Even the most frenzied E-Prix is not a lottery, though. It is a matter of judgement and skill, rather than luck alone. That’s why despite record numbers of passes and unique, intense pack racing, the same drivers continue to shine.
There has been a lot of variety among the race winners, with seven different drivers tasting victory in 12 races. But the championship is not a free-for-all. Nick Cassidy (Envision Racing) and Pascal Wehrlein (TAG Heuer Porsche) have three wins apiece, and 10 of the 12 races have been won by either a Porsche or a Jaguar powertrain - with Envision Racing using the Jaguar I-TYPE 6.
Look deeper, and the drivers who have gained the most places this season are also telling: Wehrlein (58), Lucas di Grassi (55), Antonio Felix da Costa (52), Stoffel Vandoorne (48) and Cassidy (47). Three champions and two drivers firmly in the 2022/2023 title fight. It’s not a coincidence. The cliche exists for a reason: the cream always rises to the top.
Many drivers and car combinations are capable of starring in qualifying - nine have started from pole, and 13 have started on the front row. The packages are so closely matched and the strength of the grid is so high that over one lap, anything can happen. That's why so many championship frontrunners can find themselves on recovery missions at any given race.
But even with such qualifying unpredictability, and the potential for yo-yo races, the best drivers and teams are making the most progress and doing the most winning. Cassidy demonstrated this in Portland by progressing from 10th to win, defeating polesitter and championship leader Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) in the process, and moved just a point from the summit of the standings.
Even in an extreme manifestation of the pack racing that is quickly defining the GEN3 era, there were some good old-fashioned elements to Cassidy’s drive. He made a good start, he had an aggressive opening lap, and he wasn’t afraid to go wheel-to-wheel – that’s why he went from 10th to fifth immediately!
Cassidy spent seven laps hovering in various places in the top 10. Aggressive lifting and coasting on the main and back straights, with throttle inputs barely averaging 33% in the first phase of the race, meant it was very easy to lose a lot of places in one go.
It would be impossible in such a scenario not to have some ebb and flow, and Cassidy’s progress was certainly not linear. The trick was to minimise the losses and be smart. Cassidy was very good at not getting hung out to dry in the paddock, was able to avoid contact, picked his battles and played his ATTACK MODE strategy well.
Cassidy also didn’t panic when he did briefly slip backwards. He was just decisive in responding, overtaking three cars at once to immediately undo the damage. This was the start of launching himself from seventh to second in one lap. It was a key move. Even if a driver and team does a perfect job, it is still immensely difficult to navigate the pack in a peloton-style race.
So there is something to be said for just avoiding that challenge completely, which is what Cassidy ultimately did in Portland: once he fired himself into the top two on lap 10, he never dropped out of it. But if it was that easy, every driver would do it. It takes a good car, a good powertrain and a driver at the top of their game.
With three wins in five, the Cassidy/Envision Racing combination is proving that if you have the right ingredients, you can control even the most dramatic races.