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Dennis Dominates Diriyah to Take Victory Ahead of Vergne and Cassidy

Written by Vyas Ponnuri


Reigning champion Jake Dennis once again showed why he is a force to be reckoned with, as the Andretti racer turned third on the grid into victory, cruising to victory by a staggering 14-second margin, after squabbling with pole-sitter Jean-Eric Vergne and Jaguar's Mitch Evans.



Vergne took a last-gasp pole position for round two of the 2024 Formula E season at Diriyah, and eventually defended hard to end up a distant second, with Nick Cassidy taking third at the end, in a thrilling last-lap battle.


Sam Bird was another beneficiary of this battle, capitalising on a mistake by Evans to take fourth, as the chasing Jaguar driver would have to settle for fifth, his efforts on the day going in vain.


Dennis's teammate Norman Nato finished sixth, having led the chasing pack for a vast majority of the race, while Max Gunther had a quiet race, winding up seventh by the flag.


Championship leader Pascal Wehrlein had a tough return to Diriyah, ending up only eighth by the flag, just ahead of ERT Racing's Sergio Sette Camara, who drove superbly to bring home two points, while Robin Frijns took his first point of the season for Envision Racing, in tenth, on a tough day for the team in green.


AS IT HAPPENED

As the five red lights went out, pole-sitter Vergne immediately cut across the track to defend from a lightning-quick Evans, who was also at the receiving end of a dive-bomb from the charging ERT car of Sergio Sette Camara, who started right behind the Jaguar.


Evans and Sette Camara duelled into turns 18 and 19, with Evans holding on to his second position, with Nato and Dennis too alongside each other. The latter edged ahead of Sette Camara to move into third, with Nato slotting into fifth. A yellow flag was shown on the first lap, for a slow-moving Nissan of Sacha Fenestraz, who eventually became the race's only non-finisher.


While the drivers were side-by-side on the start, they maintained their positions, and race leader Vergne was the first to take attack mode, diving in on lap four.


The Frenchman rejoined behind his two closest competitors, Evans and Dennis, and immediately got to work, overtaking the Jaguar ahead in a close moment of contact between the duo.


All the while, Dennis had built up a lead of 1.2 seconds ahead of the battling duo, and took attack mode on lap six, rejoining only a whisker behind the Penske ahead.


In the meantime, Vergne dived in to take his final attack mode — relatively early on lap seven, emptying his final quota of six minutes of attack mode available, rejoining behind the Jaguar of Evans once again, in third.


Evans holding off the resurgent DS Penske was enough for Dennis and Andretti to strike, and the new race leader dived in for his second dose of attack mode only a lap later, rejoining in the lead, ahead of the chasing duo. This was arguably the turning point of the race, as Dennis was never challenged from there on.


The Kiwi finally took his second attack mode on lap nine, rejoining third, behind the leading Andretti, and a Penske released to chase after the race leader Dennis.


With the DS Penske running out of attack mode just as the leading trio hit the long straight, Evans took his chance, and with two minutes of extra power at his disposal, dived to the inside of turn 18 to overtake the Penske ahead on lap 12, keeping it on the tarmac into turn 19, despite going deep into the corner. A stellar move, indeed.


The Jaguar driver wasn't done yet, as he used every ounce of attack mode to challenge race leader Dennis a lap later. This time, however, he failed to keep it on the tarmac, and went onto the run-off, losing grip, and the race lead, as he fought off the chasing Penske of Vergne from behind.


It was one move too many on the defensive for Evans, who out-braked himself into turn 18, on lap 16, sliding wide, and letting Vergne through once again. However, both drivers had dropped time to leader Dennis while squabbling.


Halfway into the race, the top three had exhausted their eight minutes of attack mode, while the rest of the grid hadn't ventured in for their helping of extra power, as they made up one long train behind the leading trio. No driver was willing to relinquish precious track position for their attack mode.


However, Jake Hughes and Sebastian Buemi eventually bit the bullet, diving in for their first dose of extra power, and were immediately followed by Maserati's Max Gunther ahead. This created a chain reaction, with drivers such as Sette Camara too following suit.


Evans had expended too much energy battling the duo ahead, and had hurt his tyres by going off the racing line and sliding, as he slipped into the clutches of the chasing pack behind, now headed by teammate Nick Cassidy.


The caveat though, was, the latter hadn't dived in for attack mode. With Evans struggling, and Cassidy rolling towards his teammate, the two Jaguars swapped spaces on the track, making Evans the rear-gunner for his teammate ahead.


Cassidy came in for two minutes of extra power on lap 28, giving up third to Evans, before retaking the position a lap later. He was willing to play the team game, though, willing to let his teammate by at the end, allowing Evans to take the podium.


With time running out, and only seven tours until the chequered flag dropped, it was time for Cassidy to take attack mode. He did eventually dive in for six more minutes of extra power, albeit a lap later, emerging just ahead of a chasing McLaren of Sam Bird.


It would be a race to the finish, as Vergne slowly slid back into the clutches of a chasing trio headed by his race-long rival Evans, haring up to the rear of the DS Penske. Meanwhile, Dennis had checked out in the lead for Andretti, upping the lead towards the ten-second mark, a vast margin for a Formula E race.


The ever-pursuing Jaguar loomed over the slowing DS Penske — shadowing the black and gold car ahead, as the race headed into its closing stages, with only two laps remaining.


It was now all or nothing, if Evans wanted three extra points, and he would have to surpass the defensive master that was Jean-Eric Vergne. A tactician, known for his defense, he once again lived up to this title.


As he had done for the previous tours around the track, the Frenchman slowed his pace during the tight, quick corners spanning turns five to 14, conserving his energy, before draining his battery down the long straight, thereby preventing an overtake from the chasing Jaguar behind.


Nevertheless, a determined Evans gave it everything to get past the Penske ahead, almost losing control as he swerved out from behind the Frenchman, in a bid to get ahead. Almost sideways at one point, his tyres had given up every bit of rubber left in them.


Evans' opportunism would amount to nothing, though, as he once again visited the run-off at turn 18, once again, squandering positions to Vergne, the podium to his teammate Cassidy, and fourth to the McLaren of Sam Bird.


However, it was Jake Dennis domination for most of the race in the desert, the reigning champion showing why he is highly regarded, opening up a whopping 14-second lead over the rest. The fastest lap of the race was just icing on the cake, on a special day for the Briton, who bounced back from a tough Mexican outing to triumph in the desert of Diriyah.


He led home pole-sitter Vergne, while Cassidy backed up his Mexican show with yet another third position, taking him only a point behind championship-leader Wehrlein, who wound up only eighth.


Vergne's podium saw him rise to third in the standings, only two points off Cassidy, while Dennis' win catapulted him to fourth, only a point off the DS Penske driver.


As the drivers sprayed rose water around, celebrating their feats during the first race, the beauty of a double header is in allowing another chance for the rest of the grid to take the spoils. In less than 24 hours, the drivers will once again go racing, looking to take victory around the desert of Diriyah.


Do tune in to the action for round three of the 2024 Formula E season on Saturday, 27th January, with Free Practice 3 commencing at 12:55 local time (9:55 GMT), followed by qualifying and the race later in the day. Until then, it's goodbye!






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