The Diriyah E-Prix doubleheader produced two adrenaline races. Here are the main takeaways from the Formula E weekend.
1 – Free Practice 1
During the first practice session in Diriyah, Jaguar demonstrated their superiority, with Sam Bird taking the top of the time charts and Mitch Evans in third position. The second fastest time was set by Jean-Eric Vergne with DS Penske, while his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne was in fourth place, giving the team hope after a tough start of the season in Mexico. This first session was chaotic and clear that many teams were still adjusting to the new car on this tight circuit.
2 – Free Practice 2
The second session was full of surprises, with Dan Ticktum setting the fastest time, followed by Sébastien Buemì and Mitch Evans. As in Mexico City, NIO appeared fast enough in qualifying to bring home some points, but the car lacks race pace. With the strange results of the second practice, it further mixed up expectations heading into qualifying.
3 – An unexpected Buemì
The first qualifying round of the weekend brought outstanding battles, with Envision, McLaren, Jaguar, and NIO getting to the semifinals. Sam Bird beat Dan Ticktum, but the pole fight came down to former champion Sébastien Buemì and rookie Jake Hughes. The Envision driver came out as the winner of the duels, starting from the pole for the first time since Season 5. Buemì’s fifteenth pole position in Formula E equaled Jean-Eric Vergne’s record. Qualifying was difficult for the Porsche’s motorized teams, with André Lotterer coming in 13th place, just behind the Porsche’s Antonio Felix Da Costa. The other Andretti car, Jake Dennis’, qualified eleventh and Pascal Wehrlein was the fastest of the Porsche engines in ninth place. It appeared as though the Porsche-powered teams might have a tough weekend, but that didn’t last long.
4 – Wehrlein’s Reign
After collecting a podium finish in Mexico City, Pascal Weherlein won both of the Diriyah E-Prix. Starting ninth on Friday, the Porsche’s driver capitalized on the wrong strategy chosen by Sam Bird and claimed the top step of the podium, with a clean and smart performance. On Saturday the second qualifying round had him starting in fifth, but during the race, Wehrlein used the Attack Mode at the perfect moment. During the late Safety Car he wasn’t sure of pulling off the double – as he said on the team radio after the race – but a great restart some him easily fend off Jake Dennis. The results of this doubleheader put the German driver on top of the drivers’ championship, overtaking Jake Dennis.
DOUBLE DELIGHT FOR @PWEHRLEIN IN DIRIYAH!!!#DiriyahEPrix pic.twitter.com/HXDLQh1jen
— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) January 28, 2023
5 – A strong debut season by McLaren
McLaren demonstrated from the start of the first E-Prix weekend that the team is capable to do great things in Formula E. This weekend in Diriyah, its drivers achieved the first-ever pole position and the first podium for the British team. Jake Hughes, during Saturday’s Qualifying, defeated Mitch Evans, taking the pole. Sadly, Hughes didn’t capitalize on his advantage and finished the race in fifth position, but McLaren couldn’t complain, because René Rast crossed the line of Race 2 third, just behind Wehrlein and Dennis. Both drivers had a good weekend and can leave Diriyah happy with their performance.
6 – Dennis’ comeback
Jake Dennis achieved second place twice this weekend, an outstanding result, considering the difficulty faced by Andretti during qualifying. In fact, in Race 1, Dennis started from P12, but the superiority of Porsche’s engine and a smart strategy gave Dennis the possibility to reach the podium. The British driver gained another trophy at the end of Race 2 after starting sixth. He lost the championship’s lead to Wehrlein, but the season is long, and Dennis demonstrated he is one of the contenders for the title.
7 – A rollercoaster for Maserati
The Monaco-based team started its first Formula E season with many difficulties, leaving Mexico City without any points. In Diriyah, the race weekend started in a disappointing way, with both Edoardo Mortara and Maximilian Gunther crashing in Qualifying 1. The German driver skipped Race 1, due to major damage to his car, while Mortara had to retire in the middle of the race for a technical issue. On Saturday, Maserati seemed to have more pace with the Swiss driver advancing to the duels. During Race 2, both Mortara and Gunther had difficulty with energy management, but Mortara succeeded in remaining in the points, crossing the finish line ninth and collecting the first points of Season 9 for himself and for Maserati.
8 – Ticktum’s strange weekend
We have to mention the weekend of NIO’s Dan Ticktum. After a brilliant free practice session, the British appeared to be competitive for the first round of qualifying, but while he was improving his time in the duels round, a cat crossed the track just in front of his car, forcing him to slow down. Ticktum qualified fourth, losing any chance of points during the race with NIO lacking pace. On Saturday he started Race 2 in P11, ending up in tenth position and collecting the first point of the season. The team appears to have taken a step forward from last season and should contend for points more regularly as the season progresses.
We worked hard to achieve this, and it's only the start – our first points finish of the season! 💪
The journey to success starts small, and we couldn’t be prouder of the whole team, and of course @DanTicktum 💙🙌#NIO333FE #DiriyahEPrix #ABBFormulaE pic.twitter.com/yH9SQYHDIW
— NIO 333 Formula E Team (@NIO333FormulaE) January 28, 2023
9 – Wehrlein vs Dennis
After only three rounds, the driver’s championship sees Wehrlein leading with 68 points, followed by Dennis with 62, while Buemì is a distant third with 31 points. The gap between the first two drivers and the rest of the grid is quickly increased, and the battle for the Season 9 title could depend on a duel between Porsche and Andretti. In Formula E, the winning weapon is consistency, and both Wehrlein and Dennis demonstrated having it. Will Porsche’s engine supremacy continue throughout the season? If so, it could be a championship duel between these two.
10 – A battled midfield
One of the major takeaways from Diriyah is the fight in the midfield. After the third round, sixteen of the twenty-two drivers have collected at least one point. Third through sixth are separated by just five points. Buemì leads with 31 points, but behind him, is Bird with 28, Hughes with 27, and Rast with 26. It is an unstable phase of the season, but the next few rounds may prove fundamental in declaring the general grid’s balance.