Jean-Éric Vergne delivered one of the greatest defensive displays of his motorsport career, to claim his first victory of the Gen3 era at the inaugural Hyderabad E-Prix, which played host to the fourth round of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.
Evans Blinks First
As the inaugural Formula E race in India got underway, it was polesitter Mitch Evans who made the perfect start, with all of the drivers having remarkably made it through the opening corners without any collisions. Nick Cassidy was the first of the front drivers to pull off a great move towards the end of the opening lap, as the New Zealander dived down the inside of Sam Bird at Turn Three to move up to sixth.
For the top five it was as they were, whilst behind, Edoardo Mortara hit Cassidy at Turn Three, with the Swiss driver having failed to slow his car down in time for the corner. Mortara’s front-wing was broken as a result, dropping him to virtually the foot of the field after having to pit for a change. Interestingly, the field remained somewhat close together behind Evans, with the top twelve having all been within close proximity of one another.
As the race hit the sixth lap, neither Jake Dennis nor Pascal Wehrlein had made much progress towards the front, suggesting that it was going to be a bad day in regard to extending their lead at the top of the championship. At the front and the action suddenly went up a notch, as Evans dropped to fourth whilst activating his first Attack Mode, whilst at the same time Sébastian Buemi pulled off a great move on Vergne for what became the race lead. Evans quickly got back into third, though, as he pushed to make the most of his Attack Mode.
Bird Error Causes Jaguar Nightmare
On Lap Nine, Vergne moved back into the lead as Buemi opted to activate his first Attack Mode, which he managed to do whilst remaining ahead of Evans. It was yet more misery for Evans a lap later, as Vergne also managed to activate his first Attack Mode and remain ahead of initial race leader Evans, further suggesting that blinking first isn’t the correct strategy this season. Vergne’s decision to activate his first Attack Mode allowed Buemi to retake the lead; however, he immediately applied the pressure on the Swiss driver.
It was truly a frenetic start to the race in Hyderabad, as at the front, Buemi managed to remain in the race lead for the entirety of Vergne’s opening Attack Mode. At the back of the pack and Kelvin van der Linde‘s truly miserable weekend ended in frustrating fashion, with the South African having pulled into the pits to retire from the race.
Back at the front, though, and there was suddenly an absolutely huge moment on Lap Thirteen, as Bird took out three cars at Turn Three, including, his Jaguar TCS Racing team-mate! The Formula E veteran simply failed to slow his car down, resulting in him ploughing straight into a helpless Sacha Fenestraz, Maximilian Günther and, of course, Evans. The Brit immediately got onto the radio to apologise, before entering the pits to retire from the race.
It marked Jaguar’s worst nightmare, at what is effectively a home race for the side, with their title partner being based in India. To no surprise, all the drivers involved dropped to the back, whilst also elevating Cassidy up to third and remarkably Dennis up to fifth place. Incredibly, no Safety Car was needed for any damage, meaning the racing was able to resume, something Vergne took full advantage of on Lap Fifteen, as he regained the race lead at Turn Three with an excellent move.
Dennis Charges Whilst Cassidy Applies The Pressure
Whilst Vergne was completing the move, Buemi quickly decided to activate his second Attack Mode, which elevated his team-mate to second and astonishingly Dennis to third, in what was quickly becoming a bonkers E-Prix. Cassidy’s pace was electric (excuse the pun), with the Envision Racing driver having opted to take his second Attack Mode a lap later, which he managed to do whilst remaining ahead of his team-mate.
With all the battling taking place behind Vergne, the double Formula E Champion was able to build a lead of just over a second, giving him a bit of a breather. Dennis became the next runner in the front group to take his second Attack Mode which dropped him behind Buemi and into fourth, whilst his German title rival was starting to make some progress. Wehrlein had made it up to ninth by Lap Twenty, with the Drivers’ Championship leader having began to use his usual tactic of using his energy management advantage to make progress.
Back at the front and Cassidy had closed right in on Vergne by Lap Twenty-One, with the New Zealander having also had two-percent more energy that the French driver, giving him a key advantage. On Lap Twenty-Three, Cassidy found himself as close as possible behind Vergne, thanks to a Safety Car having been released following a crash for rookie sensation Jake Hughes at Turn Four. The NEOM McLaren Formula E Team driver crashed into the barrier on the inside of Turn Four, as a result of his mirror having bizarrely gotten stuck behind his steering wheel.
