Pascal Wehrlein has moved into the Formula E championship lead after winning Saturday’s Diriyah E-Prix.
McLaren’s Jake Hughes started on pole, but lost the lead to Jaguar’s Mitch Evans at the first corner while Wehrlein gained a place to run fourth and Andretti Autosport’s Dennis lost a spot from his sixth place on the starting grid.
In a race of strategic decisions, Werhlein did not chase down those ahead early on and waited for the leading trio to activate attack mode for the first time.
Evans did so first, dropping him to third, then new leader Hughes did the same a lap later and it promoted his McLaren team mate Rene Rast into first place. When Rast activated attack mode he was able to remain ahead, and with the pace advantage that provided him with he pulled away up front.
It was Wehrlein who was the fastest of the leading group without the power boost though, and he had more usable energy too. He passed Hughes for third, quickly cut the gap to Evans and passed him without resistance, then set about trimming Rast’s lead.
Once he brought the gap down to 1.5 seconds, Wehrlein then activated attack mode and it took two laps for him to come up to the rear of Rast. He was all over the leader at the turn 18/19 chicane, and Rast – knowing he would be passed anyway – cannily cut across to the attack mode activation area so he would have the pace to then put up a fight to Wehrlein.
It proved futile as Wehrlein was simply too strong up front, and Dennis was soon to join the frontrunners. He passed Edoardo Mortara for fifth at the chicane, moved ahead of Hughes when the McLaren man went to activate attack mode, and then went ahead of Evans for third with a huge lunge into the chicane.
Like Wehrlein, Dennis had been more patient with his attack mode use, although it was the leader who actually still held a energy advantage despite having already run at a higher power mode.
Dennis’s next target was Rast, who he breezed past to move into second place. Wehrlein had a two-second gap up front as the race went into its final third, but his job then became harder as Dennis used attack mode and the arrival of the safety car – after Abt’s Nico Muller crashed at the chicane – led to the lead being cut to nothing.
Wehrlein mastered the restart and soon his lead was growing again, managing the gap to Dennis through the final ten laps (with one added on to the scheduled 39 due to the Safety Car interruption) to win by 1.252s.
Jaguar’s drivers swapped places before the Safety Car period, but Sam Bird could not then make use of an advantage he had on usable energy remaining and he sat in the wheel tracks of Rast who finished third.
Hughes finished fifth in dramatic circumstances, hitting a critical energy as he exited the final corner and coming off the throttle. That led to Evans behind pushing him over the line, having initially been trying to pass him, and it enabled Envision Racing’s Sebastien Buemi to slip past Evans into sixth.
Energy efficiency problems led to several drivers dropping places late on, while DS Penske’s Stoffel Vandoorne was penalised for an improper use of attack mode. It ended with Nissan’s Sacha Fenestraz rising up the order to finish eighth, Mortara dropping to ninth and – thanks to Vandoorne’s penalty – NIO’s Dan Ticktum scoring a point in tenth.
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