Formula E: Vergne holds off Cassidy to win in Hyderabad
From his 2nd place starting position, Dragon Racing’s Jean Eric Vergne held off Virgin Racing’s Nick Cassidy to win the Hyderabad e-Prix in India Saturday.
The last lap was a defensive and energy management masterclass by 2-time Formula E champion Vergne who started the last lap with only 2% energy left in his battery while Cassidy had almost 5%. The gap at the line was 0.400s.
The Frenchman returned to winning ways with his first trip to the top step of the Formula E podium since Rome, Season 7, and he did it in some style. Vergne made his way to the front of the pack on Lap 15 – the double champion sweeping by Buemi at the hairpin after the Jaguars had removed one another from the equation two laps prior.
That moment saw Sam Bird make a lunge on the dirty side of the track on fourth-placed Sacha Fenestraz (Nissan). The Brit couldn’t get his I-TYPE 6 stopped in time and collected teammate Mitch Evans, running third at the time – pitching the Kiwi’s car into a spin and sending both into retirement and the unlucky Fenestraz tumbling down the order with them, in a race where a podium double – at the least – looked a possibility for Jaguar.
Vergne led the way from that moment but had his mirrors full of Cassidy’s Envision Racing machine as the checkered flag drew closer. The New Zealander had managed to gather up an extra four percentage points of usable energy on Vergne come the closing stages of the race but the latter is the consummate Formula E fighter and used every trick in the book to keep him at bay and cross the line first – surely one of his best wins and one that will live long in the memory on Formula E’s first visit to India in front of a sold-out crowd of over 25,000 people.
Porsche’s Felix Da Costa was promoted to the podium on his 100th race in Formula E, after Envision Racing’s Sebastien Buemi was hit with a 17-second drive-through penalty, dropping him to 15th.
Pascal Wehrlein finished fourth behind teammate da Costa after an impressive drive from 15th place at the end of the opening lap.
Sergio Sette Camara finished a strong fifth for NIO 333, while Oliver Rowland was 6th for Mahindra.
Norman Nato scored his first points on the year in seventh.
Reigning champion Stoffel Vandoorne (DS PENSKE) rounded in eighth for his best result of the season so far, while Andre Lotterer (Avalanche Andretti) and Edo Mortara (Maserati MSG Racing) rounded out the top 10.
Andretti Autosport’s Jake Dennis made his usual charge through the field from the 12th starting spot in his Porsche powered machine and was looking good on energy running in 4th until Rene Rast ran out of talent and piled into him from behind. Dennis suffered a flat tire and had to pit with just 5 laps to go.
Both Jaguar drivers – Sam Bird and Mitch Evans – took each other out of the race early.
That left Wehrlein with an extended 18-point advantage on Dennis, with Vergne leaping to third in the Drivers’ standings. TAG Heuer Porsche has taken a 23-point lead over Avalanche Andretti in the Teams’ World Championship.
Next up, Formula E’s first trip to South Africa and Cape Town on 25 February for Round 5 of Season 9.
Race Results – 33 Laps
|1||Jean-Éric Vergne||DS Penske||25||2||0.000||0.000R||1:15.325||25|
|2||Nick Cassidy||Envision Racing||37||9||0.400||0.400||1:15.053||18|
|3||António Félix Da Costa||Tag Heuer Porsche Formula E Team||13||13||1.859||1.124||1:15.168||15|
|4||Pascal Wehrlein||Tag Heuer Porsche Formula E Team||94||12||2.855||0.996||1:14.800||12|
|5||Sérgio Sette Câmara||Nio 333 Racing||3||15||3.523||0.668||1:15.371||10|
|6||Oliver Rowland||Mahindra Racing||8||10||7.138||6.385||1:15.199||8|
|7||Norman Nato||Nissan Formula E Team||17||14||7.318||5.180||1:14.698||7|
|8||Stoffel Vandoorne||DS Penske||1||17||7.564||9.754||1:15.077||4|
|9||André Lotterer||Avalanche Andretti Formula E||36||20||8.703||6.139||1:14.847||2|
|10||Edoardo Mortara||Maserati Msg Racing||48||7||9.073||0.370||1:14.810||1|
|11||Nico Müller||Abt Cupra Formula E Team||51||18||10.622||1.549||1:14.656||0|
|13||Sacha Fenestraz||Nissan Formula E Team||23||4||11.635||1.013||1:15.031||0|
|13||Maximilian Günther||Maserati Msg Racing||7||5||15.446||6.189||1:15.273||0|
|15||Lucas Di Grassi||Mahindra Racing||11||19||15.999||5.553||1:14.757||0|
|15||Sébastien Buemi||Envision Racing||16||3||17.735||Penalty||1:15.460||0|
|16||Jake Dennis||Avalanche Andretti Formula E||27||11||1:10.562||59.563||1:14.677||0|
|17||Dan Ticktum||Nio 333 Racing||58||16||NR||NR||1:15.510||0|
|18||Jake Hughes||Neom Mclaren Formula E Team||5||21||NR||NR||1:15.288||0|
|19||Mitch Evans||Jaguar Tcs Racing||10||1||NR||NR||1:15.469||3|
|20||Kelvin Van Der Linde||Abt Cupra Formula E Team||33||22||NR||NR||1:15.861||0|
|21||Sam Bird||Jaguar Tcs Racing||9||6||NR||NR||1:15.961||0|
|22||René Rast||Neom Mclaren Formula E Team||4||8||NR||NR||1:17.047||0|
As it happened…
Evans launched well and made sure he countered Vergne and Buemi into the hairpin. The Jaguar driver held on and set about maximum energy saving; his engineer Josep Roca over the radio with the instruction.
