Andretti Formula E star outmanoeuvres and outpaces his rivals in Saudi Arabian street fight.
Jake Dennis kick-started the defence of his ABB FIA Formula E World Championship crown with a commanding sixth career victory in Diriyah today (26 January). The Andretti Formula E star began the Diriyah E-Prix from third on the grid, but he did not stay there for long. By lap five, he was in the lead as front row sitters Jean-Éric Vergne (DS Penske) and Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) both opted for an early first Attack Mode, and as the pair duelled in his rear-view mirrors, the Briton was able to stretch his legs.
Two laps later, it was Dennis’ turn to deploy Attack Mode, rejoining between his two key competitors. When Vergne went into Attack Mode for a second time not long after, the reigning champion was released – and swiftly made good his escape.
By the time the leading trio had all activated their second round of Attack Modes, Dennis was in control. Initially choosing to just manage the gap, he found himself with a more comfortable margin when Evans – who had demoted Vergne from second on lap 12 – ran wide on the exit of Turn 18 after unsuccessfully launching a bid for the lead, dropping the New Zealander back into the clutches of the pole-sitter once more.
As his pursuers continued to battle, Dennis was able to inch away while still conserving energy, which would pay dividends later on as he pulled increasingly clear in the closing stages. The 28-year-old still had enough left in the tank to grab the extra point for fastest lap on the final tour, completing a crushing masterclass.
Behind, the momentum ebbed-and-flowed throughout as Vergne and Evans indulged in a classic game of cat-and-mouse – the DS Penske driver reclaiming second when Evans went too deep into Turn 18 again on lap 16.
As the race headed into its final laps, it became apparent that the Frenchman was running lower on energy than his immediate adversaries, and he soon found himself under attack from not just Evans, but also fellow Jaguar ace Nick Cassidy and NEOM McLaren Formula E Team’s Sam Bird.
The Jaguar drivers worked together to protect Evans and bring Cassidy into play – elevating last season’s championship runner-up to fourth right behind his team-mate – and as the chequered flag neared, they were all catching Vergne, who had to unleash every ounce of his legendary street-fighting skills in defence of his position.
It was Evans who seized his chance, darting to the inside of Vergne into Turn 18 on the last lap, but a squirrely entry to the corner sent him skating wide on the exit for a third time and he rejoined down in fifth. That secured Vergne the runner-up spoils while promoting Cassidy onto the podium for the second race in succession, as the New Zealander closed to just a single point shy of the top of the title standings.
Bird wound up a strong fourth ahead of Evans, with Andretti’s Norman Nato right behind in sixth. Maximilian Günther took the flag seventh for Maserati MSG Racing, spending the majority of the race frustrating Mexico winner Pascal Wehrlein’s attempts to find a way past. The TAG Heuer Porsche driver was unable to repeat his dominant Diriyah form from last year, although eighth place enabled him to narrowly retain his championship lead.
Sérgio Sette Câmara finished ninth for ERT Formula E Team after starring early on – briefly snatching second at the start and running fourth for much of the early stages – with Robin Frijns (Envision Racing) opening his scoring account for Season 10 by snaring the final point on offer in tenth.
The second leg of the Diriyah E-Prix – round three of the 2023/24 Formula E campaign – will get underway at 20:03 local time (18:03 CET) tomorrow (Saturday, 27 January).
JAKE DENNIS, No. 1, Andretti Formula E Team, said:
“I can only honestly thank these guys out here so much, you know, we’ve had a difficult start to the season, but we turned it around and came back. I got my biggest win in Formula E tonight. The last eight, nine laps I could really give everything and create that 13 second lead. These days don’t come around very often. I got to show these guys tonight and we’ll try and do it again tomorrow.
“There was a little bit of debate between me and the team about when we should take it [ATTACK MODE] but ultimately, we got it right. That was the main thing, it’s obviously so difficult to overtake here. We saw Mitch Evans trying to pull a do or die move, and thankfully that didn’t work out and allowed me to get away.
“I have to say the enjoyment of racing here in Saudi under the lights and just enjoying every lap. It was so much fun. The track really started to grip up at the end and we could actually push the cars. It was a pretty phenomenal performance.”
JEAN-ÉRIC VERGNE, No. 25, DS PENSKE, said:
Usually starting on pole you want to win the race, any other place is a disappointment but I’m very happy today. The pace we set – it’s been flying doing the race, it’s the best I could have done today, we made a huge step forward compared to last year, I’m very happy that the work is paying off. We’re catching up, we’re not there, but we’re gonna be there. And in some races, I hope we’ll have everything to beat them. Right now, I’m very happy to get some points and improve things. We’ll fight for more wins later on.”
NICK CASSIDY, No. 37, Jaguar TCS Racing, said:
“Hello to everyone in Saudi Arabia – this is really cool, it’s amazing to see an event like this in Formula E. I was really lucky, I had a really fast car today and my team were amazing. I made a bit of a wrong choice at qualifying, but the team’s support in the race and in qualifying was really mega. So, this one’s for them.
“Although we were having radio issues during the race, their comms to me was super clear, they did a great job.”