SEASON 9 REVIEW: Cape Town, Sao Paulo, Berlin

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SEASON 9 REVIEW: Cape Town, Sao Paulo, Berlin

The first year of the GEN3 era produced thousands of overtakes, new strategic battles and four debut race locations across four different continents. It's fair to say that Season 9 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship has been one of the most incredible seasons of motorsport in recent memory. Here's a look at how the second quarter of the season unfolded.

Da Costa wins in Cape Town for Porsche Formula E

25 February: 2023 Cape Town E-Prix, Round 5

Pole: Sacha Fenestraz

Winner: Antonio Felix da Costa

A second new location for Formula E was the venue for Round 5, as Cape Town became the second African city after Marrakesh to host a round of the championship. Nissan’s Sacha 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.

The race saw a return to the top spot for Season 6 champion Antonio Felix da Costa, who continued his good form after finishing third in Hyderabad. Da Costa started 11th, but made it into the top three by Lap 20 via some typically outrageous 'DAC Attack' overtakes.

His eventual move for P1 was one of the greatest ever seen in the sport. On Lap 24, Da Costa produced a phenomenal pass to take the lead from Cassidy at the trickiest part of the track – the Turn 7, 8 and 9 combo that had been the site of three crashes earlier in the weekend. The Season 6 champ sent it around the outside of Turn 7 and made it stick up the inside at Turn 8.

The lead switched again shortly after when da Costa missed the ATTACK MODE loop and was overtaken by former teammate Jean-Eric Vergne in the process. Both former champions raced with thunderous intensity as the race reached its conclusion, but with time running out, da Costa produced another stupendous overtake to reclaim the lead, his first of the season but the fourth Porsche powered victory in five races.


Drivers’ World Championship top three:

  1.  Pascal Wehrlein, 80 points
  2. Jake Dennis, 62 points
  3. Jean-Eric Vergne, 50 points

25 March: 2023 Julius Baer São Paulo E-Prix, Round 6

Pole: Stoffel Vandoorne

Winner: Mitch Evans

The excitement continued in Sao Paulo with a third new country in three races ticked off the list. Brazil has been home to many iconic moments in motorsports history, and the inaugural Sao Paulo E-Prix was an excellent addition to the list.

Having endured a quiet start to defending his world title, Stoffel Vandoorne returned to form in qualifying with pole position. The Belgian earned the first DS Penske pole since the 2016 Mexico City E-Prix with a trio of Duels victories over Jake Hughes, Edoardo Mortara and Cape Town winner Antonio Felix da Costa.

An eventful start to the race saw Vandoorne keep the lead, but energy concerns saw him enter ATTACK MODE before intentionally dropping down the pack to maintain energy and attack later. Vandoorne was back in the lead just a lap later however, before being overtaken by the in-form Nick Cassidy who overtook both second place da Costa and Vandoorne into first.

The Envision Racing driver was showing signs of his eventual mid-season dominance in Brazil, but the New Zealander was overtaken by his compatriot Mitch Evans on lap 32. A final lap shootout, fast becoming a regularity in Season 9, saw Evans just about cling on to victory, his seventh in Formula E, ahead of Cassidy and teammate Sam Bird in third.

With Cassidy driving the Jaguar-powered Envision car, this ensured a Jaguar podium lock-out, just the second in Formula E history.

Mitch Evans wins the Sao Paulo Formula E E-Prix

Drivers’ World Championship top three:

  1. Pascal Wehrlein, 86 points
  2. Jake Dennis, 62 points
  3. Nick Cassidy, 61 points

22 April: 2023 Sabic Berlin E-Prix Round 7

Pole: Sebastien Buemi

Winner: Mitch Evans

After three races in brand new locations, Formula E returned to Berlin for Round 7, the city that has been raced in most often in the championship. Sebastien Buemi, a two-time winner in Berlin, defeated fellow veteran Sam Bird in the Duels final to start on pole for the second time this season.

But just as had been seen in Sao Paulo, energy management and slipstream concerns meant that pole perhaps hadn’t been as important as in previous years. Yes, the three points had significant implications in terms of championship positions, but a new method of Formula E racing was transpiring, with tactical battles taking place all over the track.

This was made clear in the opening stages of Round 7, as polesitter Buemi, second place Bird and Stoffel Vandoorne in third all seemed wary of taking an early lead and using up valuable energy - all the while being vulnerable to attacks from behind.

Instead, it was NIO 333’s Dan Ticktum who took the initiative and overtook all three of the top three to vault into top spot. Indeed, in a race which saw 190 overtakes, Ticktum’s attack was a perfect example of the new era of Formula E, where an overtake - or two, could come from literally anywhere at any time.

While Ticktum’s lead didn’t last (the NIO driver retired on lap 19 after a collision with Vandoorne), the overtakes continued, with multiple race-leaders, and some hefty collisions making the Tempelhof track sizzle.

With four laps to go, Buemi led Bird, but neither was leading into the final lap as Mitch Evans attacked with gusto to claim the lead - and the eventual victory of a hugely eventful race. This was Evans’ second successive win, and one of his very best. Sam Bird once again finished on the podium in a Jaguar 1-2, while Maximilian Guenther claimed his first points of the season in third.

Berlin start

Drivers’ World Championship top three:

  1. Pascal Wehrlein, 94 points
  2. Nick Cassidy, 71 points
  3. Jean-Eric Vergne, 66 points

23 April: 2023 Sabic Berlin E-Prix Round 8

Pole: Robin Frijns

Winner: Nick Cassidy

The next day, Robin Frijns and ABT CUPRA pulled off one of the shocks of Season 9 so far as the Dutchman headed an all-ABT front-row lockout in the first wet qualifying session of the GEN3 era. With teammate Nico Mueller in second, the team achieved a magnificent achievement which marked their first championship points of the season.

The ABT lead woke up the field, as another fascinating tactical battle occurred, along with plenty more overtakes. Cars were four wide at times, but clean racing and sensible overtakes ensured the fans were treated to drama without the devastation of collisions ending races.

It was the in-form Nick Cassidy who started eighth that stamped his authority on the grid, as he embarked one of the best defensive drives of the season. In a year where seemingly nobody wanted to lead races for long, Cassidy held the lead for 15 laps to claim victory and catapult up the championship standings. A return to form for Jake Dennis saw the Brit finish second, while Jean-Eric Vergne continued his solid season with third.

Screenshot 2023-04-23 at 20.01.55

Drivers’ World Championship top three:

  1. Pascal Wehrlein, 100 points
  2. Nick Cassidy, 96 points
  3. Jean-Eric Vergne, 81 points