Jean-Eric Vergne scored his first Formula E victory for almost two years as the series’ first race on the streets of Hyderabad produced a lively encounter.
The DS Penske driver lined up on the front row of the grid alongside pole-winner Mitch Evans, though the Jaguar driver’s race proved as frustrating as it was brief.
At the start Evans moved across quickly to deny any possibility Vergne would lunge down the inside of him on the run towards the tight turn three hairpin, where much of the day’s action took place. The top five held grid order at the start, Evans and Vergne pursued by Sebastien Buemi, Sacha Fenestraz and Maximilian Guenther.
Behind them Nick Cassidy superbly passed Sam Bird for sixth position. However Edoardo Mortara misjudged his attack on Bird the next time around and hit Cassidy. The Envision driver continued while Mortara dropped back, shedding his front wing.
The first decisive moment came on lap seven when leader Evans went wide at turn three to activate Attack Mode for two minutes. In the same moment third-placed Buemi dived down the inside of Vergne, picking up both places and emerging in the lead.
A frustrated Evans dropped behind both rivals plus Fenestraz. While his higher power mode helped him reclaim the position from the Nissan driver within a lap, both Buemi and Vergne maintained the places they had gained from the former leader when they subsequently took their first Attack Modes.
Evans’ mood darkened further on lap 13 in a moment which drastically changed the complexion of the race. Bird made a lunge for position at turn three but sailed past Fenestraz and into his team mate Evans. The pole-winner limped into the pits where he retired, while the other two were badly delayed along with Guenther, who was passing through the Attack Mode loop when the incident occurred.
Cassidy was the first driver to benefit, leaping to third place followed by Rene Rast and Jake Dennis. Despite the disruption done to the running order, all cars involved were able to leave the scene under their own power and the race continued uninterrupted.
As the race reached half distance, Vergne made a successful attack on Buemi to claim the lead. Buemi peeled off to take Attack Mode, promoting team mate Cassidy.
The lively raced settled down briefly, until Jake Hughes’ speared his McLaren into the barrier on the inside approaching turn four. It ended a tough weekend for the driver who set pole position in Diriyah two weeks ago, but lined up on the back row today.
The Safety Car was deployed to recover his car, which meant the race distance was extended by one tour to 33 laps. Vergne continued to lead, but Cassidy behind him had saved an additional 3% of energy for the coming fight to the flag.
Behind third-placed Buemi was Dennis, who had risen seven places from his starting position to hold fourth. The driver who arrived in India second in the championship was on course to cut into Pascal Wehrlein’s six-point lead.
Those hopes were destroyed soon after the restart. Rene Rast’s McLaren mounted the rear of the Andretti at turn three, wrecking both their races. Adding to Dennis’ frustration, Wehrlein was one of the drivers who benefited, and he would move further up the final finishing order.
Vergne faced immense pressure from Cassidy over the final laps, the Envision driver repeatedly probing his defences. However Verge steadfastly parked his DS Penske on the inside line approaching turn three, denying Cassidy his best chance to pass, while Buemi and the rest queued up behind them.
Cassidy tried to get creative with his attacking moves elsewhere around the track, but it was to no avail, and Vergne crossed the line just before his energy ticked down to zero. Cassidy claimed second, but Buemi lost third place when the stewards ruled his had exceeded the power limit, handing him a post-race drive-through penalty which dropped him to 15th.
That promoted Porsche pair Antonio Felix da Costa and Wehrlein to third and fourth places, the latter boosting his championship lead. Sergio Sette Camara gained 10 places to finish ahead of Oliver Rowland, who lost a place to his rival when he was squeezed into a barrier while scrapping with Buemi.
Norman Nato, Stoffel Vandoorne, Andre Lotterer and Edoardo Mortara completed the points-scoring places. As the race concluded, race control confirmed multiple drivers remain under investigation for track limits breaches.
Wehrlein continues to lead the championship on 80 points, 18 ahead of Dennis on 62.
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