Wehrlein completes Diriyah E-Prix clean sweep to take standings lead

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Porsche driver Pascal Wehrlein won his second Formula E race in two days in Saudi Arabia ahead of Andretti racer Jake Dennis and McLaren driver Rene Rast to take the lead of the Formula E Drivers' Championship. F1Technical's Balázs Szabó reports on Round 3 of the 2023 FIA Formula E World Championship.

Despite starting only his third Formula E race, Jake Hughes made a brilliant job in qualifying to take his maiden pole position with the NEOM McLaren team. At the start, the British driver got off the line perfectly, but Mitch Evans managed a better start off the dirty, dusty side of the grid and performed an ambitious move on the inside of the first corner to take the lead.

The first laps showed no major movements across the field, but things got more exciting as drivers started to activate their attack modes. As part of a new sporting rule for Season 9, drivers have access to a total of four minutes of power boost during the race with all of them able to chose how they use the extra power. They can activate the attack mode in a one-three, three-one and two-two minutes combinations.

On Lap 9, Evans decided to use his first power boost, opting for a 3+1 minute combination. As the Kiwi went through the activation zone, he dropped down to P3 with the McLaren drivers Hughes and Rene Rast capitalizing on Evans’ decision. The following lap saw Hughes activate his own power boost and as a result of it he lost two positions.

However, when Rast went through the activation zone, he managed to come back ahead of Evans. While yesterday’s winner Pascal Wehrlein seemed to be content with P4 in the opening stages of the second Diriyah E-Prix, he felt the need to improve his position on Lap 12 when he overtook Hughes and Evans on the next lap.

Although Rast managed to built up an eye-catching gap, it did not took long for Wehrlein to close in on his fellow countryman. When the McLaren driver activated his second two-minute power boost, the former Formula One driver overtook him to take the lead.

In the meantime, championship leader Jake Dennis started to work his way up the order, He got past former Formula E champion Sebastien Buemi and Maserati driver Edoardo Mortara before gaining another position when Hughes activated his second attack mode.

The following lap saw the Andretti driver overtake Evans for P3 before gaining another position by going by Rast down the long straight into the chicane. Dennis found himself in a similar position to yesterday with Wehrlein enjoying a two-minute lead ahead oh himself.

While Evans was unable to keep up with the pace of the leading duo, his team mate Sam Bird managed to fight his way up the order and with only 13 laps left he found himself in P3. But more crucially, Jaguar’s British driver had significantly more energy left in his batteries than the race leading duo.

Lap 28 brought the Bruno Correia-driven Safety Car to close up the pack, with ABT Cupra’s Nico Mueller in the wall, overcooking it at Turn 16. With the interruption lasting three laps, Race Director Scott Elkins decided to extend the race by a single lap.

The interruption seemed to favour Bird as he had half a percent up on energy on the lead pair of Wehrlein and Dennis and two power boosts to use. However, Bird lost a position to Rast on Lap 33 when he activated his attack mode. The Briton was aware that he had to get by the McLaren driver if he were to challenge for the race win.

Bird tried an overtaking move on Rast, but he went far too deep into the chicane and hardly managed to keep it out of the walls.

Out on the front, Wehrlein stretched his legs again to win the only night race of the 2022/23 race calendar by a margin of just over a second with Dennis unable to mount a real fight for the victory.

Rast secured another Formula E podium finish with Bird finishing the race which was attended by more than 35,000 fans in P4 as he was unable to usurp the German despite his higher energy level.

Hughes couldn't quite capitalise from taking pole and had to leave Diriyah with a fifth-placed finish with Buemi, Evans, Sacha Fenestraz, Mortara and Ticktum completing the top ten.

Commenting on his third Formula E victory, Wehrlein said: "This weekend has been incredible, a double victory. Our race pace was incredible again and today we had the perfect strategy, using the ATTACK MODES at the right time and not having to use it again after the safety car - that was crucial. What can I say, just amazing for my team - all their hard work has finally paid off and I am so proud of them. This weekend is one I will never forget.

"I would say yesterday was a bit more exciting as I had more cars to pass. Today was not easy and I would say it was even a bit more difficult. Obviously, the others learned from yesterday, Sam Bird had quite a lot of energy in the end but still had to take his ATTACK mode - so that probably saved us a lit bit. But you could clearly see they made steps forward today and that made it a bit more difficult."

Two wins on the spin for Porsche and Wehrlein yields the Drivers' World Championship lead ahead of Dennis with the German driver leaving Diriyah with a six-point lead ahead of his British rival. Envision Virgin driver Sam Bird currently occupies P3 in the standings after having collected a total of 31 points with Jakes Hughes, Rene Rast, Lucas di Grassi, André Lotterer, Mitch Evans and Nick Cassidy completing the top ten.

In the teams’ standings, Porsche narrowed the gap to Avalanche Andretti to just two points with Wehrlein's double victory in Diriyah. Neom McLaren is third in the standings with Envision Virgin and Jaguar TCS Racing completing the top five. Of the eleven teams, ABT Cupra is the only outfit that is yet to score a single point in Formula E’s ninth season.