Cape Town E-Prix: Edoardo Mortara Tops Massively Interrupted Opening Session

After so much bad luck in the opening four rounds of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, Maserati MSG Racing finally had something go their way, as Edoardo Mortara topped the opening session of the weekend at the inaugural Cape Town E-Prix.

As Free Practice One got underway at the circuit dubbed as the fastest on the calendar, the track and air temperature was near-perfect, adding to the spectacular backdrop on display. It was René Rast who led the field out at the Cape Town Street Circuit, with the German being one of the drivers with much to make up for after causing a collision in Hyderabad.

It was Rast’s team-mate Jake Hughes who was the early pacesetter in the opening five minutes; however, proceedings were suddenly halted by a red flag following a crash at Turn Nine for Sébastian Buemi. Replays showed that Buemi smashed into the barrier at high speed at what is, as mentioned, a remarkably fast circuit, causing huge damage to his car for Envision Racing to repair. The right side of his car was virtually destroyed, with his right-rear tyre having flown off following the heavy hit. Thankfully, Buemi walked away from the accident.

Due to several minutes having been spent checking the barrier, it was decided by the race director that the session would be extended by around ten minutes, due to the session having been stopped for a similar length of time. When the red flag was finally replaced by the green flag, twenty-two minutes were remaining on the clock, with all of the remaining drivers except Lucas di Grassi having gotten back out onto the circuit quickly. The Brazilian pulled off the circuit following a reported suspension failure.

As the session restarted, the times quickly tumbled as expected, with Mitch Evans having shot to the top on a 1:11.687, as the session broke into the final seventeen minutes. It was Maximilian Günther, though, who had set the fastest time as the opening session of the weekend hit the halfway point, before Evans bounced back to the front after becoming the first driver into the 1:10s, thanks to a 1:10.816.

Moments after the New Zealander returned to the front, another red flag brought all-important data gathering to a halt, after Kelvin van der Linde came to a halt on-track at what is his home E-Prix. At the time of grinding to a halt, the South African found himself in fourteenth, with early signs having shown that the ABT CUPRA Formula E Team may have found some better performance.

Once van der Linde’s car had been removed from the circuit, just six minutes remained on the clock, in what was certainly the most interrupted practice session of the season so far. The remaining drivers all quickly set much quicker lap-times, as Sam Bird broke into the high 1:09s. The leaderboard continued to rapidly change as the session entered its final minute, with Dan Ticktum having jumped to second.

As the chequered flag was flown, it was Mortara who suddenly jumped to the top thanks to a 1:09.700. The Swiss driver was followed closely by Bird and rookie Sacha Fenestraz, with the top three having been seperated by just under two-tenths. Elsewhere, championship leader Pascal Wehrlein finished eleventh, whilst his biggest rival Jake Dennis was fifteenth.

The cars will next be seen on track Saturday morning, ahead of the fifth race of the 2022/23 season.

Full Results to follow…