LONDON/RIYADH: British driver Jake Dennis of Avalanche Andretti delivered a commanding lights-to-flag performance to win the first race in the 2022 SABIC London E-Prix doubleheader on Saturday, repeating his exploits of last season on the outdoor/indoor street circuit at ExCeL London.
The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship returned to ExCeL London following last season’s debut but was open to full capacity after last year’s COVID-19 restrictions limited access. Thousands of fans at the east London venue gave victorious Dennis a standing ovation after he repelled the early advances of Drivers’ World Championship leader Stoffel Vandoorne to win the race and delight the cheering home crowd.
Mercedes-EQ’s Vandoorne was content to play it cool to come home second for a 17th Formula E podium, with his closest championship rivals marooned down the pack.
In fact, by the end of the first lap, both drivers trailing Vandoorne in the drivers’ standings — Edoardo Mortara of ROKiT Venturi Racing in second and Mitch Evans of Jaguar TCS Racing in third — had been in the wars, with Mortara forced to retreat into the pit, which put him entirely out of the fight.
Reigning champion Nyck de Vries played rear gunner for teammate Vandoorne to occupy Nick Cassidy (Envision Racing) who was chasing hard toward the end of the race.
It was mission accomplished for Dutchman de Vries who held on to claim third place. Cassidy would settle for fourth after clambering through the pack with relative ease, heading home ahead of Oliver Askew who made it two Avalanche Andrettis in the top five.
Mitch Evans was able to pick up valuable championship points in sixth, which was the best of the other top-four title contenders heading into the weekend, with Vergne unable to free himself from the midfield mire in 13th and Mortara squarely last after Lap 1 contact.
That left the advantage firmly with Vandoorne in the Drivers’ World Championship as an 11-point margin became a 26-point lead with Evans moving to second ahead of Mortara.
In the teams race, Mercedes-EQ stretched to a 37-point lead on DS TECHEETAH.
It is back to ExCeL London on Sunday for round 14 in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship and the last stop before Season 8 concludes with rounds 15 and 16 in Seoul, the first time the all-electric series has visited South Korea.
“Honestly it was one of the hardest races I’ve ever done, just physically. As the rubber gets down on the surface, it’s an indoor surface, it’s so hard to turn the steering wheel. But we managed 45 minutes, and honestly the car was amazing,” Dennis said.
“So it was a technical race trying to manage Stoffel and Nyck, obviously two teammates working together. So I had to manage that and the team did a great job, the car was incredible, and the strategy was strong. And then it was just a case of bringing it home in the last 15 laps and being careful of Stoffel’s Fanboost,” he said.
“But yeah, insane race, and honestly when I crossed the checkered flag hearing the fans was one of the best experiences of my life — so, so cool. So big thank you to all the fans out here and the British support.”
“I’ve never experienced anything like it. And obviously being in the indoor and the lights and seeing everyone stand up — it was just a lifetime memory. We’ve got to do a job tomorrow and obviously we’ve got to try to repeat this.”
Vandoorne said: “It was a good day today finishing second. Well done to Jake — I think he had an incredible day. Already in the practice sessions he was very fast and managed to get pole position, and then he drove a very intelligent race. For us, there was really no answer to him. I tried to stay as close as possible for as long as I could, but on this circuit it wasn’t enough to get him. But great team results, second and third. So yeah, let’s keep pushing — three to go, and tomorrow is another opportunity.”