off to a good start and maintained his lead. Behind him, Rene Rast and Mitch Evans clashed - the Jaguar driver had braked very late. In addition, Antonio Felix da Costa was involved in a rear-end collision. The Porsche driver was unable to avoid the Mahindra of Oliver Rowland and damaged his front wing. He came straight to the pits for repairs. To clean up the accident scene, the safety car came onto the track for one lap. The deployment probability of 100 percent thus remained.
Then the race already continued at race pace. Buemi led the field ahead of Jake Hughes and Sam Bird. Stoffel Vandoorne had already gained two places against the two Nissan shortly before. Felix da Costa meanwhile tried to catch up again. So did Rowland, who had also pitted and was now driving directly in front of the Portuguese. On lap 3, Bird passed compatriot Hughes at the end of the long back straight. He now took up the pursuit of his old rival Buemi - both in their 100th Formula E race.
Pascal Wehrlein had already made up three positions by this point and from then on gave chase to Rast in the McLaren. On lap 7, Bird took heart and attacked Buemi. In the braking zone of turn 18, he caught the Swiss on the inside - change of lead in Diriyya! Edo Mortara, meanwhile, was the first driver to get his first of two attack modes.
Wehrlein on the move
On lap 9, Rast braked at the end of the long straight. Wehrlein seized the opportunity and overtook his compatriot for 5th place, with Dan Ticktum now ahead of him, who continued to hold on valiantly to 4th position in the Nio 333. Then the young Briton went into attack mode and consequently lost two places. Wehrlein was now already fourth behind Hughes. Further back, Jake Dennis overtook his Mexico rival Lucas di Grassi in the battle for 8th place.
Evans made a late overtaking maneuver against Rast in turn 18. In the process, he lightly touched the German and slid into the run-off zone himself. Race control issued a 5-second time penalty against the New Zealander a little later for a similar scene at the start. Sacha Fenestraz made a rookie mistake almost at the same time: while trying to drive through the attack zone, the youngster misjudged his speed and hit the wall with his front wing. He immediately came into the pits for repairs.
On lap 13, front-runner Bird also took his first attack mode, but still retained first place, with Buemi following him a short distance behind. In general, the field was still very close together. Wehrlein in attack mode now launched several attacks on Hughes but was unable to get past the McLaren rookie. Eventually, however, the Briton also drove through the attack zone and dropped back to fifth place behind his teammate Rast. Wehrlein was thus already third and even had almost two percent more energy than the leaders.
Porsche efficiency puts Jaguar under pressure
Half-time in Diriyya. Buemi - still entirely without attack mode - was running around a second behind Bird, but now had to increasingly look to the rear as Wehrlein put pressure on the Swiss. World championship leader Dennis was quietly working his way forward and was already showing aggressive maneuvers behind Hughes. Now Bird activated his second attack mode, and Buemi also turned off. Wehrlein passed the Swiss as a result, but remained just behind Bird.
Well aware of his clear energy advantage, Wehrlein now increased the pressure on Bird, whose attack mode had already expired. On lap 25, he attacked at the end of the long straight, but braked a tad too late and had to take a further line than Bird. The Jaguar driver thus remained in front. Hughes, on the other hand, was no longer able to defend himself and had to let Dennis pass before turn 18. The Andretti driver thus fifth.
Bird and Wehrlein continued to engage in a thrilling duel for the lead. However, the Briton held his own and maintained the fastest line for several laps. On lap 30, the time had finally come: Wehrlein pulled onto the inside lane early on the back straight, sat next to Bird and this time braked in time. Porsche thus in the lead! Dennis in the Andretti customer Porsche also made up further places on Rast and also on Buemi, who had taken his second attack mode. Dennis suddenly surprisingly on course for the podium.
Epic duel for victory
However, it was with this headline pace that things continued for the Mexico winner. Dennis tacked on Bird's heels. His team motivated him over the radio that he had two percent more energy than his rival. Compared with brand colleague Wehrlein, he was running at a similar level. On lap 34, Dennis overtook Bird in turn 18, with Wehrlein getting his second attack mode a few meters ahead of the battling duo but staying in front.
In the last three laps - there was no race extension due to the very short safety car phase - things got wild at the front. Dennis put a lot of pressure on Wehrlein, but he defended himself well. On the last lap, Wehrlein gave himself the lead he needed to stay in front. With a lead of 5.31 tenths of a second, Wehrlein gave himself and Porsche their second Formula E victory from 9th on the grid!
In the overall standings, Dennis and Wehrlein are also battling it out for the top spot with one win and one second place each. The Briton currently has one more point on his tally because he drove the fastest lap in Mexico. Buemi, di Grassi and Bird follow in the other top five places. Andretti continues to lead the team standings and is nine points ahead of the Porsche works team. Envision, McLaren and Jaguar line up behind them. With Maserati, Nissan, Nio 333 and ABT Cupra, four teams are still without points.
The next Formula E race will take place tomorrow, Saturday. Again at 6 p.m. (CET), the third race of the 2023 season is then on the agenda under the floodlights of Diriyya. e-Formel.de will be following the action for you until then as usual.