The inaugural Cape Town E-Prix is Formula E's first sub-Saharan African event, with the spectacular Table Mountain providing the backdrop for the second of three consecutive events at new venues to the championship, following an unforgettable debut in India and Hyderabad last time out.
The Mother City's Green Point district provides the location for the high-speed 2.921km circuit, looking out on Robben Island and in the shadow of Table Mountain - snaking around the DHL Stadium and skirting the coastline.
It's a fast-paced track, with bumpy braking zones, a tight chicane at Turns 4, 5 and 6 with a pacy, eye-of-the-needle section midway around the lap - all set to throw up a real challenge for the 22 world class drivers. Another new event means everybody starts at zero, too.
Everybody loves a leveller.
This track is going to be QUICK! ⚡— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) February 20, 2023
Your first look at the #CapeTownEPrix Street Circuit 🇿🇦 pic.twitter.com/PpIPrIN30K
As it stands...
Porsche setting the pace
With a quarter of the season complete, its TAG Heuer Porsche and Pascal Wehrlein leading the way in both the Teams' and Drivers' World Championships. A win-double for the German in Diriyah followed a podium in the season-opener in Mexico City. Hyderabad proved a test for the Stuttgart manufacturer, with a technical issue throwing Wehrlein's weekend into jeopardy via a heavy practice shunt.
STANDINGS: How Season 9 is shaping up so far
Wehrlein and Porsche were able to find the root cause of the problem and recovered come the race to third and a maiden podium for Antionio Felix da Costa, with Wehrlein following home fourth - making sure the German team would lead the Formula E standings for the first time in its fourth season of competition.
Porsche didn't have it all their own way in Hyderabad, then, and nor did Jake Dennis in the Avalanche Andretti-run Porsche 99X Electric. The Brit was uncermoniously removed from a potential top three finish by an overenthusiastic move from Rene Rast (NEOM McLaren). The resulting 16th-placed finish proved costly for Dennis - who'd won Round 1 in Mexico and brought it home second twice in Diriyah - allowing Wehrlein to extend his advantage in the standings over Dennis, who does still sit second.
JEV: 'We never give up'
Jean-Eric Vergne kickstarted his and DS PENSKE's GEN3 era with the race win and silverware at last in Hyderabad with a vintage defensive drive.
The early-season favourites of many had so far struggled with just seven points to their name after three rounds of 2022/23. Vergne helped fired the team to 36 come the chequered flag on Formula E's first visit to India.
JACK NICHOLLS: Vergne back to his vintage best
Vergne led from Lap 15 once he'd swept by Envision Racing's Sebastien Buemi and called on all his experience to hold off Nick Cassidy's late charge to seal a storming win. That saw the Frenchman fire into third in the running and back to form. He'll be hoping to double down in Cape Town.
"I'm so happy for the team," said Vergne. "It’s been a very difficult three races and I couldn't be more proud of my team because we never gave up. We keep pushing and it doesn't matter the result - I am very proud of all my guys.
"We have a good car, maybe not the best at the moment but we are going to keep on working very hard to be the best and come back in the championship. That is what we do, we never give up."
Jaguar in the mix and out to bounce back
Pace was not in question for Jaguar TCS Racing in Hyderabad. Mitch Evans took Julius Baer Pole Position and the pair ran in the top six early on - with energy management also on-point if you take the Jaguar-powered Envision Racing cars' performance.
Cassidy steered to a strong second, and had some four percent usable energy in-hand over race winner Vergne heading into the final couple of laps.
READ MORE: That Jaguar Hyderabad shunt in detail
Were it not for a costly slide into his teammate at the hairpin, both Jaguars looked capable of taking the fight to the DS out front heading into the closing stages. Bird, unsurprisingly given everything we know about his character, immediately held his hands up for his part in the shunt - clearly emotional.
In Cape Town, he and the team will be out to make amends, and with what looks like the tools to do the job if they string everything together over the weekend.
"We had a great car, and I let my team down," he said. "I feel really low but we have a race in Cape Town to try and correct it. The good thing is we have a fast car."
"Having grown up in South Africa and watched the last World Championship race there in 1993 at Kyalami, it is a proud moment for myself and the other South African members of the team to be part of the return of top tier racing to this passionate motorsport country," adds South African native and Jaguar TCS Racing Team Principal James Barclay.
Johannesburg-born racer Kelvin van der Linde learned this week that he'd remain in the ABT CUPRA line-up in place of the injured Robin Frijns, meaning a home Formula E debut for the South African - on the same weekend his brother Sheldon races sportscars at Kyalami. Some weekend for the family.
“Now this dream is actually coming true and I’m driving a World Championship race in South Africa," said van der Linde. "We all hoped that Robin would be fit in time. But of course, I will now give everything to represent him decently in Cape Town as well. The interest is enormous, my phone doesn’t stop ringing and buzzing. I’m really looking forward to the weekend.”
It's been a tough return to Formula E for ABT so far, with no points and a best of 11th for Nico Mueller in Hyderabad. Things are slowly improving for the squad, and van der Linde will look to home support to urge him on up through the field in Cape Town
Free Practice 1 for the Cape Town E-Prix gets underway at 17:00 local time on Friday 24 February.
Free Practice 2 follows at 09:10 local on Saturday with qualifying from 11:40. Round 5 of Season 9 gets underway from 16:00 local, 14:00 UTC.
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