Pascal Wehrlein of TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team steered his 99X Electric GEN3 car to a second win in as many days at the 2023 CORE Diriyah E-Prix, once again pipping Avalanche Andretti Formula E Team driver Jake Dennis to the line, while René Rast secured a first podium for NEOM McLaren in Formula E.
Qualifying in fifth rather than yesterday’s ninth, Wehrlein made things easier on himself ahead of Round 3 under the magical lights of Diriyah, where more than 35,000 fans attended the race weekend events and saw the Middle-Eastern debut for the all new GEN3 car – the world’s fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient electric race car.
From fifth the German always looked a threat to those ahead. Mitch Evans of Jaguar TCS Racing had taken the lead from polesitter Jake Hughes of NEOM McLaren through the first corner on the opening lap, before Hughes and Rast managed to pass the Jaguar driver during ATTACK MODE.
Rast then briefly took the lead through his first round of 50kW boosts before Wehrlein stepped up a gear, having bided his time behind the lead trio and managing his energy. Passes on Hughes then Evans just a lap apart, each down at Turn 16, put him right with race leader Rast before Wehrlein undercut the McLaren driver through ATTACK MODE and skipped into a two-second lead.
Dennis and Bird were making moves of their own as Wehrlein clambered into the lead. The Avalanche Andretti driver took fifth from Edoardo Mortara (Maserati MSG Racing) on Lap 21, while Bird following suit thanks to an audacious trademark manoeuvre at the final corner.
Just a lap later, pre-race standings leader Dennis sliced by Hughes for fourth and in quick succession saw off Evans and made it three on the spin by taking second from Rast – with the Jaguar of Bird matching Dennis up to take third.
Wehrlein had by then drawn out a lead and looked peerless. A late-race Safety Car could have thrown a spanner in the works but there were no such problems for the Porsche driver who stretched his legs again to win by a margin of just over a second and become only the fifth driver to take to the top step of the podium in both races of a Formula E double-header.
Bird had looked to be in the box seat for third, but lost the position and couldn’t gain it back after taking ATTACK MODE and not converting a late attempt to usurp Rast out of position.
Hughes couldn’t quite capitalise from taking pole but yet again scored good points to maintain his consistent start to the campaign with fifth. Sébastien Buemi (Envision Racing) needed no second invitation to steal sixth from Mitch Evans of Jaguar after the Kiwi scuppered a move on Hughes over the line – getting caught with the McLaren and allowing the Swiss to nip in.
Sacha Fenestraz produced the best drive of his rookie season to-date with eighth for Nissan Formula E Team, while Edoardo Mortara got points on the board with ninth – something to show for Maserati MSG Racing’s tireless efforts on a testing race weekend. Dan Ticktum brought home his NIO 333 in 10th for his first points of the season – well deserved given the squad’s pace over a lap in Diriyah.
The next race in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is the 2023 Greenko Hyderabad E-Prix on Saturday 11 February.
Pascal Wehrlein, No.94, TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team, said:
“This weekend has been incredible, a double victory. Our race pace was incredible again and today we had the perfect strategy, using the ATTACK MODES at the right time and not having to use it again after the safety car – that was crucial. What can I say, just amazing for my team – all their hard work has finally paid off and I am so proud of them. This weekend is one I will never forget.
“I would say yesterday was a bit more exciting as I had more cars to pass. Today was not easy and I would say it was even a bit more difficult. Obviously, the others learned from yesterday, Sam Bird had quite a lot of energy in the end but still had to take his ATTACK mode – so that probably saved us a lit bit. But you could clearly see they made steps forward today and that made it a bit more difficult.”
Jake Dennis, No.27, Avalanche Andretti Formula E Team, said:
“You know you’re having a really good season when you’re a little bit disappointed with P2! We just didn’t have a great start, Pascal had a good one and we had a bad one – and then there was just so much work to do once I got past Buemi. But a great job by the boys, we had such an efficient powertrain again, once I cleared Buemi I could move forward quite quickly, but by that point Pascal was too far away to beat. He can have this one, but we are going to come out swinging in India and try and take the Championship lead off him.
“I think they [McLaren] deserve the podium, I think they had the quickest car today over one lap – it is great to see them up on the podium. The Jaguar is really fast as well – Sam [Bird] was 2% up on us – it seems like they turned their efficiency around, so don’t expect this to happen each race. We need to collect the points while we can and try build the biggest lead we can because they are definitely going to start to close the gap.”
René Rast, No.58, NEOM McLaren Formula E Team, said:
“I am over the moon to be honest. The team deserved it as they put so much hard work into this and we were executing so well the whole weekend, especially from where I came from in Mexico and on Thursday when we had no pace, to now being on the podium defending against Sam who had 2% more energy. It feels like a victory, and I cannot thank the boys and girls enough at NEOM McLaren, they did an awesome job and it is a lot of fun working with them. I am very happy.
“Before the safety car I was not about to fight him [Sam Bird] because he had much more energy, and then all of a sudden the safety car changed everything and I thought we had a chance for the podium, and I started fighting him – and it worked out in the end.”