Huge Pascal Wehrlein Shunt Overshadows Sébastian Buemi Topping Chaotic Opening Hyderabad Session

Sébastian Buemi continued his fine start to the Gen3 era by topping Free Practice One at the inaugural Hyderabad E-Prix; however, the entire session was overshadowed by a huge crash for championship leader Pascal Wehrlein, who appeared to suffer a throttle-based reliability issue.

The 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is certainly flying by, with this weekend already marking the twenty-five percent mark of the first season of the Gen3 era. Most importantly, though, this weekend is the first Formula E event in India, and the first major motorsport event in the nation since the 2013 Indian Grand Prix. Facing the drivers this weekend is the Hyderabad Street Circuit, which looks set to see some of the highest speeds of the season, with it being a very fast circuit.

As well as being one of the fastest circuits of the season, it is also going to be one of the most physically demanding for the drivers, given that the air temperature was thirty-four degrees Celsius ahead of the opening session of the weekend. Another issue for the drivers to deal with is an incredibly dusty track surface, which caused several issues during the Official Shakedown.

It was Maximilian Günther, though, who got Free Practice One underway following a lengthy forty-five minute delay due to a force majeure. The track surface was significantly better than it was during the earlier shakedown, with the marshals having been clearing the dust in between the sessions. Just two minutes into the session and it was suddenly red-flagged, as Drivers’ Championship leader Wehrlein heavily hit the barrier at Turn Eighteen, with the front of his car having significant damage.

Wehrlein’s collision at the final corner was huge, with it having looked like a clear throttle-based issue, given how fast his car went into the barrier. Whilst he did walk away, Wehrlein was taken to the medical centre as a precaution. The circuit was cleared within seven minutes miraculously, with the local marshals having done an excellent job. Twenty minutes remained on the clock when the session resumed, with all of the remaining drivers having quickly gotten back onto the circuit, except Wehrlein’s team-mate António Félix da Costa.

As the opening times were set it was Nick Cassidy who topped the session, as shadows started to appear on the circuit due to the sun starting to go down. Due to the early red flag, the session was quickly at the halfway point despite minimal running having been done, with Edoardo Mortara having sat top of the timesheets, before René Rast set the fastest lap of the session.

As the session entered the final ten minutes, there was contact made between Mortara and Dan Ticktum, with the Swiss driver having gone into the back of the Brit, damaging his front-wing in the process. Interestingly, despite having done an out-lap when the session restarted, all Porsche-powered drivers returned to the pits, suggesting that it’s a Porsche-based issue, rather than a set-up fault.

Several drivers began energy saving runs as the final minutes of the session ticked-away; however, Mortara went back to the top with four minutes remaining, before Buemi put his name on top. Times continued to tumble dramatically, as Sam Bird hit the top with a 1:15.612, before he too was displaced by Sérgio Sette Câmara, as the drivers continued to push towards the low 1:15s.

As the chequered flag was flown, Buemi went back to the top with Stoffel Vandoorne jumping to second right behind him. Sette Câmara had to settle for third from Bird, whilst Lucas di Grassi claimed fifth to give Mahindra Racing a positive start to their home race. All the focus, though, will be on Porsche, who opted to keep the remaining Porsche-powered cars in the pits “as a precaution”, with the manufacturer wanting to review the data from Wehrlein’s crash first.

Full results to follow…