Wehrlein made things easier on himself ahead of Round 3, qualifying fifth rather than the ninth he managed a day prior. From there, he always looked a threat to those ahead. Mitch Evans had taken the lead from polesitter Jake Hughes through the first corner on the opening lap, before Hughes and Rast made it by the Jaguar TCS Racing driver during ATTACK MODE.
Rast then briefly held first through that first round of 50kW boosts before Wehrlein stepped up a gear, having bided his time behind the lead trio managing his energy. Passes on Hughes then Evans just a lap apart, each down at Turn 16, put him right with race leader Rast before Wehrlein undercut the McLaren driver through ATTACK MODE and danced into a two-second lead.
RESULTS: The full CORE Diriyah E-Prix Round 3 classification
Dennis and Bird were making moves of their own as Wehrlein clambered into the lead. The Andretti driver took fifth from Edo Mortara (Maserati MSG Racing) on Lap 21, with Bird following suit thanks to a trademark audacious maneouvre at the final corner.
Just a lap later, pre-race standings leader Dennis sliced by Hughes for fourth and in quick succession saw off Evans and made it three on the spin by taking second from Rast - with the Jaguar of Bird matching Dennis up to take third, just behind the customer Porsche 99X Electric Gen3.
Wehrlein had by then drawn out a lead and looked peerless. A late-race Safety Car could have thrown a spanner in the works but no such problems for the Porsche driver who stretched his legs again to win by just over a second over Dennis and become only the fifth driver to take to the top step of the podium in both races of a Formula E double-header.
Bird had appeared to be in the box seat for third, but lost the spot and couldn't gain it back after taking ATTACK MODE, overcooking his attempt to outstrip Rast - the multiple DTM champion knowing exactly where to place his McLaren.
Hughes couldn't quite capitalise on taking pole but yet again scored good points to maintain his consistent start to the campaign with fifth. Sebastien Buemi (Envision Racing) needed no second invitation to steal sixth from Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) after the Kiwi fouled up a move on Hughes over the line - getting caught with the McLaren and allowing the Swiss to nip in at the last.
DOUBLE DELIGHT FOR @PWEHRLEIN IN DIRIYAH!!!#DiriyahEPrix pic.twitter.com/HXDLQh1jen— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) January 28, 2023
Sacha Fenestraz produced the best drive of his rookie season to-date with eighth for Nissan, while Edo Mortara got his team's first points on the board with ninth - something to show for Maserati MSG Racing's tireless efforts on a testing race weekend. Dan Ticktum brought home his NIO 333 in 10th for his first points of the season, too - well deserved given the squad's pace over a lap in Diriyah.
Two wins on the spin for Porsche and Wehrlein yields the Drivers' World Championship lead, six points ahead of Dennis - with Porsche powertrains having finished one-two in every race so far in 2022/23. Porsche narrowed the gap to Teams' table toppers Avalanche Andretti to just two points with that result.
We're back in a fortnight for Formula E's first trip to Hyderabad, India, for Round 4 of the season on 11 February.
As it happened...
Mitch Evans wasted no time in forcing the issue on rookie polesitter Hughes, manging a better start off the dirty, dusty side of the grid and diving up the inside of the first corner for the lead.
Round 2 winner Wehrlein made up ground right away to take fourth, Mortara did likewise, firing from seventh to fifth while another pre-race favourite in Dennis slipped back to seventh.
Nine laps in and the top eight of Evans, Hughes, Rast, Wehrlein, Mortara, Buemi, Dennis and Bird were split by just three seconds while all but four of 22 cars were separated by only 10 seconds.
The first of the lead group to dive for one of two ATTACK MODE boosts was leader Evans, who briefly lost out to the McLarens of Hughes and Rast. The former lost the spot on the following lap taking his first boost, but the latter would hold on to his net race lead even after he jumped through the loop for his initial activation on Lap 11. The German then disappeared 1.5 seconds up the road – forcing Wehrlein to make moves.
The Porsche driver got a hurry on and made light work of Hughes for third on Lap 12 down at Turn 16, and just a lap later he stole second from Evans at the same spot – Wehrlein’s 99X Electric Gen3 not only rapid but a massive three percent to the good on energy compared to any of the lead group.
The race lead came the way of Wehrlein through the ATTACK MODE shake-up. The 28-year-old jumped for his first 50kW extra jolt of power for the full 350kW, and made up enough ground to undercut Rast on Lap 17 as the McLaren driver took his second boost, becoming the fourth race leader in the process. The Porsche team immediately took to the radio to tell Wehrlein to go into energy save mode.
The battle for fifth, sixth and seventh was heating up on Lap 19 with Mortara, Dennis and Bird yet to take ATTACK MODE. Dennis took a look at the Maserati ahead but thought better of it, just about, into Turn 16. There was more conviction on Lap 21 from Dennis, who made the pass stick for fifth. He was followed beyond Mortara by Bird, who produced an audacious switchback on the Swiss-Italian-French driver at the final corner for sixth – the Jaguar driver now two percent in usable energy up on the rest around him.
The standings leader immediately made it by Hughes for fourth just a lap later and dispatched Evans for his seventh overtake of the race and a provisional spot on the podium. The Brit made it three on the spin as he swept by Rast for second on Lap 24. Wehrlein, though, was two seconds up the road in the lead.
On Lap 25, Bird, yet to take an ATTACK MODE – like leader Dennis – made it as high as fourth as he saw off Hughes then teammate Evans before stealing third from Rast at the chicane on the next lap. We now had the same podium as Round 2, as it stood.
Lap 28 brought a Safety Car to close up the pack, with Nico Mueller (ABT CUPRA) in the wall, overcooking it at Turn 16. This looked to swing things the way of Bird, half a percent up on energy on the lead pair of Wehrlein and Dennis but with two ATTACK MODE boosts to use – the full four minutes. Dennis had one three minute 50kW dose in-hand.
Nine laps plus the added laps to come, and the race win was completely up in the air.
On Lap 33, Dennis P2 and Bird P3 jumped for ATTACK MODE – with Dennis holding the Jaguar driver up and backing him into Rast, who made it by Bird for third.
The next tour, Bird knew he had to get by the McLaren if he were to challenge for the win and he went far too deep into the chicane trying to make a move stick. He kept it out of the wall but that would not do his podium chances any favours with another ATTACK MODE still to use.
Out front, Wehrlein had disappeared again and duly strode over the line to take the chequered flag and become just the fifth double winner of a single Formula E event. Dennis followed the German home in second as per race one in Diriyah but despite Bird’s best efforts, he couldn’t make it back beyond Rast for third.
There was drama over the line as Evans tried to steal fifth from Hughes at the final turn. The Kiwi, however, got caught under the rear of the McLaren, slowing the pair of them and allowing Buemi to sneak by the Jaguar to take sixth.