Highs and lows for Jaguar TCS Racing in the ‘Eternal City’ as the Season 9 title fight twists and turns once more...
On a day of drama in the Italian capital, Mitch Evans maintained his outstanding record in the Rome E-Prix today (15 July), registering his fourth victory around the Circuito Cittadino dell’EUR as an accident for Jaguar TCS Racing stablemate Sam Bird prompted a mid-race stoppage.
In sweltering conditions, Evans started from pole position, but he conceded the advantage to Bird into Turn One in an effort to conserve energy in the sister car’s slipstream. On lap five, the pair traded places again, with Evans activating his first Attack Mode two laps later and dropping behind new leader Sacha Fenestraz (Nissan Formula E Team).
On lap nine, however, the red flags flew after Bird lost control at the fastest part of the circuit, hitting the barriers and rotating across the track, where he was subsequently struck by a number of other cars. All drivers thankfully escaped injury.
With debris littering the track, there was a lengthy interruption to the action, and alongside Bird, Sébastien Buemi (Envision Racing), António Félix da Costa (TAG Heuer Porsche), Edoardo Mortara (Maserati MSG Racing), Lucas Di Grassi (Mahindra Racing) and Robin Frijns (ABT CUPRA Formula E Team) would similarly be going no further.
That left 14 cars remaining at the re-start, and approaching mid-distance, Fenestraz led championship protagonists Evans, Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) and Nick Cassidy (Envision Racing), but the Frenchman was beginning to struggle on energy.
Dennis – the points leader entering the weekend – was the first to make a move, despatching Evans and Fenestraz in swift succession to gain two places in a single lap. As the Briton rapidly made his escape at the front of the field, Evans knew he too needed to pounce and he did so to relieve Fenestraz of second next time around, before Cassidy displaced the Frenchman a lap later again.
With Evans catching Dennis and Cassidy catching both of them, the battle was on, and the Jaguar driver reclaimed the top spot when Dennis deployed Attack Mode on lap 18. Evans responded on lap 20 but missed one of the activation loops, meaning he had to try again on lap 21, handing the initiative back to Dennis – albeit not for long.
By this stage, it was apparent that the leader’s mid-race charge had hurt his energy consumption, and Dennis was powerless to prevent his two title rivals from sweeping past. The result marked Evans’ third straight triumph in the ‘Eternal City’ and made him the first driver ever to win the Rome E-Prix from pole position – as well as the first driver in Season 9 to tally a maximum score for pole, victory and fastest lap. The 29-year-old is now just 20 points shy of the summit of the standings with three races to run.
Cassidy followed his countryman across the line, 1.6 seconds behind to cement his seventh podium finish of the 2022/23 campaign and the third New Zealand top two lockout. The bottom step of the rostrum was claimed by Maximilian Günther despite a late error, with the German producing a feisty performance on Maserati MSG Racing’s home soil.
Dennis ultimately wound up fourth, albeit more than 21 seconds adrift of Evans at the chequered flag. The Briton needed to get his elbows out in the closing stages as DS Penske’s Jean-Éric Vergne and ABT CUPRA Formula E Team ace Nico Müller latched onto his tail, but a dogged defence enabled him to keep the battling duo at bay. For Müller, sixth position represented his best finish of the season.
After first lap damage obliged a trip to the pits for a new front wing, TAG Heuer Porsche star Pascal Wehrlein climbed back to ninth but has now slipped to fourth in the title hunt, 31 points behind new championship pace-setter Cassidy.
Norman Nato finished seventh for Nissan, with eighth-placed Sérgio Sette Câmara (NIO 333 Racing) scoring for the first time since Hyderabad five months ago and the frustrated Fenestraz fading to tenth in the final reckoning.
The second leg of the Rome E-Prix double-header – round 14 of the campaign – gets underway at 15:03 CET tomorrow (Sunday, 16 July).
Mitch Evans, No. 9, Jaguar TCS Racing, said:
“It was almost two races that we had today. First of all it was good to see everyone was fine after that shunt, it was pretty big and obviously Sam had a pretty scary moment, so good to see everyone is fine. After that I was a little bit down on energy compared to Nick and Jake, so I had to try and equalise that, the energy targets dropped a lot after the safety car, so it became much more of an energy race than we were expecting. But I managed it well, and the team helped guide me through like always, and then leave the rest for me. One little scare was missing the Attack Mode. I missed it at the last loop, I was going through super slow and I still missed it! I need to practice that tomorrow. But a huge result today, maximum points, which was what I needed. Only a small dent into Nick's lead, but it’s better than nothing. We were hoping to break that curse [becoming first driver to win from pole in Rome]. Four wins here is amazing, not sure what it is about this place, but I love the track. We obviously have another day tomorrow, I think people will make another big step, Nick was quick in the race as well. It is there for the taking tomorrow but we need to take the right steps, and hopefully we have got a good balance like we had today.”
Nick Cassidy, No. 37, Envision Racing, said:
“I didn't expect that, but I actually felt quite fast today. I wouldn't say I was angry about qualifying but more heartbroken, I thought we had a good shot there, but it was what it was, that's racing, and we started ninth and had a good race. Hats off to Mitch and Jaguar, they were really good today. Weirdly I felt closer to them in qualifying than I did in the race, in the race at the end we had a good little chance to see where each other were strong, and I felt he was a little stronger than me. We will look at it and go again tomorrow. But we are quite a pair.”
Maximilian Günther, No. 7, Maserati MSG Racing, said:
“It is an amazing feeling to put Maserati on the podium in our first home race in Formula E. Incredible, lots of emotions and happiness. It had been a tough weekend so far, we had a few issues we can hopefully sort out for tomorrow, so we just have to live with them today. We did a good qualifying and the race was executed super well. I am really happy about this podium. I knew it was more difficult to overtake here, so energy management was going to be crucial, that was clear. To be fair, top five, top six was what we targeted, we wanted to score good points. But to take the podium, I am happy to take it, but it was not expected today.”