GRR

Formula E in Rome | 6 talking points

16th July 2023
Damien Smith

Britain’s Jake Dennis looks almost certain to be crowned Formula E world champion in London at the end of this month, after a dramatic double-header in sizzling Rome last weekend. The Avalanche Andretti driver struggled with energy management in the first race but was left with effectively an open goal in the second when his title rivals collided in the opening stages. Jaguar’s Mitch Evans went from hero to villain in the Italian capital after wiping out fellow Kiwi and Jaguar-powered comrade Nick Cassidy. The moment of disaster has likely ruined the British manufacturer’s title hopes in one fell swoop, leaving Porsche-powered Dennis with a soaring lead at the top of the table.

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1. Multi-car shunt wipes out six

The first encounter on Saturday turned into a race of two halves after a multi-car shunt forced a stoppage. The incident on lap 9 was triggered by Jaguar’s hapless Sam Bird, who spun between Turns 6 and 7 and was left prone across the track. Sébastien Buemi’s Jaguar-powered Envision Virgin entry clipped Bird’s car and was flipped onto its side, but more alarming was a direct impact as Edoardo Mortara’s Maserati nosed straight into the side of the Jaguar. In all, six cars were wiped out in the pile-up, although happily and to immense relief all the drivers escaped injury. It was a close call for all concerned.

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2. Evans goes fourth

From the restart, Sacha Fenestraz’s Nissan entry led the field, but as is so often the case in Formula E energy use dictated the drivers’ fates. Fenestraz had used too much in the early laps and it soon became clear he’d have to back off to make the finish – and wait for another day to score his first victory in Formula E.

As he fell back, the race came down to a three-way fight between title rivals Dennis, Evans and Cassidy. Dennis had the advantage initially, but he was another whose energy usage had been too high, which allowed Evans and Cassidy to move ahead. Evans almost blew his race by missing the offline activation zone to pick up his second mandatory dose of Attack Mode power boost. Yet despite this, he still kept the pressure on Dennis, swept past and held off Cassidy to boost his outsider title hopes

Remarkably, the victory was his fourth in Rome and third in succession, the Jaguar driver having won both rounds at the double-header last year. 

“It was almost two races that we had today,” said Evans. “First of all it was good to see everyone was fine after that shunt, it was pretty big and obviously Sam had a pretty scary moment. After that I was a little bit down on energy compared to Nick and Jake, so I had to try and equalise that, the energy targets dropped a lot after the safety car, so it became much more of an energy race than we were expecting. But I managed it well, and the team helped guide me through like always, and then leave the rest for me.”

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3. Cassidy claims initial title edge

Behind Evans and Cassidy, Maximilian Günther delivered Maserati a home-race podium, with Dennis falling back to fourth. The Brit just held off DS Penske’s Jean-Éric Vergne and Nico Müller, who claimed Abt Cupra’s best result of the season. Porsche factory driver and early-season points leader Pascal Wehrlein salvaged seventh after almost being one of those wiped out in the pile-up.

The result pushed Cassidy back to the top of the championship table on Saturday night, five points ahead of Dennis. The victory elevated Evans to third, 20 points down, with Wehrlein dropping to fourth. But there was more to come on Sunday with the second round of the double-header, and boy, the picture soon changed again.

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4. Evans torpedoes Cassidy

On Sunday, Dennis beat Cassidy to pole position to reduce the Kiwi’s championship advantage to just two points heading into the race – and the day only got better for the Brit.

The race looked set to play out as another Dennis vs Cassidy vs Evans duel to the flag, only for the hero of Saturday to become the villain of Sunday. Dennis established himself in the lead when on lap two there was huge drama under braking into Turn 7. As Cassidy looked to challenge Dennis, Evans completely lost control into the braking zone, the Jaguar snapping sideways, making slight contact with Dennis, but smacking hard into Cassidy’s Envision Virgin car and riding up and over the green machine. The Kiwis had collided.

Cassidy carried heavy damage to his roll hoop and struggled on, only to make contact with Dennis’s team-mate André Lotterer on the last lap. As for Evans, he found his car to be undriveable and soon retired to the pits.

The Jaguar driver was clearly mortified to have taken out his countryman, in a collision that has probably ended his own title bid as well as seriously denting Cassidy’s too. “I feel really bad,” said Evans, who was “caught by surprise” at how abruptly the top two slowed for the tight left-hander. “I’m sorry to Nick and the Envision guys.”

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5. Grand Slam for Dennis

The crash handed Dennis a golden opportunity, and he didn’t waste it. Nissan’s Norman Nato piled on some pressure, while Sam Bird made some amends for causing so much carnage the day before. But neither could lay a glove on Dennis, who secured a rare Formula E grand slam: pole, victory after leading every lap and fastest lap.

“I am honestly lost for words how we have just won that race,” said an overjoyed Dennis after his first win since the season opener in Mexico. “It was so tactical inside the cockpit. I really needed Norman as my wingman that race, and we worked together really well. I gave him space to help him defend when Bird went on Attack Mode and then when I needed the same he did just that. Wow, what a race, what a team for giving me this incredible car. I have said it a million times, but after yesterday’s mistake [on energy usage] we turned it around. Full redemption. I can’t wait to celebrate with them.”

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6. Dennis on course to be champion

The result has turned what was looking to be a closely fought double-header finale in London at the end of this month into a potentially easy run for Dennis to be crowned Formula E world champion on home soil. The 28-year-old is now a massive 24 points ahead of Cassidy in the championship, which means he could wrap it up in the first of the two races in and around the ExCel arena in the docklands.

Evans is a distant 45 points off the lead and surely out of the running after his clanger, with Wehrlein a further six points back. It’s all Dennis’s to lose.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images

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