DIRIYAH: Pascal Wehrlein of TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team steered his 99X Electric GEN3 car to a second win in as many days at the 2023 CORE Diriyah E-Prix.
Wehrlein once again piped Avalanche Andretti Formula E Team driver Jake Dennis to the line, while Rene Rast secured a first podium for NEOM McLaren in Formula E.
Qualifying in fifth rather than Saturday’s ninth, Wehrlein made things easier on himself ahead of round three under the magical lights of Diriyah. More than 35,000 fans attended the race weekend events and saw the Middle Eastern debut of the all-new GEN3 car — the world’s fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient electric race vehicle.
From fifth the German always looked a threat to those ahead. Mitch Evans of Jaguar TCS Racing had taken the lead from polesitter Jake Hughes of NEOM McLaren through the first corner on the opening lap, before Hughes and Rast managed to pass the Jaguar driver during ATTACK MODE.
Rast then briefly took the lead through his first round of 50 kW boosts before Wehrlein stepped up a gear, having bided his time behind the lead trio and managing his energy. Passes on Hughes then Evans just a lap apart, each down at turn 16, put him right with race leader Rast before Wehrlein undercut the McLaren driver through ATTACK MODE and skipped into a two-second lead.
Dennis and Bird were making moves of their own as Wehrlein clambered into the lead. The Avalanche Andretti driver took fifth from Edoardo Mortara (Maserati MSG Racing) on lap 21, while Bird following suit thanks to an audacious trademark maneuver at the final corner.
Just a lap later, pre-race standings leader Dennis sliced by Hughes for fourth and in quick succession saw off Evans and made it three on the spin by taking second from Rast, with the Jaguar of Bird matching Dennis up to take third.
Wehrlein had by then drawn out a lead and looked peerless. A late-race safety car could have thrown a spanner in the works but there were no such problems for the Porsche driver who stretched his legs again to win by a margin of just over a second and become only the fifth driver to win both races of a Formula E double-header.
Bird had looked to be in the box seat for third, but lost the position and could not gain it back after taking ATTACK MODE and not converting a late attempt to usurp Rast out of position.
Hughes could not quite capitalize from taking pole but yet again scored good points to maintain his consistent start to the campaign with fifth. Sebastien Buemi of Envision Racing needed no second invitation to steal sixth from Mitch Evans of Jaguar after the Kiwi scuppered a move on Hughes over the line —getting caught with the McLaren and allowing the Swiss to nip in.
Sacha Fenestraz produced the best drive of his rookie season with eighth for the Nissan Formula E Team, while Edoardo Mortara got points on the board with ninth — something to show for Maserati MSG Racing’s tireless efforts on a testing race weekend. Dan Ticktum brought home his NIO 333 in 10th for his first points of the season — well deserved given the squad’s pace over a lap in Diriyah.
The next race in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is the 2023 Greenko Hyderabad E-Prix on Saturday Feb. 11.