Many centuries ago, chariot races in the Circus Maximus brought fans to the edge of their seats in Rome with incredible feats of speed and skill. Fast forward to the forthcoming weekend (15/16 July), and the ‘Eternal City’ is ready to welcome motor sport’s modern-day gladiators, as the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship races back into town for a dazzling double-header.
First staged in 2018, the Rome E-Prix has gone on to become a staple on the all-electric single-seater series’ schedule. One of the longest tracks on the calendar, the Circuito Cittadino dell’EUR snakes around the Obelisco di Marconi, against the backdrop of the Colosseo Quadrato.
The 3.385km, 19-turn lap poses a stern challenge to competitors with its regular elevation changes, uneven surface and ‘jump’ – while its long straights encourage audacious overtakes.
One driver who is rarely backward when it comes to moving forward is Avalanche Andretti’s Jake Dennis, who reclaimed the initiative in the title chase with a pole position and second-place finish last time out in the United States. The Briton – who has yet to score in four previous starts in Rome – holds a slender single-point advantage over Nick Cassidy, who narrowly pipped him to the top step of the podium in Portland, marking the New Zealander’s third triumph in the most recent five races.
Cassidy was a pole-sitter in the Italian capital two years ago, only to spin away the lead and find himself elbowed into the wall. Current form suggests the Envision Racing ace is likely to do rather better this weekend.
TAG Heuer Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein looked to be running away with the championship in the early stages of the 2022/23 campaign, but a fallow mid-season spell enabled his rivals to narrow the deficit and – in the case of Dennis and Cassidy – supplant him at the summit of the standings. The German remains well in contention, however, at just 16 points shy of the top of the table, and he was a rostrum-finisher in Rome in 2021.
Mitch Evans sits fourth for Jaguar TCS Racing – 16 points further adrift again – but the New Zealander is very much the man to beat in Rome, with three victories to his name including a dominant double 15 months ago.
After going two races without scoring, meanwhile, Jean-Éric Vergne needs a big weekend if he is to stay in contention for glory. The Frenchman – the only double champion in Formula E history – triumphed in Italy in 2021 and placed second there to Evans last season.
DS Penske stablemate Stoffel Vandoorne qualified on pole position in Rome in 2021, but a brace of accidents scuppered his hopes of victory. Twenty-four hours later, the Belgian responded with a peerless performance that yielded his second career success – before converting another pole into a third-place finish last year.
Round 13 will get underway at 15:03 CET on Saturday, 15 July, followed by Round 14 at the same time on Sunday, 16 July. The traditional free practice sessions will be preceded by a 30-minute ‘FP0’ slot for drivers aged 18 and over who have never previously raced in the series, building upon the official rookie test day held in Berlin in April.
Photo credit: ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, 2023 Portland E-Prix, Nick Cassiday (Envision Racing), (DPPI/Frederic Le Floch)