Maserati MSG Racing has shown race-winning pace since the Italian manufacturer's first race in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship at the start of this season - and, in fact, before that as it headed the way in the Valencia test - but an incident-packed campaign has seen both Maximilian Guenther and Edoardo Mortara struggle to convert come lights out and in race trim.
Guenther’s double podium finish in Indonesia backed up two days worth of topping every session Formula E could throw his way.
Free Practice 1 was topped by the German, then Free Practice 2. Julius Baer Pole Position for Round 10 was his with a podium following - though in the 13 races prior, not a single polesitter had been able to convert the race win.
No matter, head down and go again Sunday. Free Practice 3: Guenther's. Round 11 pole? Guenther's. And finally, the Maserati driver was able to break the polesitter's curse and take to the top step to seal Maserati's first world championship single-seater race win since the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio took victory at the Nurburgring in 1957 for the Italian marque.
Add to that silverware a pair of top 10s for Mortara, and the team banked twice as many points in one weekend as it had scored all season – as well as its breakthrough win.
If Jakarta can be a turning point for Maserati’s fortunes, then Race 2 is an imposing benchmark. Gunther’s drive to win from pole position, never running lower than third, was textbook, ultra-dominant and culminated in the second biggest winning margin of the season at 2.8 seconds. Once he hit the front, he did not look back.
Guenther timed things just right, happy to hold fire behind Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) once the Brit had taken the lead through the first round of ATTACK MODE activations.
The telling switch came as Guenther held off on his second jolt of ATTACK MODE when Dennis blinked first. The German was able to generate a gap enough to leapfrog the Avalanche Andretti driver by the time he made the dive for his final 50kW boost on Lap 18.
From there, the Maserati MSG Racing driver didn't look back and, in fact, was able to stretch his legs - pulling out 2.822 seconds on Dennis come the flag and more than 18 seconds on third-placed man Mitch Evans in the Jaguar TCS Racing I-TYPE 6.
Nobody had won by more than two seconds in the GEN3 era since Dennis' season-opening victory in Mexico City and that margin was the largest we'd seen in the last 10 rounds.
Ironically, Gunther actually posted the slowest top speed of any driver in the entire E-Prix. Such statistical anomalies matter a lot less than being in control – and Guenther, who was devastatingly quick when it mattered, kept his minimum and average speeds in the right ballpark compared with those around him, and he was most certainly in control.
Having been thwarted in race one, beaten by standings leader Pascal Wehrlein (TAG Heuer Porsche) and Dennis, the small-yet-significant difference between the two race formats in Jakarta resulted in a different story.
The second race being two laps longer made energy management more important in race two – at least until everybody could be confident they would have be able to push to the end. That made for a cagey race in which nobody wanted to take the lead early on.
Being on target was crucial, hence the slow-speed first part of the E-Prix: Guenther’s average speed over the first 10 laps was 111.4km/h, for example, whereas in race one that same sample was 114.3km/h. And in the first half of the E-Prix on Saturday Guenther’s top speed was never higher than 218km/h, whereas on Sunday it was only 213km/h: despite having ATTACK MODE in this time and making on-track passes.
Guenther was urged to prioritise maximum efficiency throughout and did a great job in this regard: he retained a small but decisive edge over Dennis, around 0.5%, but a much more significant 1.5% battery advantage over Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing), the other member of this lead battle. That disparity left Evans unable to live with the Maserati driver's pace and performance out-front.
So, it developed into a straight fight between Guenther and Dennis - one that eventually went Guenther’s way. The small battery advantage he had in the middle of the race allowed him to move back into the lead and start to build a gap, while Dennis had to back his pace off to get back to his own energy targets.
Guenther suspected Dennis was trying to save up to be able to attack late on but Dennis lost way too much ground replenishing his battery. Although he had built up a 1% advantage over Guenther with around seven laps remaining, by this time he was three seconds adrift and it was too little, too late.
Dennis inevitably cut into that gap as Guenther just focused on management but not by anywhere near enough to mount a late bid for the win. Gunther won by almost three seconds, earning Maserati’s first Formula E race victory in commanding fashion.
It was a mix of speed and energy management that had hitherto only really been seen from Porsche and Jaguar powertrains this season and showed what the Maserati Tipo Folgore can be capable of when all the stars align.
Gunther felt his team had hit the ground running in Jakarta, so now the task is to do the same elsewhere. Replicating the result will be immensely difficult but a similar consistency of performance can make him and Maserati a seriously imposing force.