Formula E: Guenther seals win in inaugural Tokyo E-Prix

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Maserati racer Maximilian Guenther secured his fifth Formula E victory in the inaugural Tokyo E-Prix, narrowly holding off Nissan racer Oliver Rowland. F1Technical's senior writer Balázs Szabó reports on Round 5 of the 2024 FE season.

Four drivers - Sebastien Buemi, Sam Bird, Mitch Evans and Jakes Hughes - were hit with a three-place grid drop penalty for impeding in the group stages of qualifying.

Having started from pole position, Nissan driver Oliver Rowland hang on to the lead at the start with Edoardo Mortara and Maximilian Guenther following the British driver.

On Lap 6, McLaren driver Jakes Hughes crashed into the barriers at Turn 15. However, the Briton was able to reverse and get his McLaren out of the barriers. The McLaren racer reported on the radio that Lucas di Grassi put him into the wall.

On Lap 10, Pascal Wehrlein went for a six-minute attack mode. A lap later, race leader Rowland and his closest rival Mortara elected to take their first attack mode, albeit they went for a different startegy. The British driver opted for a two-minute 350kW power mode while the Swiss racer took a four-minute power boost. In the meantime, Guenther jumped up to P2, going past Mortara.

Just as Rowland ran out of the additional power boost, he immediately went for his second attack mode, using his four-minute 350kW energy level. Guenther managed to sneak past to take the lead, albeit it did not last long as he himself went through the attack zone which saw him slip down the order to P3.

Despite the extremely narrow Tokyo track, Guenther managed to overtake Mortara thanks to his higher energy mode, and started to put pressure on race leader Rowland. Elsewhere, former FE champion Antonio Felix da Costa overtook Jakes Dennis to move up to P4.

On Lap 18, Mitch Evans endured a disastrous moment as he was looking for an ambitious move. However, he had nowhere to go and touched the barrier. With his Jaguar picking up a huge damage, the New Zealander was forced to pit in his 100th race.

The safety car was deployed on lap 20 to clear the debris on the track. The interruption lasted slightly longer than first expected, and the field was released only three laps later.

As the safety car left the Tokyo circuit, Rowland led the field from Guenther, Mortara, da Costa, Dennis, Nato, Frijns, Wehrlein, Sette Camara and Mueller.

On Lap 25, Guenther took over the lead from Rowland. The replays showed that the Nissan driver deliberately throttled off to hand the lead of the race to his German rival.

By lap 30, Guenther and Rowland managed to escape from the chasing pack. In the meantime, Mortara took his last power boost, but it saw him lose two places to da Costa and Dennis.

FIA's Race Director Scot Elkins confirmed that two laps would be added to the race distance to compensate for the lost time during the safety car interruption.

Although Guenther and Rowland appeared to have the pace to escape, da Costa and Dennis managed to climb back up to the leading duo. Elsewhere, Frijns made an ambitious move on Nato in the same corner, but they touched and lost bits of their front wing.

With two laps to go, da Costa attempted a move on Rowland, but the British driver managed to fend off the Portuguese driver's attacks. Dennis capitalized on the battle as he overtook da Costa.

On the last lap, Rowland came tantalisingly close to Guenther, but the German driver kept his cool and held Rowland off to win the first-ever Tokyo E-Prix.

Commenting on his second win with Maserati, Guenther said: “An incredible weekend. We were in the top three in every session and almost got pole position, but securing the win feels so special – everybody did an amazing job. I felt great in the car, and we’ve taken some good steps as a team in the last few weeks.

"Since São Paulo, I think we’ve shown that we have really strong pace and today, we converted it into a win. There was a lot of energy management in the race, but we covered ourselves well, perfectly executed the strategy, and the moves, and did everything we had to do. It’s amazing to win Formula E’s first-ever race in Tokyo, and I’m proud. We need to enjoy this moment.”

The result means Nick Cassidy is level on points with Wehrlein at the top of the Drivers' table while Jaguar TCS Racing hold top spot in the Teams' World Championship with 102 points to TAG Heuer Porsche's 83.

Formula E heads to Italy for a double-header and a first trip to Misano in a fortnight, 13 & 14 April.