Written by Vyas Ponnuri, Edited by Ishani Aziz
Formula E’s first-ever race weekend in the GEN3 era was definitely one to remember. An historic moment, as we got to witness the new GEN3 Formula E cars take to the track at full speed for the first time. McLaren and Maserati made their respective debuts over the weekend, as did Jake Hughes for McLaren. The Fanboost feature also entered the new era, and attack mode rules were changed for the season.
While this was a landmark weekend for the sport, it was also a momentous race for several drivers in Mexico City. Sacha Fenestraz and Jake Hughues both had their wholesome debuts, and Jake Dennis put in a superb performance that saw him dominate the race. These were some of the stories that made fans and pundits stand up and applaud, through the weekend.
Rookies shine - Hughes and Fenestraz impress the pundits
Hughes certainly impressed one and all during his debut Formula E weekend. Despite being overtaken by Andre Lotterer on the last lap, fifth place is definitely a strong start for a man making his Formula E debut.
Having made it through to the Duels in qualifying on debut, Hughes managed to get the better of his fellow Brit, Dan Ticktum, while losing out to another, Jake Dennis, in the semifinals finals. Ultimately he grabbed a third position for the race, having set a quicker lap time than the eliminated Lotterer during the semi-finals. Hughes drove a composed race, fending off attempts from Lotterer to overtake, before losing out to the experienced German on the last lap. Definitely one of the great stories of the weekend, and Hughes will be looking to kick on from this strong start.
While this was Sacha Fenestraz’s second race in the sport, it was his first full race weekend in Formula E. Fenestraz surpassed expectations, with many expecting him and Nissan to be on the backfoot. He put in a strong lap right to the end to make it through to the duels, losing out to Lotterer by a slender margin of 0.044 seconds, but achieving a starting position of eighth on the grid. While he remained in the points for most of the race, he lost out right at the end, following minor issues, and was under investigation for a Safety Car infringement too. No points, but a strong showing, nonetheless, for Fenestraz.
Dan Ticktum flies the NIO Flag high in the new era
One of the rookie drivers from Season Eight, Dan Ticktum didn’t grab the headlines as much, circulating around the rear of the grid in a relatively uncompetitive NIO 333 Racing car. A solitary point at Rome was his only points score of the season. Ticktum used his rookie season wisely, getting used to the handling model and energy-saving nature of the Formula E car.
Coming into the season opener, NIO 333 were hoping for a good showing, but Ticktum’s strong lap blew everyone away, including his team principal Alex Hui. While he was eliminated in the duels, losing out to Jake Hughes, he still secured a career-best start position of fifth, ahead of others who got eliminated in the duels stage. It was the team’s best start since Tom Blomqvist’s fifth position start at Berlin in 2021.
Although his race didn’t pan out as expected, following a scenario of spike in overpower leading him to serve a drive-through penalty, followed by a ten-second penalty for having cut a corner to gain an advantage, his qualifying performance was one that definitely warmed the hearts of the fans during the weekend.
Lucas Di Grassi - First pole position of the GEN3 Era
Lucas Di Grassi decided to leave the Rokit Venturi team at the end of 2022, heading to the new Indian outfit Mahindra Racing for the new era of Formula E. He started the weekend on the front foot, putting in strong laps to make it through to the duels stage of qualifying, before coming out ahead in a close duel with Sebastian Buemi. He capitalised on errors by Andretti drivers Lotterer and Dennis to take his first pole position for Mahindra, and the first of the new era.
Starting on pole, Di Grassi made it into the first corner ahead. Following two Safety Car periods, he was overtaken by Dennis. He was passed by Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein in the late stages of the race, but defended strongly to bring home a podium finish for Mahindra. Despite not being able to convert his pole to a race victory, Di Grassi managed to bring home 18 points, and start the season on a high note.
Porsche powertrains shine once again - Three cars in the top four Porsche are generally known to handle themselves well around the E-Prix in Mexico, their cars having won the previous two events on the racetrack. While Pascal Wehrlein got disqualified after the race in Puebla, in 2021, having not declared their tyres at the start of the race, the German driver well and truly redeemed himself the following season, leading home a dominant Porsche one-two at Mexico City. This season, during qualifying, it was once again the Porsche powertrain showing their strength, as their customer team Avalanche Andretti looked strong during qualifying, both drivers netting top four starts, and Wehrlein secured sixth on the grid for the race.
Of course Dennis went on to dominate the race later on, winning the Mexico City E-Prix by almost eight seconds. Having taken the lead early from Di Grassi, Dennis never looked back, later stretching out his lead, and completing the race relatively uncontested. The Briton crossed the line 7.8 seconds ahead of his fellow Porsche-powered driver Wehrlein, who drove a strong race from sixth, to finish runner-up.
Their teammates endured tougher races, Dennis’ teammate Lotterer making a last-lap dash past Jake Hughes to finish fourth, while Wehrlein’s teammate Antonio Felix Da Costa drove a largely uneventful race to finish seventh. The Porsche electric motor definitely proved to be the strongest around the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez once again, and it definitely made for a great story for Formula E’s first-ever GEN3 weekend.