Dennis domination in Mexico City
The first round of the season was a stunner in the very popular Mexico City. As fans packed out the grandstands, the world waited to see what this exciting new chapter of the all-electric championship would deliver. With all 11 teams starting fresh and with a clean sheet of paper, it was anyone’s guess who would rise to the top.
However, one man and his machine made victory look almost easy: Avalanche Andretti’s Jake Dennis. The Brit, who started the E-Prix second on the grid, leapt into the lead on lap 12 and comfortably kept it by demonstrating an energy-saving masterclass. A Safety Car six laps after taking first place brought Dennis’ four second advantage to an end, but once racing resumed he kept his cool under the hot Mexican sun to win by an amazing eight seconds - the seventh largest margin in Formula E history.
TAG Heuer Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein climbed up the grid from sixth to finish second, showing just what that powertrain is capable of. Lucas di Grassi of Mahindra Racing achieved the Julius Baer Pole Position earlier in the day and finished hard-fought third after a defensive demonstration to get his only podium of the season so far.
Doing the double in Diriyah
With his sights firmly on the top step of the podium after coming so close in Round 1, Wehrlein did just that as he secured back-to-back wins in Saudi Arabia. He became only the fifth driver to master the feat of winning both races over a weekend, and stormed to victory on both occasions to lead the Drivers’ World Championship standings.
Going from ninth to first in Friday’s race was a great way of showing the rest of the field just how competitive the Porsche package was, with Dennis also climbing from 11th to second place in the same race. The German wasn’t done there though, as the following day he qualified in fifth and picked up another 25 points for victory.
The level of dominance this early on in a season, let alone a new generation of Formula E was unprecedented but wasn’t a guarantee as would prove to be the case in the coming races.
NIO 333's back in the game
A new set of regulations meant a fresh start for all teams and drivers on the grid, and a chance for the order to be reshuffled. One team who has managed to rewrite the narrative this season is the NIO 333 team. Consisting of young talents Dan Ticktum and Sergio Sette Camara, the Anglo-Chinese squad have targeted eighth in the Teams’ Standings this season.
The NIO team have entered 109 Formula E races and helped Nelson Piquet Jr become the inaugural series champion back in 2015. Since then, they have found themselves at the back of the pack. Last year they finished 10th in the standings with seven points to their name, with their best result in the last four seasons being a sixth place.
However, their luck has changed for GEN3. Sette Camara navigated the chaos of Hyderabad to finish fifth and secure a valuable 10 points for the team. Ticktum has also regularly been scooping up points, finishing sixth in both Cape Town and Monaco. Between the two of them, NIO are on 28 points as we head to Jakarta and with seven rounds still to go!
Struggles for the reigning champion
Stoffel Vandoorne became Formula E’s latest champion in Season 8. Joining DS PENSKE for the new era of the all-electric championship, the Belgian partnered two-time champ Jean-Eric Vergne at the team, with their line-up and car looked to be a very strong package in pre-season testing.
However, Vandoorne’s season has so far been quite anonymous. He's yet to find himself on the podium, unlike his teammate Vergne who has three pieces of silverware to his name by Round 9, and has only collected 28 points - a third of what Vergne has managed.
The DS PENSKE driver did achieve pole position in São Paulo, and went on to record his best finish of the season by reaching the chequred flag in sixth. Nevertheless, he’s missing that big headline result that many are expecting from the man who proudly branded the number ‘1’ on his car.
Mahindra's Cape Town nightmare
One of the big talking points of the season so far was Mahindra Racing having to withdraw themselves and customer team ABT CUPRA from the Cape Town E-Prix. Stemming from safety concerns around the rear suspension, the four cars of Oliver Rowland, di Grassi, Nico Mueller and Kelvin van der Linde all missed both qualifying and the race.
Although the problem was rectified and the two teams returned for the following race in Brazil, it was still a big headline at the time.
There have been several examples of teams still getting to grips with the new Formula E machinery. In Hyderabad during Free Practice 1, standings leader Wehrlein had an uncharacteristic crash at high speed in his Porsche. As a result of the clash, the other Porsche-powered cars of Antonio Felix da Costa (Porsche), Dennis and Andre Lotterer (Andretti) were all grounded for the rest of the session.
Expected the unexpected
Formula E has always proved unpredictable, and Season 9 is no exception. From shock polesitters, like NEOM McLaren’s Jake Hughes starting from the first place grid slot in just his third race, to Sebastien Buemi being demoted from a potential podium by a penalty, there’s always a surprising twist around the corner.
Yet, one of the biggest headlines from the year came courtesy of ABT CUPRA.
The team, who had previously lapped up success as Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, had a challenging start to Season 9 when their driver Robin Frijns injured himself in Round 1. The incident, which happened on the first lap of the Mexico City E-Prix, meant that he needed to sit out and instead Van der Linde was drafted in.
Normally found towards the back of the grid in qualifying, a truly unbelievable series of events happened for the German team at their home race in Berlin. With the rain falling, and the first taste of driving these new generations of cars in the wet over a Formula E weekend, both ABT CUPRA drivers completely nailed it. Making their way into the Duels for the first time this season, Frijns and Mueller both beat some very tough competition to position themselves on the front row of the grid!
Kiwis in command of the top step
After a slow start to the season, Envision Racing’s Nick Cassidy is on the comeback of all comebacks. With two consecutive wins to his name, and another three podiums on top, he overtook Wehrlein to lead the standings by 20 points after Monaco. The New Zealand driver seems to be very comfortable with his racing package - complete with a Jaguar powertrain to help - and is now the title favourite for Season 9.
However, he isn’t the only Kiwi clocking up victories this year. Jaguar’s Mitch Evans has also found his flow, and managed to revive his championship hopes for another year. Despite a wobbly start to 2023, including being taken out by his teammate Sam Bird in Hyderabad, Evans has delivered a string of strong results recently.
Wins in São Paulo and the first race in Berlin, as well as second place finish in Monaco, have helped move Evans into fourth in the championship and just seven points from Wehrlein who sits in second and two points from Dennis in third.