Five things we learned in São Paulo

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Five things we learned in São Paulo

Round 4 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship provided us with a new team on the top step of the podium, an iconic last-lap pass for the victory and 212 incredible overtakes!

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Temperature can make or break your race 

We all know that intense heat can play havoc with a battery. Take your phone as an example; if it gets too hot it can change the behavior of your device or even shut it down completely. São Paulo’s weather had a similar effect on the GEN3 machines, with several drivers up and down the grid facing warnings or worse when their cars became too hot. 

RACE REPORT: Sam Bird seals NEOM McLaren's first win with last-gasp stunner in São Paulo 

One of those was second-place finisher Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing), who was hunting down his first victory of Season 10. The 2023 race winner in Brazil had made an ambitious move on the NEOM McLaren of Sam Bird to take the lead in the race’s final few laps, however a battery derate issue for Evans forced him to be cautious at the front of the pack. 

Bird, who could see Mitch struggling, went for a “now or never” move on his former teammate and delivered one of the best overtakes the all-electric championship has seen in recent years. Yet, Bird wasn’t completely in the clear, also being told to cool the car by his Senior Race Engineer Stephen Lane on the last laps of the thrilling race. 

"From the information that I was giving them, they were concerned. Well, concerned is probably an understatement,” Bird stated after his 12th win. “But I could tell in the car that Mitch was really suffering as well. I could tell by the speed that he was going towards the end of some of the straights. I was thinking ‘he's not at full power’ and I've still got full power, but he definitely doesn't, which means he's worse off than me.”

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With that in mind, Bird went for the magic move that we witnessed to end his 37 winless-race streak and get himself back up on the top spot of the podium. However, it was a different story on the other side of the NEOM McLaren garage, with Jake Hughes forced to retire with a temperature-related problem. 

NEOM McLaren are now in the winners club

Since debuting in Formula E last season, NEOM McLaren have always shown they are not a team to underestimate. Despite only one podium to their name until last weekend and two pole positions, the Bicester-based squad have been consistently improving and learning with their top-quality selection of drivers. This season, Formula E veteran Sam Bird joined Jake Hughes at the team, and the duo have looked quick and reliable.

TEAMMATES: NEOM McLaren's new pairing on one another, expectations and their team

In Diriyah, both Bird and Hughes finished in fourth over the two respective races of the double-header and powertrain supplier Nissan have shown the pace is there with Oliver Rowland achieving the Julius Baer Pole Position in Round 3, with a podium to his name too. However, everything came together for Bird in Brazil to grant him his first race since New York in 2021. 

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Now they’ve won themselves the first place trophy and doing so through hard work and on their own terms, the team will understandably desire more. “We want there to be many more,” Bird added when talking about their first podium of the season. “I've got a target in my head of how many podiums I think we can achieve as a team this year”, although he wouldn’t share the number!

Nissan powertrains go from strength to strength 

São Paulo was also a big step for the Nissan powertrain – used by McLaren. This is only the second race won by someone not using a Jaguar or Porsche powertrain in the last 16 events, with the other being Maserati MSG Racing’s Maximilian Guenther in Jakarta. It’s clear the Japanese team have been working hard over the break with their software and are beginning to truly reap the rewards. 

Their efforts have placed them third in the newly-announced Manufacturers' Trophy on 88 points, just seven points behind Porsche. 

NEWS: Jaguar tops Manufacturers' Trophy standings as Nissan joins the fight in São Paulo

Rowland found himself back on the podium for a second consecutive race in Brazil, thanks to an iconic last-corner swoop past Pascal Wehrlein (TAG Heuer Porsche) and reigning champion Jake Dennis (Andretti) as they battled it out for third. He had started 11th but fought his way through the pack to collect his second piece of silverware in two races, the first time the 31-year-old had managed back-to-back podiums in his Formula E journey. 

Nissan Rowland podium Sao Paulo Formula E Season 10

"The start was pretty poor,” the Yorkshireman reflected after the race. “I got a load of wheelspin and lost a few positions but then I managed to pick some drivers off. Our plan was to wait for the ATTACK MODE a little bit and I was a bit worried as a lot of the other guys around me took it, but I managed to make up a few positions and the car was feeling quite competitive.

"Sixth felt like Christmas had come already then Antonio [Felix da Costa, TAG Heuer Porsche] started to derate so I got him for fifth. Then, in the last corner Pascal and Jake got into each other and I managed to take them both – I didn’t expect third. I knew through Turn 10 that they might be fighting, so I was ready.”

Nissan powertrains got two cars on the podium for the first time in their history too, although the pressure is now on to deliver at their home race in Tokyo next week. 

Cassidy’s ‘bad day’ emerges in São Paulo  

After claiming three impressive podiums in the first three rounds – including a victory in Diriyah – Nick Cassidy stated that he was “waiting for a bad day”, and it appears it might have happened after failing to finish the street race at the Anhembi Sambadrome. 

The current World Championship leader, who still leads the standings despite scoring no points in Brazil, was in the running for a great finish but ultimately retired due to damage sustained in the race. The six-time race winner had his front wing clipped by the close racing in the pack, which ended up going underneath his I-TYPE 6 and sending him into the wall. Cassidy was sixth at the time but the damage brought his race to a premature end on Lap 16 in dramatic fashion. 

“I’m waiting for a bad day, it’s gonna come but for now, we ride,” Cassidy said after his victory in Riyadh. His teammate, Mitch Evans, was able to pick up his first podium of the season in São Paulo, moving him into third on the points table below Cassidy and Wehrlein. 

 “I had a really fast car in FP1, FP2 and the first run of qualifying today, but the race didn’t go quite how I wanted or expected it to,” the Kiwi commented after his DNF. “I had a couple of touches with the front wing and unfortunately it was too badly damaged. I still think I was one of the fastest cars this weekend, plus, I have come off the back of four podiums in a row and I’m still leading the Drivers’ Championship standings so there’s a lot of positives to take forward to Tokyo.”

Magic Max: Guenther’s incredible drive from last 

Maserati MSG Racing’s Maximilian Guenther put on one of the best comeback drives in this era of Formula E when he managed to go from last on the grid to ninth, all with a 10 second-stop-and-go penalty chucked in!

The 26-year-old was slapped with two grid drop penalties exceeding the number of allocated gearboxes and inverters, which ultimately put him last on the starting grid and forced him to take an additional penalty in the race in order to serve his sanction. 

Maximilian Guenther Brazil

Guenther took the stop-and-go early in the E-Prix, and an early Safety Car for the recovery of Norman Nato’s Andretti front wing helped save the day as he was able to close up to the pack, and from there started making moves up the field. By Lap 20 of the 31 Lap race (which saw three added laps), he was already up to ninth! 

The São Paulo E-Prix itself saw 212 overtakes from our grid, even surpassing the predicted 150 moves that Season 3 champion Lucas di Grassi (ABT CUPRA) made ahead of the weekend. Incredible!