The inaugural Portland E-Prix served up a great spectacle to set up a compelling conclusion to the chase for the Season 9 crown.
For the third time this season, Envision Racing’s Nick Cassidy ascended the top step of the podium today (24 June) in the inaugural Portland E-Prix, raising the prospect of a grandstand finish to the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship title fight.
With strategy and energy management the key talking points in the build-up to the start, the race rapidly developed into a high-speed game of chess around Portland International Raceway, in which leading was not necessarily the optimum place to be – but staying inside the lead pack was vital.
Avalanche Andretti’s Jake Dennis – who had reclaimed the top spot in the championship classification by securing pole position in qualifying – led early on, but from tenth on the grid, Cassidy was already signalling his intent as he moved up into the top five on the opening tour.
The New Zealander seized the initiative on lap four before becoming the first of the front-runners to take Attack Mode, as competitors battled energetically on the wide 3.19km circuit close to America’s West Coast.
After a brace of safety car interventions – prompted by Roberto Merhi’s Mahindra Racing machine stopping on-track, and Nico Müller (ABT CUPRA Formula E Team) making contact with the barriers – Cassidy found himself sitting second behind FP2 pace-setter Norman Nato (Nissan Formula E Team). He regained the lead when the Frenchman deployed his own Attack Mode, and then held sway for the following five laps.
Next to strike was Season 6 title-holder António Félix da Costa, who powered his TAG Heuer Porsche single-seater to the head of the order on lap 22 – but Cassidy was not done yet. The pair would trade the position on three further occasions before the chequered flag fell, with the Envision ace – much like in Berlin two months ago – timing his charge to perfection to triumph.
Not only did Cassidy’s win see him bounce back immediately from a tough second day in Jakarta last time out, it also enabled the erstwhile championship leader to close back to within a single point of the summit of the standings with four races left to run in Season 9.
He was chased home not by da Costa, but by Dennis, who registered his third consecutive runner-up result to narrowly retain the advantage in the chase for the series’ crown. The Brit prevailed in a no-holds-barred duel with his Portuguese rival on the last lap, but did not have quite enough time left to launch a bid for victory as he flashed over the finish line less than three tenths-of-a-second in Cassidy’s wake.
From all the way down in 20th on the grid, Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) kept his own title hopes alive by climbing the order in the second half of the E-Prix to wind up fourth, grabbing an extra point for posting fastest lap.
Cassidy’s Envision Racing stablemate Sébastien Buemi was another to make up significant ground late on as the Swiss star – champion in 2015/16 – scythed through to finish fifth having begun just 16th.
Maximilian Günther maintained Maserati MSG Racing’s recent strong form in sixth, though the German – who ran third for much of the race – arguably missed out on a better result when he skated wide onto the grass with less than a handful of laps remaining.
Season 3 champion Lucas Di Grassi (Mahindra Racing) placed seventh, as the Brazilian scored for the first time since the 2022/23 curtain-raiser in Saudi Arabia back in January.
Pascal Wehrlein – who had gone into the weekend as championship leader – could ultimately manage no better than eighth for TAG Heuer Porsche, with Nato and Robin Frijns (ABT Cupra Formula E Team) completing the points-finishers in ninth and tenth respectively.
After starting from the pit-lane, two-time title-winner Jean-Éric Vergne rose as high as third – notwithstanding a grassy moment – before fading to 11th as he struggled to conserve energy.
NEOM McLaren Formula E Team duo René Rast and Jake Hughes – both of whom challenged early on – slipped to 14th and 18th in the final reckoning, with front row starter Sacha Fenestraz (Nissan Formula E Team) losing his own shot at a podium finish when he had to pit for a new front wing, dropping the Frenchman to the tail of the field.
The Formula E campaign returns to Europe for its penultimate outing in Rome on 15/16 July, with a double-header around the Italian capital’s ancient city streets.
Nick Cassidy, No. 37, Envision Racing, said:
“It’s cool. I’ve had a good run in America the last couple of years. I love racing here. That race was fun. Look it’s close. The guys we’re racing are top. Jake did an amazing job in quali. I think he was unlucky to be starting on pole - today wasn’t the race to be doing that. And António in these races is always fantastic as well. It’s close, it’s fun, it’s Formula E. To be fair, I saw Mitch up with me at stages, I saw Seb, I saw Sam. And we all started far back. So credit to Jaguar and credit to Envision Racing. What a car, what a powertrain.”
Jake Dennis, No. 27, Avalanche Andretti Formula E, said:
“Yeah we had a good day. I think after the flag I was a little bit disappointed, just because the way the race panned out. It was really, really difficult. Nevertheless, we got P2. There was some really difficult overtakes to be had. There are some guys fighting for the championship and other guys with nothing to lose. A race like today is all about risk. I just had to keep my powder dry and come home with an undamaged car and I knew I could get a good result. To come home second, I think that’s three seconds in a row now, so I want to taste the win again in Rome. But we can be happy with a race like that – 400 overtakes – to come home with 18 points is good. Me and Nick are really fighting for the championship. It’s just who takes the most risk. Some of those moves on António were brave and he did really good job there. I obviously did António right on the last lap and I just about got through. I’m looking forward to having that race behind me now and getting to Rome where it’ll be a bit more normal and pole will actually be a benefit.”
António Félix da Costa, No. 13, TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team, said:
“When I came onto the track this morning, I was not expecting the turnout from all these guys. This is big. You guys like IndyCar, you like NASCAR, to see this support for Formula E is insane so thanks for coming out. It’s really, really cool. I thought that was a great show to be honest - there was a lot going on. For the team and for myself in the car, I thought that was the right moment to go out to the front, but turns out Nick was just a tiny bit more clever than us today and Jake got us there at the end as well. I’m happy, a podium is always awesome. A solid day for me and for the team today. Pascal - I’m not sure what’s going on now - but he was leading the championship going into the race. The goal was always to help him. I was waiting for him to come and if he did come I was going to be there to try help him win this race. But I knew if he wasn’t there then it’s my turn to try have a go at it and that’s what we did. Unfortunately, we came just short but it’s ok – a podium is always cool and it’s going to be awesome to do it here with these guys.”