Formula E Preview: São Paulo
Written by Olly Radley, Edited by Sameena Khan
Exactly a month from Hyderabad, the Formula E circus heads to South America for the first time since Santiago in 2020 for the inaugural São Paulo E-Prix. The first five of the season seemed to fly by, and we now head into round six of the 16-race 2023 season. At the front of the pack, the Porsche-powered Porsche-Andretti duo seemingly runs away with it, having won four of the five races this season. Wehrlein still sits atop the standings with Dennis breathing down his neck. Da Costa has also remained in contention following his Hyderabad, but with him down in fourth, it’s Jean-Eric Vergne splitting the difference in third.
Based on the old IndyCar layout, the São Paulo Street Circuit boasts a very straight-heavy, high-speed circuit on the banks of the Tiete River, almost reminiscent of Germany’s Norisring. Turns 1-3 consist of a Monza-esque first chicane breaking up a mammoth start-finish straight. Half a straight later, a right-left-right section leads the cars into the second straight, which has a similarly long straight, with yet another chicane to break it up. By the end of this straight, you find yourself at a fairly set of four fairly uninspiring 90-degree broken up by small straights and a slight left-hand kink at 12 to round off the 14-corner Formula E layout and finish the lap.
Expect the passionate Brazilian fans to turn up in their masses at the São Paulo E-Prix, as they do every year at Interlagos for Formula 1. This event has been in the making, don't forget: the São Paulo E-Prix was initially meant first to take place at the end of Gen1 in 2018. They’ve struggled for a while in F1, however, with not having a home hero to root for on the track. In Formula E, they’ll have a choice of two, Sergio Sette Camara and Lucas di Grassi, who is from São Paulo, born and raised. Di Grassi himself was vital in bringing Formula E to his hometown.
Going into the weekend, it’s hard to see anyone other than Porsche and Andretti in the limelight. The two have shared the top spot at every race bar one but had a car on the podium at all five. Vergne and Da Costa were the two to make the most significant advancements in February, with a double-podium (including a win) for each of them. Andre Lotterer is the only exception to this Porsche-powered dominance, without a podium to his name in 11th.
Envision has so far been the best of the rest: Buemi’s consistency has been clear to see right from the off, while Cassidy’s recent resurgence in Hyderabad and Cape Town has helped him leapfrog his Envision-teammate. Their engine supplier Jaguar hasn’t had the same luck, however. While Bird secured big points in Diriyah, they’re all he’s managed. Mitch Evans’ season has started miserably, in a similar fashion to last year. However, this time his chance to bounce back was cruelly taken from him by his teammate, who came careering into the side of him to end his Hyderabad race from the pole. Envision’s most significant current competition seems to be the newcomer to Formula E, McLaren. Over there, the story appears similar to Sebastien Buemi's, with regular and consistent points scores for both cars, putting them in a solid position after their introductory races in Formula E.
At the back end of the pack, The story of the Abt team has been one of misery. The former Formula E giants have returned in unimaginable fashion, being the clear backmarkers of Formula E Gen3 after just five races. Their new star signing, Robin Frijns, was ruled out of the first five races by an incident on Lap 1 of the Mexico City E-Prix, and his rookie replacement Kelvin van der Linde made the most of a terrible situation to be put in. Despite boasting one of the strongest lineups on the grid, the Abt-Cupra squad is the only team pointless after five, even having to withdraw from the most recent round due to safety concerns with their rear suspension. With Robin Frijns returning and just a month before their home races in Berlin, if there was ever a time for Abt to bounce back, it’s now.
Who do you think will come out on top in Sao Paulo? Will Porsche and Andretti take a fifth win of the season, or will someone new take the podium's top step? Let me know in the comments section below the article. That’s it from me, though, so goodbye for now.