Wehrlein takes Formula E points lead with second Saudi win

Formula E

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Pascal Wehrlein has moved into the Formula E championship lead after winning Saturday’s Diriyah E-Prix.

The Porsche driver repeated his Friday win at the Riyadh street circuit from fifth on the grid, having coming from ninth in the previous race, and once again led home title rival Jake Dennis for the victory.

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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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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10 comments on “Wehrlein takes Formula E points lead with second Saudi win”

  1. Really a strong showing by Porsche powertrains (but only with 2 drivers out of 4) this weekend.
    Wehrlein won with style, while Dennis lost a few position too much in the first half of the race, using too much energy to comeback.
    Will it be a 2 horse race for the champ? Or will the other teams close the gap?
    Jaguar & McLaren showed pretty good energy management today, so they are already very close.

    Another pretty clean race with good battles.
    I’d say a solid debut three races for Gen 3 after all the worries of the Pre-Season.

  2. Doing multiple races on the same circuit is a huge minus for taking Formula E serious. F1 did it, of course, during Covid times out of necessity, and it had the same detrimental effect. If one team or driver is adept to the track, it will just give them an unfair advantage in the WDC as opposed to driving two races on different tracks with different characteristics. Happens in other series that do this too. Not a fan. One race per track. Or at least if you must do two races, have at least one of them be a “sprint” race and the other a “feature” race so the points total for that one team is at least less than two individual races would have.

  3. How are the cars, which all look the same and I assume use massively similar battery technology, be so different in the race? Werhlein and Dennis seemed to have another set of batteries compared to the rest of the field.

    1. Because they’re only similar from the outside, but the powertrains + electronics are very different.

    2. @millionus the series uses a spec chassis, which is why they all look the same and a spec battery, with all cars starting with the same amount of potential usable energy for the race (similar to F1 cars starting with a specified number of kgs of fuel) – there’s also a series-supplied front axle MGU that’s currently used only for regen.

      what’s different then is the powertrain – the motor-generator unit, the inverter, the transmission and the programming that controls all of that, as well as certain aspects of the cooling systems and the way the car is overall set up (some teams have had custom brake ducts, for instance). efficiency in an EV is down to how much can be recovered under braking, which is normally limited by the stress and subsequent thermal management of the MGU, inverter and battery; if you can keep yours more in a good window, you’ll be able to recover more and have more overall usable energy – what gets talked about as efficiency. the Porsche powertrain seems to have the upper hand on efficiency in the Gen3 races so far but we’ll see what happens.

      Hyderabad could be very different to Mexico or Diriyah; Mexico was cold, Diriyah at night is absolutely freezing (minus numbers air temperatures immediately after the races last year) and teams who’ve gauged their powertrains to manage with higher temperatures might find that they come more into their own there, where Porsche could have been being flattered by the lack of thermal stress.

      (there’s lots of other factors currently like tyres, in particular and inefficiency caused by a lack of traction but in terms of the powertrains, that’s what makes the cars different)

      1. Thanks @hazelsouthwell for the thorough explanation. I am actually liking the new gen cars and now they got rid of the fan boost the strategy of the attack mode actually works well.

  4. Sounds fun just reading it here. I wonder if Formula 1 could benefit from this attack mode feature?

  5. Cracking couple of races. Gen3 even has our toddler hooked!

  6. FE looked good this weekend. Tight, bumpy, undulating track had drivers looking on the edge throughout; passing was difficult but possible. Clear advantages of some cars in qualifying vs. race pace, and some teammates have been totally outclassed in the new Gen3 car; all good signs for proving the series is worthwhile for both teams and drivers alike.

    1. @Minardi, I think the tracks they use in FE are just awful. They have no character, and are all just boxed in tarmac. In most motorsports races you see cars going side by side into corners and one of them running out of room, bouncing over grass, and by sheer skill the driver somehow keeps it pointing the right way and wrestles it back on track without hitting anyone else in the process. That just doesn’t happen in FE. FE seems to be more about how good you are with the calculator than with the steering wheel. Maybe it appeals to the playstation generation.

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