After an enthralling debut race in Hyderabad, India, all-electric street racing is has voyaged on a south-westerly course to Cape Town in South Africa and Formula E's first race in sub-Saharan Africa - and also the second of three new locations on the bounce.
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For the win
The loop around the DHL Stadium on the Cape Town waterfront is set to be a rapid affair, and it's estimated to be one of the fastest races in Formula E history, ready to push the limits of the all-new high powered GEN3 machine.
It’s going to be a tight rope walk to balance between all-out pace and energy conservation in this race. One machine that has managed to crack this so far in 2023 has been Porsche 99X Electric, the legendary German marque taking the first three victories of the season in Mexico City and Diriyah.
They hit a bump in the road with a technical issue losing them a day in Hyderabad after championship-leader Pascal Wehrlein had a huge shunt on Friday. They were still there on race day, Antonio Felix da Costa scoring a debut podium and Wehrlein putting in an important drive for his early championship ambitions, going from the hospital to fourth-place and extending his lead in the Drivers’ standings.
This mishap was a perfect opportunity for Jaguar to pounce on their rivals, the British marque appeared to have unlocked something in their Jaguar I-TYPE 6, after topping every session en route to the race.
But they would experience their own misfortune in the race after a mistake from Sam Bird in the braking to the hairpin launched him into his teammate Mitch Evans, skittling the pair out of the race.
It’s a clean slate in Cape Town and a perfect opportunity to claw back the gap to the lead. As reminded by Jack Nicholls’ in his pre-race column, Evans has been in this position before.
Taking only a single point in the opening three rounds last season, the New Zealander turned his campaign around to put himself right into championship contention, with an impressive momentum that took him to four victories in Season 8.
Two of those wins came at races in new locations – Jakarta and Seoul – and the pace is evident with Evans leading both of the last two races, but as we know leading laps is all well and good, but it’s only the one final lap that matters.
Sebastien Buemi’s comeback has been one of the finer talking points from Season 9, the Swiss driver is currently experiencing a resurgence after making a fresh start by joining Envision Racing.
He came so close to scoring a return to the podium - that is nearly three-years in waiting - but a penalty saw him demoted from third position in Hyderabad.
It is a long 47 races without a podium for the former champion, the longest of anyone currently on the grid and he’s currently the highest ranked driver on the grid without a podium finish this year – currently fourth and tied with Jean-Eric Vergne on points.
Buemi was the first driver to take a Formula E victory in Africa, with a win in Marrakesh back in 2018. That's one trophy for North Africa, can he add one from a sub-Saharan African country to the mantelpiece?
Since Avalanche Andretti took up Porsche power for Season 9, Jake Dennis has looked rapid. And while the Brit has admitted that the one-lap pace hasn’t quite been there this season he’s been right up there in the fight for wins and podiums.
The four-time race winner has managed to move his way through the pack with relative ease, and Hyderabad was another demonstration of this as he coolly climbed up the order from 11th on the grid to put himself into a potential rostrum finish – only to be put out of the race and the podium fight by an errant Rene Rast in the NEOM McLaren.
Looking to pick up big points this weekend 💪#CapeTownEPrix // #AllAndretti pic.twitter.com/v8wSfHrVNV— Avalanche Andretti Formula E 🔺 (@AndrettiFE) February 22, 2023
After falling back on Wehrlein in the championship race, and Andretti losing the top slot in the Teams’ running, Dennis will be out for redemption in Cape Town.
When looking at qualifying, Buemi is the best qualifier in Season 9, with an average of 3.8 across the first four rounds of the season. And to cap off this performance, the experienced Swiss driver is the only driver to have reached the knockout Duels at every race this season. He's tied with JEV on points but also with poles (15) and front row starts (22).
NEOM McLaren will be looking to bounce back after a double retirement in Hyderabad. The papaya pair have demonstrated their pace over one-lap so far this season, and last time out nearly saw them take a clean sweep in the Group stages, until Jake Hughes saw his two best times deleted for a pitstop violation dropping him from first to last in the group.
It was over to Rene Rast to represent McLaren in the knockout stages, but track limits were a hot topic in Hyderabad, and despite progressing through to the semis the German saw his time deleted. Rast will be motivated to put in a good performance in Cape Town, it's a popular destination for all the driver's but a particular favourite for the experienced German.
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