Heartbreak for Dennis
The race resumed on Lap Twenty-Six with Vergne having his mirrors full of Envision Racing’s livery, as Cassidy and Buemi ran second and third behind the DS Penske driver. Just behind the leading trio and it was heartbreak for Dennis, who was hit heavily by René Rast, ripping his rear-fins off in the process. Both drivers immediately entered the pits due to severe damage, with Rast’s front-wing having been completely destroyed.
It was a breathtaking race, with Oliver Rowland having suddenly found himself in fourth at Mahindra Racing‘s home race; however, he did have a five-second time penalty looming over him. At the front and Vergne was defending for his life, with the Frenchman having had three-percent less energy than Cassidy in second, meaning the veteran was under immense pressure. Vergne’s pace clearly wasn’t strong, with a huge train of cars having been visible behind him.
Delight For Vergne But Agony For Buemi
As Vergne started the penultimate lap he was putting on a complete defensive masterclass, with Cassidy having had four-percent more energy. In a flash, the final lap wa suddenly upon the remaining drivers, as Vergne’s battery suddenly hit one-percent, whilst Cassidy still had four! The New Zealander couldn’t find anyway past the French driver, though, with Vergne having held on to claim his first win of the season in emphatic fashion. Cassidy crossed the line in a well-deserved second, whilst his team-mate crossed the line in fourth.
Remarkably, António Félix da Costa claimed fourth with Wehrlein in fifth, with the German having inherited several places due to some of the top six having been awarded a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits. It was the result that DS Penske had been searching for so desperately, with the Frenchman having finally gotten his and the team’s season properly underway.
Whilst nobody could argue with the top two, there was late drama after the chequered flag had flown for Buemi. The Swiss driver was awarded a dramatic seventeen-second penalty for using too much power at certain stages of the race, meaning Da Costa was promoted to the podium, his first for Porsche. It also meant Wehrlein was elevated to fourth place, marking an excellent recovery from so far down the grid. The penalty dropped Buemi from third, to fifteenth, bringing an end to his consecutive points scoring run.
After the end of a dramatic E-Prix, Wehrlein extended his lead at the top of the Drivers’ Championship to eighteen points over Dennis, whilst Vergne remarkably jumped from outside the top ten to third. In the Constructors’ Championship and TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team also extended their lead to twenty-three points, following Avalanche Andretti Formula E‘s agony. Whilst he retired from the race, Evans did claim three points for pole position, whilst Norman Nato gained an additional point for claiming the fastest lap of the race.
With so much action and drama having unfolded, the all-electric series will likely need the upcoming two-week break to recover from all the madness, before the inaugural Cape Town E-Prix.
Hyderabad E-Prix Round 5: Race Full Results
|1||25||Jean-Éric Vergne||FRA||DS Penske||46:01.099|
|2||37||Nick Cassidy||NZL||Envision Racing||+0.400|
|3||13||António Félix da Costa||POR||TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team||+1.859|
|4||94||Pascal Wehrlein||GER||TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team||+2.855|
|5||3||Sérgio Sette Câmara||BRZ||NIO 333 Racing||+3.523|
|6||8||Oliver Rowland||GBR||Mahindra Racing||+7.138|
|7||17||Norman Nato||FRA||Nissan Formula E Team||+7.318|
|8||1||Stoffel Vandoorne||BEL||DS Penske||+7.564|
|9||36||André Lotterer||GER||Avalanche Andretti Formula E||+8.703|
|10||48||Edoardo Mortara||CHE||Maserati MSG Racing||+9.073|
|11||51||Nico Mueller||CHE||ABT CUPRA Formula E Team||+10.622|
|12||23||Sacha Fenestraz||FRA||Nissan Formula E Team||+11.635|
|13||7||Maximilian Günther||GER||Maserati MSG Racing||+15.446|
|14||11||Lucas di Grassi||BRZ||Mahindra Racing||+15.999|
|15||16||Sébastian Buemi||CHE||Envision Racing||+17.735|
|16||27||Jake Dennis||GBR||Avalanche Andretti Formula E||+1:10.562|
|17||58||René Rast||GER||NEOM McLaren Formula E Team||DNF|
|18||5||Jake Hughes||GBR||NEOM McLaren Formula E Team||DNF|
|19||10||Sam Bird||GBR||Jaguar TCS Racing||DNF|
|20||33||Dan Ticktum||GBR||NIO 333 Racing||DNF|
|21||9||Mitch Evans||NZL||Jaguar TCS Racing||DNF|
|22||4||Kelvin van der Linde||ZAF||ABT CUPRA Formula E Team||DNF|