SEASON SO FAR: Rookies' report

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SEASON SO FAR: Rookies' report

With brand new GEN3 machinery introduced for the start of Season 9, the playing field has been levelled throughout the first nine races of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. Veterans have returned to form, while emerging talent has demonstrated that the future of Formula E is in very safe hands.

hughes fenestraz rookie chat

Two rookies have made the most of their inaugural Formula E campaigns, with 33% of the Julius Baer Pole Positions this season being awarded to Jake Hughes and Sacha Fenestraz. Here’s the story of their seasons so far.

Jake Hughes NEOM McLaren Formula E Team (45 points)

Formerly Reserve and Development Driver with former title-winners Mercedes-EQ, Jake Hughes was no stranger to Formula E ahead of his signing with NEOM McLaren, and has quickly impressed as a first choice driver for his new team.

READ MORE: The full Jakarta preview

Hughes has scored points in six out of nine races this season, made it to the Duels five times and has earned two Julius Baer Pole Positions already in 2023. Sitting five points and one championship place ahead of decorated teammate Rene Rast, the Brit sits ninth in the standings with seven races to go and has expectations to finish even higher come the end of the season.

A dream start to life in Formula E came in his first three races, with Hughes qualifying third, then second, then first in Mexico City and Diriyah. While the British driver failed to convert his qualifying form into podiums, three successive points finishes demonstrated his ability to succeed throughout races.

Hughes Diriyah lead

Defeating multiple race-winners Jake Dennis, Sebastien Buemi and Mitch Evans en route to an inaugural Julius Baer Pole Position in Diriyah was a highlight, though Round 4 in Hyderabad resulted in his first disappointment. The qualifying specialist struggled in India, starting just 21st, before an accident finished his race on lap 22.

Hughes again had qualifying issues in Cape Town, but managed to improve his qualifying position in the race for the first time, claiming a point in tenth place after starting from 13th on the grid. Round 6 in Sao Paulo then saw a return to the duels, and the Brit started sixth before finishing in the points again with an eighth place in Brazil.

With momentum high, Hughes and NEOM McLaren must have been dreaming of further success in Berlin, but both races in the German capital proved to be frustrating for both driver and team.

In Round 7, Hughes started 12th but was forced to retire on lap 19, while his forgettable weekend was compounded a day later with an 18th place finish.


Redemption from the Berlin disappointment took place instantly however, and where better to return to form than the iconic streets of Monaco? Hughes improved his qualifying and defeated Maserati MSG pair Edoardo Mortara and Maximilian Guenther in the first two rounds to set up a final Duel with fellow rookie, Sacha Fenestraz. While Fenestraz was fastest in the shoot-outl, Hughes inherited first place after his rival had his lap time cancelled for power usage over the regulatory limit of 350kW.

Despite the landmark pole, a first Formula E podium failed to materialise for Hughes, but a fifth place and a total of 13 points from Monaco took the McLaren driver above teammate Rene Rast in the championship.

With three fifth-place results his best so far, can Hughes finish even higher during the final seven races of the season?

Sacha Fenestraz Nissan Formula E Team (19 points)

Having made his Formula E debut for DRAGON / PENSKE AUTOSPORT in the final race of Season 8 as a last minute replacement for the injured Antonio Giovinazzi, Fenestraz was snapped up by Nissan for the GEN3 era to complete an all-French line-up alongside Norman Nato.

Like Jake Hughes, Fenestraz has emerged as one of the best qualifiers in Formula E, having made the Duels four times this season. He has struggled to convert qualifying performances into points however, with just two points-scoring races this season but as his Duels pace shows, he's quick over a lap. A record-breaking lap in Cape Town, resulting in the fastest Formula E lap in history,  illustrated just that. The newcomer has eight more championship points than teammate Nato.

Cape Town Moment - Fenestraz

A dynamic debut in Mexico City saw Fenestraz make the Duels before sliding down the grid to finish 15th at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez while Round 2 in Diriyah saw the Nissan driver finish 17th, before he claimed his first Formula E points the next day with a spirited eighth place in Saudi Arabia.

A second Duels appearance was especially beneficial for Fenestraz in Hyderabad as he started fourth after Sam Bird, Edoardo Mortara and René Rast all had their quarter-finals times deleted for exceeding track limits.

What could have been a special day ended in 12th position after he was caught in the aftermath of one of the most dramatic moments of the season when Jaguar TCS Racing’s Sam Bird hit his teammate Mitch Evans on lap 13.

Unluckiness followed into Cape Town despite his day starting so brightly with a first Julius Baer Pole Position in South Africa. Fenestraz defeated Jean-Eric Vergne, Nick Cassidy and Maximilian Guenther to qualify at the top of the grid, breaking the record of the fastest Formula E lap in the process with an average speed of 154.987 km/h. Third going into the last lap of the race, Fenestraz’s podium chances slipped away with moments to go after contact with Envision Racing’s Nick Cassidy.

A second successive retirement followed in Sao Paulo on lap six, before the 23-year-old narrowly missed out on points in both Berlin races despite making up a combined 15 places across Rounds 7 and 8.

hughes fenestraz rookie chat

After five rounds with just three Julius Baer Pole Position points to show for it, Monaco changed the course of Fenestraz’s season - and very much for the better. The Nissan star defeated Jake Hughes in the final of the Duels, but was forced to start second after being found to have exceeded the power limit in his final qualifying lap. Despite the setback, Fenestraz regrouped to finish fourth in Monaco, even after a collision with Dan Ticktum during the race.

With his best result so far coming in Monaco, will Fenestraz continue his fast form this weekend in Jakarta?


The new rookies

The Season 9 rookies be joined in Indonesia by two more drivers making their Formula E debuts.

After a “mutual agreement” had been reached between Oliver Rowland and Mahindra Racing for the British driver to step aside for the rest of the season, Spaniard Roberto Merhi will drive for Mahindra in Jakarta.

Merhi, who competed in Formula 1 with Manor Marussia F1 Team in 2015, recently drove the M9Electro at the Formula E Rookie Test in Berlin earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Jakarta will see Avalanche Andretti's Reserve Driver David Beckmann step in for Andre Lotterer, who will spend the weekend with Porsche's LMDh team preparing for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.