Avalanche Andretti's Jake Dennis became the first winner of the Formula E's Gen3 era in Mexico City by producing a faultless drive, heading home Porsche's Pascal Wehrlein and Mahindra Racing's Lucas di Grassi. F1Technical's Balázs Szabó reports on the opening race of Season 9 of the FIA Formula E World Chamionship.
After securing the pole position in a tight battle, Mahindra driver Lucas di Grassi mastered the start perfectly to lead the way into the tight Turn 1. Qualifying star Neom McLaren driver Jake Hughes had a great start from P3, attempting a move on Jake Dennis, but the Andretti racer maintained P2 with Andre Lotterer also keeping his starting position in P4.
Although the start did not produce any drama, the safety car was deployed when the field entered the Foro Sol stadium after ABT Cupra driver Robin Frijns had hit Norman Nato's car. The Dutchman's Gen3 Formula E car picked up significant damage, forcing him to park the electric machine at the entry to the stadium.
As a result of the crash, Frijns has suffered a broken left wrist and will undergo surgery in Mexico City.
The Bruno Correia-driven safety car left the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez track on Lap 5, but the action was interrupted shortly afterwards with Sam Bird parking his Jaguar down due to a technical gremlin. The incident triggered the second deployment of the safety car, meaning that drivers were unable to complete a single lap at racing speed until that point of the race.
The Dutchman will undergo surgery in Mexico City following a collision in the opening race of Season 9.— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) January 15, 2023
On lap 8, the field went through the pit lane in order to avoid the recovery vehicle which recovered the stricken Jaguar at the end of the start-finish straight.
Right after the safety car left the track, Nick Cassidy and reigning champion Stoffel Vandoorne activated their attack modes with the New-Zealander going for a one-minute power boost while the Belgian opting for a three-minutes additional energy level.
On Lap 12, Dennis overtook di Grassi for the lead, leaving the Brazilian vulnerable to the attacks from third-placed Hughes. In the meantime, NIO driver Daniel Ticktum peeled into the pit to serve his drive-through penalty which he received for overpower with the penalty sending the British driver from P6 down to P19.
On lap 15, drivers started to activate their attack modes with most of them opting for the shorter, one-minute power boost. After losing the lead due to a driver error, di Grassi also activated his own additional power, but he was over three seconds behind Dennis at the point of the race.
Despite the promising pace at the pre-season test that took place at Valencia, Maserati endured a difficult qualifying session with Italian team's troubles getting more serious in the race. On Lap 18, Edoardo Mortara carried too much speed into Turn 1 and lost the back of the his Maserati, spinning and crashing with the back of his car into the tyre wall. The safety car was deployed for the third time with Bruno Correia leading the field though the pit lane so the recovery vehicle could pick up the stricken Maserati at Turn 1.
With only 16 laps left in the season-opening race of Season 9 of the FIA Formula E World Championship, the field was released once again with Dennis continuing to lead the field, although he lost his eye-catching led from the chasing pack. Andretti's British driver was able to build up a gap of over two seconds again in a short space of time, indicating that he had total control of the race proceedings.
On lap 27, Porsche driver Pascal Wehlein overtook Hughes, grabbing P3 from the Briton when the McLaren driver activated his attack mode. With Dennis disappearing in the distance, a close fight was shaping up between di Grassi, Wehrlein, Hughes and Lotterer with the Mahindra driver having two per cent less energy than his rivals.
Making use of di Grassi's lower energy level, Wehrlein made the jump on the Brazilian for P2 with the manoeuvre also allowing Hughes to close in on the former Formula E champion. The Briton received a radio message from the Neom McLaren team to try to overtake di Grassi with the British outfit fearing that Wehrlein might disappear. In the meantime, Wehlerin was also instructed by Porsche to focus on energy management in the remainder of the race.
Andretti also reached out to race leader Dennis, reassuring the Briton that gap between himself and second-placed Wehrlein was growing. In the meantime, third-placed di Grassi was desperately trying to save energy, using alternative lines in the middle sector of the track.
FIA's Formula E Race Director sent a message to the team, confirming the extension of the race by five laps as a result of the safety car interruptions.
Further down the grid, McLaren's German driver Rene Rast and Maserati's German racer Maximilian Guenther were the last drivers to deploy their energy boost, but they were unable to fight their way up the order despite the help of the additional power.
In the meantime, di Grassi was slowing down in such a manner that sixth-placed man Sebastien Buemi was also able to join the fight for third place. The Brazilian executed textbook defending, trying to save energy for the dying end of the first race of the new season.
Di Grassi excellently saved the energy level of his car with his rivals hardly having any more energy with only three laps remaining. However, his defending driving allowed not only Buemi, but Felix da Costa as well to close in on the group fighting it out for the last place on the rostrum.
Starting the last lap, di Grassi was able to build up a bit of a gap to Hughes who was forced to shift his focus from fighting for P3 to defending his position from Lotterer. Coming into the entry of the Foro Sol stadium, the German made the move to grab fourth place.
At the front, Dennis crossed the finish line first to stamp his authority on the things, heading home Wehrlein, with the Porsche-powered pair flying clear of the rest. Di Grassi held onto third to round out the podium with Lotterer, Hughes, Buemi, da Costa, Mitch Evans, Cassidy and Vandoorne completing the point-scoring top ten.
First race of Season 9 ✅#MexicoCityEPrix— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) January 14, 2023
"To win by that margin, to start on the front row and get a Porsche [powertrain] one-two is absolutely incredible," Dennis said about his fourth Formula E victory. "Big shout out to my team."
"These cars are so hard to drive physically. Obviously, with a lower grip as well, it just makes everything so challenging but even more rewarding when you win you win by 7.5 seconds. The fans here have just been sensational on that final lap. I could really hear them cheering."
"My team and my team and I just have such a good relationship together. We just worked so well. When it's up against us like it was in the qualifying, we turned it around and made some small adjustments for the race and absolutely nailed it. So big kudos to my guys. I'm nothing without them," Dennis concluded.