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Formula E Preview: Rome

Written by Vyas Ponnuri, Edited by Meghana Sree

The track’s most iconic corner, the Piazza G.Marconi; Image credits - FIA Formula E

The Formula E season heads onto home straight this weekend, with the penultimate weekend of season nine, set to be held on the streets of Rome, kicking off the run to the flag, in a largely successful debut season for Formula E’s new Gen3 cars.

Thrilling races, high speeds, close racing, and even more strategy, in the form of drivers having to split their usage of attack modes, have all made for yet another successful season of Formula E. In addition, the series ventured into newer avenues, and cities, heading to Hyderabad, Cape Town, and Sao Paulo earlier this year, and most recently, Portland in June.

Before we move to the Rome E Prix, let us take a look at the events from the previous weekend of Formula E action - the Portland E Prix. This visit was Formula E’s first to an unmodified, permanent road course, and received mixed reactions, despite a superb weekend of racing.

While some envisioned the weekend to be a new dawn for Formula E, and for the series to race on more permanent circuits in the future, others claimed it to be a race nobody wanted to lead, due to the slipstream effect and the nature of the circuit.

Cassidy won last time out at Portland. Image credit - Envision Racing

Nevertheless, the craziness of the race on the day overshadowed it all. 403 overtakes, an epic battle for the lead, going back and forth between pole-sitter Jake Dennis, Nick Cassidy, and Antonio Felix Da Costa culminated in a Cassidy victory, his third of the season.

Dennis finishing second meant he moved into the championship lead, just a singular point ahead of race-winner Cassidy. Both sit in the hot seat as title favourites, and can have one hand on the trophy, should they perform well around Rome’s streets.

It was a tough day in the office for then-championship leader Pascal Wehrlein, a poor qualifying scuppering the Porsche driver’s weekend, and he was left to limit the damage, rather than battle the contenders at the front. He finished eighth, managing to net four points from a tough weekend. His teammate Da Costa has outscored the German across all the new circuits this year.

And as for the other contender in the championship, Mitch Evans, it was a strong recovery drive to fourth on the road, having started 20th for the race. It was an encouraging drive from the Jaguar driver, following up from his podium finish at Jakarta, and would help him build confidence in a season of spars with teammate Sam Bird.

With their relationship boiling over twice this season, at Hyderabad and Jakarta, Evans would be looking to keep out of incidents, and make up ground on the trio of championship contenders ahead of him. And he will certainly fancy his chances this weekend, as you will read later in the article.

Another driver having a strong weekend was Mahindra driver Lucas Di Grassi, the Brazilian driver scoring Mahindra’s first points since Berlin. It was an important seventh place for Di Grassi, helping Mahindra surpass NIO 333 in the standings, and the team will be looking to end a tough season on a strong note.

The Upcoming Rome E Prix

Having got up to speed with the events from Portland, let us look ahead to the Rome E Prix. A regular on the Formula E calendar, Rome first hosted a race in 2018, and has been a regular in the early stages of the Formula E season.

However, the event was pushed back on the calendar this year, being the penultimate round on the calendar, just before the London E Prix. The event will revert to its usual mid-April slot for season 10, scheduled as rounds eight and nine for the season.

The course for the event is the familiar 3.385 km (2.1 mi) long Circuito Cittadino Dell’EUR, situated in the neighbourhoods around Italy’s capital city.

The track for the Rome E Prix. Image credit - FIA Formula E

The track layout is one that does aid overtaking, more so into turns three and seven, at the end of long speed sections on the track. A lap around the streets of Rome commences with two fast kinks to the left and the right, heading into a tight overtaking spot coming into the left-hander of turn three.

The race commences on the short straight between turns three and four, another overtaking spot at the end of the straight. The left-hander of turn four leads into a tricky section of track, a barrier awaiting the drivers on the right, heading into a flowing right-hander and another sweeping left-hander. This stretch of track leads the drivers down to turn seven, another overtaking spot on the circuit.

From here, it’s a tight in-field section, a series of turns between seven and 14 taking the drivers through Rome’s narrow lanes. A right-hander at turn 14 takes the drivers to the iconic roundabout at turn 15, Piazza G.Marconi. The attack mode zone situated on the outside of the corner can make for interesting battles into the following series of corners, turns 16, 17, and 18, as drivers would battle coming out of the attack mode zones. Turn 19, a left-hander, takes the drivers back onto the finish line, and completes a lap around Rome.

Recent Form - Who are the Favourites

Earlier, a mention was made of Mitch Evans, and why he’s a favourite for the championship despite sitting 32 points off the championship lead with only four races to go. However, the Jaguar racer will fancy his chances this weekend, returning to a track which saw him net a clean sweep last season. It was a scene of Veni, Vidi, Vici for Evans, the Kiwi conquering the top step of the podium around the historic city. It would easily be marked as his best weekend in Formula E.

Success x2 for Evans in 2022. Image credits - Jaguar Racing

Even a single race win would catapult Evans right into the mix, and a strong showing at Rome would go a long way in his title charge, and boost his confidence heading into the season finale at London later this month.

However, the Gen3 car has little to compare with its predecessor, and the landscape of the season has changed this year. It will take an impressive effort for Evans to repeat his feats from the year prior, in a grid full of hungry competitors.

And those hungry competitors come in the form of Nick Cassidy, Jake Dennis, and Pascal Wehrlein. None of them have won a single race here, but going by the nature of this season, it is expected to see one of the trio triumph in the historic city.

Do keep an eye on the likes of Nissan’s Sacha Fenestraz, McLaren’s Jake Hughes, and Maserati’s Max Gunther during qualifying, as the trio could spring a surprise during the double-header, having taken their maiden pole positions this season.

All things said, another unpredictable weekend of Formula E racing beckons, with double the excitement this weekend, in the form of two races. Who will stand tall, and further their quest for championship glory? Will Evans be able to repeat his success from the season prior? The answers to these questions await us over the weekend.


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