GRR

2024 Formula E Shanghai E-Prix | 6 talking points

28th May 2024
Simon Ostler

As we approach the closing stages of the 2024 Formula E season, Nick Cassidy has firmly positioned himself as the driver to beat after another solid display at the Shanghai E-Prix double-header. He heads into the final four races of the season with a 15-point lead over Pascal Wehrlein in the drivers’ championship, although his run of five podium finishes was brought to an end in race two, as António Félix da Costa took his second victory of the year.

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Frustrated Cassidy extends Formula E championship lead

Overall it was a successful weekend in Shanghai for Cassidy, as he once again made the most of his car’s superior efficiency to pull off another great late charge in Race 1. He started tenth on the grid and hung back in the peloton as the now standard process of energy saving dominated the first 20 laps of the race. He made measured progress while maintaining an energy advantage over the rest of the field, climbing to fifth on lap 15 and into the podium places on lap 26.

He began to cut a frustrated figure over the radio as he waited for the call from his team to attack, with Evans ahead fighting with Wehrlein for the lead of the race. By the time it did come, it was too late to fight for victory. A stern defence by Wehrlein also put a halt to his charge, and he had to settle for third with energy to spare.

Cassidy’s disgruntled post-race interview said it all: “I had the energy to win, for sure” he said, and when asked if he could have challenged Evans earlier, his response was brief but clear: “It wasn’t my decision.”

It was yet another on-track clash between Cassidy and Wehrlein that ended in controversy, and the Jaguar driver was less than impressed with his Porsche rival’s staunch tactics. With four races to go, the top two in the championship seem destined to meet several more times before the season is over.

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Da Costa is all or nothing in 2024

The curious case of António Félix da Costa continues in 2024. After a poor start to the season that brought about rumours that he would be ousted from his Porsche seat mid-season, he has finally begun to pick up a decent run of form and seemingly put those doubts to bed, for now. After losing the win in Misano, albeit that result is still under appeal, he finally stood on the top step of the podium in Berlin.

Looking to follow that up with continued strong performances in Shanghai, da Costa qualified well and was set for decent points in Race 1, only to find himself handed a five-second penalty for forcing Jean-Eric Vergne off the track. It was enough to kick him out of the points.

Despite what he considered an injustice, he got his head back down for Race 2 and lined up third on the grid. You could tell there was only one acceptable outcome for the Portuguese, and he drove imperiously to take his second win of the season. The 2020 champion is looking far more himself, which is bound to please Porsche as they engage in a fight for the constructors’ championship.

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Wehrlein is still in the hunt

It’s Pascal Wehrlein’s consistency that has kept him in contention for the Formula E championship this season. His victory at the opening race of the year got him off to a great start, but points in almost every race since have kept him within touching distance of Cassidy with four races to go.

He was at it again in Shanghai, delivering a strong performance and never far from the battle for the win. Ultimately it was the better race management of Jaguar that saw him lose out to Mitch Evans on the final lap and he just barely managed to keep Cassidy behind him, albeit with some defensive driving deemed to be over the limit by his fierce rival.

Race 2 saw the German stumble for the first time though. After qualifying only 13th, he was caught up in the melee of the early exchanges and suffered a puncture on lap nine. That put him way out of contention and saw him come home empty-handed for only the second time in 2024.

It’s a 12-point swing that puts Cassidy in a strong championship position, but Wehrlein will know there are still plenty of points on the table with two double-headers in Portland and London still to come.

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Huge podiums for Hughes and Nato

It’s always nice when fringe drivers get their moment in the limelight. Norman Nato has suffered through a poor season so far, seemingly unable to wring the neck of his Andretti car in the same way reigning champion Jake Dennis has managed. He slumped to another pointless result in Race 1, but put together a decent qualifying effort to line up seventh on the grid for Race 2 on Sunday.

It was the confidence boost he clearly needed because he went on to put together an excellent race. He climbed into the lead on lap four and stuck with the pace of da Costa and the leading group from there to score his first podium of the season.

Alongside Nato was McLaren’s Jake Hughes, who has also had to deal with a challenging car for much of the year. While his team-mate took an emphatic victory in Sao Paulo several races ago, Hughes’ best result before Shanghai was a fourth place in Diriyah.

He put himself in a great position to change that when he qualified on pole for Race 2 of the Shanghai E-Prix, and followed it up with an assured drive to bring home a second-place finish, and some very valuable points, for McLaren.

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Jaguar’s superior efficiency is a massive advantage

The recurring theme of the Shanghai E-Prix was Jaguar’s substantial energy advantage. Both Cassidy and Mitch Evans, winner of Race 1, were consistently the cars with the most energy remaining throughout both races of the weekend, and it’s becoming a regular occurrence in 2024.

Whatever Jaguar has achieved with its I-Type 6 powertrain is clearly a mystery to the rest of the grid, even seemingly its customer team, because Envision has not been able to replicate its superior efficiency.

We’ve seen it time and time again this season, that the Jaguar cars are seemingly able to eke out their energy allowance and leave themselves with one or even two per cent more usable energy in the closing laps. It makes them incredibly difficult to beat, especially when, like we saw in Monaco, both drivers and work together to carry out the perfect strategy.

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DS Penske continues to waste a strong qualifying pace

DS Penske on the other hand are showcasing precisely how efficiency can make or break a team in Formula E. In qualifying trim at least, Vergne and Vandoorne have been consistently towards the front of the field and were so again for both races in Shanghai.

But neither driver is seemingly able to convert those strong grid positions into race results. You can only conclude that the E-Tense FE23 powertrain is less efficient that the likes of Jaguar and Porsche, but if the team at DS can get that right for 2025, this looks like it could be a seriously competitive car.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images

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