On Lap 3, the battle for sixth saw Mortara get on the dust and fail to get his Maserati stopped in time – slipping into Cassidy’s Envision Racing machine and well down the order to 17th, with front wing damage to boot. Come Lap 5, Evans led Vergne, Buemi, Fenestraz, Guenther, Cassidy, Bird, Rast, da Costa – up four spots – and Rowland.
At the hairpin on Lap 7, Buemi dived up the inside of Vergne and Evans – the latter having jumped early for two minutes of ATTACK MODE – for the race lead. Some move, and that Jaguar powertrain has been strong on both race pace and energy usage.
When Buemi took his first 50kW boost, he yielded the lead temporarily but managed to stay ahead of Evans’ Jaguar – giving up track position early looked not to have paid dividends early on. Vergne followed through the ATTACK MODE loop on Lap 10 and also leapfrogged the Kiwi. First to third through the first round of ATTACK MODE activations and work to do for Evans.
Cassidy’s progress continued on Lap 12 with a smart dive bomb up the inside of Rene Rast’s NEOM McLaren – not an easy feat on the feisty German.
Lap 13 threw up an utter catastrophe for Jaguar TCS Racing. Bird spied an opportunity to make his way by Fenestraz for fourth spot but on the dirty line into the hairpin he couldn’t get his I-TYPE 6 stopped and shunted his teammate into a spin – the pair both forced into retirement.
In the carnage that left Vergne, hounding Buemi for the lead and he swept by to put himself clear on Lap 15, once again at the hairpin. Through the second round of ATTACK MODE activations and that shunt, Cassidy and Dennis were the big beneficiaries, from ninth and 11th to second and third come Lap 17.
Dennis wanted more than what was now fourth, having taken his second 50kW boost. Buemi had slipped by and the Brit wasn’t having it – though he nearly made the same mistake as Bird; locking all four tires to keep his Avalanche Andretti-run Porsche 99X Electric out of the back of Buemi’s Envision Racing-run Jaguar.
Vergne had track position out front on Lap 20 but Cassidy wasn’t far from the DS PENSKE’s rear wing – and with two or three more percentage points of usable energy in-hand. Buemi in the sister Envision Racing sat third, a second or so back, with Dennis fourth and also a couple of percent up on energy on the leader. Rast had clambered from eighth to fifth, with Rowland tiptoeing through from 10th to sixth. Da Costa followed in seventh up from 13th at the start of the race with reigning champion Vandoorne next up having made up nine positions. Standings leader Wehrlein and Mahindra Racing’s Lucas di Grassi rounded out the top 10.
On Lap 23, Hughes pushed a little too hard on the exit of the hairpin, lighting up his tires and winding up in the wall – causing a Safety Car. The Brit said his mirror came loose and became jammed in his steering wheel – an odd shunt!
The restart followed three laps later and while Vergne led Cassidy and Buemi away, fifth-placed Rast immediately tripped over fourth-placed driver Dennis and took the pair of them out of contention – the German outbraking himself on the dirty line and climbing over the rear wing of the Andretti and puncturing the 99X Electric’s right-rear tire.
On Lap 29 of 32, Vergne had it all on to hold firm out front with the Envisions of Cassidy and Buemi right on his gearbox. It would need everything in the double champion’s locker if he were to hold on for a memorable win, while trailing the pair on energy by three percent.
Rowland, meanwhile, had picked his way into fourth spot for Mahindra Racing on home soil though it wouldn’t last. On Lap 30, the Yorkshireman tried to go around the outside of the hairpin to take third but got squeezed out by Buemi, allowing da Costa in the Porsche to pinch fourth.
With two laps, plus an added lap for time under the Safety Car, to come, Cassidy had enough energy to spare that he could fly flat out in pursuit of Vergne out front. There was nothing between the top three, and the Envisions waited calmly – Cassidy some four percent up on energy.
Miraculously, Vergne held on to win the inaugural Hyderabad E-Prix in stunning fashion, despite a massive deficit in energy – the DS PENSKE team engineering the victory to perfection from Cassidy and Buemi.