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The State of Play in the 2023 Formula E season

Written by Vyas Ponnuri, Edited by Meghana Sree

Three of the four championship contenders; Image credits - Manuel Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It is safe to say the Gen3 era of Formula E has pushed forward Formula E’s relentless nature to grow and evolve even further. The latest generation of Formula E cars are capable of breaching the 321 km/h (200 mph) barrier, and have seen lap records shattered at circuits too.

Sacha Fenestraz recorded the fastest ever lap in nine seasons of Formula E at Cape Town, on Formula E’s fastest ever circuit, while he also broke the lap record for Formula E at Monaco, beating his teammate Norman Nato in the semi-finals of the duels stage.

The Gen3 races have been just as unpredictable as before, seeing as many as 250 overtakes on some days. The inaugural Sao Paulo E Prix saw 114 overtakes, while the first race at Berlin saw a staggering 254 overtakes. The following day’s race saw 190 overtakes, and just as good a race, with the new entrants ABT Cupra locking out the front row of the grid for the race. The Portland E Prix saw a whopping 403 overtakes, in a thrilling Stateside race.

Amidst all the chaos, unpredictability, and novelty this year, four drivers have emerged as championship contenders, all gunning for their maiden Formula E Championship. The four in the fray are from four different constructors– Avalanche Andretti’s Jake Dennis, Envision Racing’s Nick Cassidy, Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein, and Jaguar driver Mitch Evans.

Among the quartet, Dennis leads with 154 points to his name. Cassidy’s Portland win saw him climb up to second, just one point off the Avalanche Andretti driver. Wehrlein sits third, with 138 points, while Evans’ fourth place at Portland saw him still in the hunt for the championship, with 122 points to his name.

All drivers have displayed different traits throughout the season, and have had contrasting paths to get to this point. The quartet have stood tall, through thick and thin, through the inconsistencies, the off-days, the unpredictability of the series, and the novelty of the Gen3 era, to stand a chance at winning their maiden Formula E title.

Without further ado, let us look back at each contender’s season so far, and what helped them get to the point of final reckoning on the home stretch.

Jake Dennis - Avalanche Andretti

Dennis is the current championship leader; Credit - John Lamparski/Getty Images

Start strong, have a lean patch in between, before storming back to contention. The story of Dennis’ third Formula E season couldn’t have been explained any better.

The Avalanche Andretti driver made full use of the efficient Porsche powertrain early on in the season, winning on Gen3 debut at Mexico, before a brace of runners-up finishes at Diriyah put him in prime position to contend for the championship, with fellow Porsche-powered rival Wehrlein.

However, things started to unravel for Dennis from then on. A late incident with Rene Rast at Hyderabad saw Rast out of the race, with Dennis limping to 16th on the road. Two further tough races at the new tracks Cape Town and Sao Paulo saw Dennis lose vital ground to capitalise on fellow contender Wehrlein’s errors. In Cape Town, it was a disastrous race, while Sao Paulo saw fellow Brit Dan Ticktum run into the rear of Dennis, taking him out of the race.

The first race at Berlin proved to be no better either, as Dennis made a costly mistake late in the race, trying to overtake Wehrlein’s teammate Antonio Felix Da Costa, which put Dennis five laps down, and a furious Da Costa out of the race. This was certainly the nadir of his season, as he had scored no points since January, and more contenders were knocking on the door, in the form of Cassidy and Evans.

But, as is the nature of the series, you can be down one day, and up the next day. And from here on, it was only onwards and upwards for Dennis. A second place the following day saw him kickstart his championship charge, and he followed it up with another podium at Monaco.

A month later at Jakarta, Dennis made big strides in the championship, taking a brace of runners-up finishes, as he had done at Diriyah. This, coupled with Cassidy’s tough weekend, promoted Dennis to second in the standings, right behind his early-season rival Wehrlein.

And at Portland, Dennis showed his qualifying pace, as he took his first pole position of the season. However, with the pole position curse having befallen all but one driver this season, he was the latest one to fall foul of the curse, as he lost the win to Cassidy. He took a crucial third runners-up finish in a row, which put him in the lead of the standings, a point ahead of Cassidy.

Looking at the upcoming tracks, the Avalanche Andretti driver will surely fancy himself to score heavily at London, given his strong form around his home circuit in the past two seasons. He is in the best possible position compared to his rivals, which gives him the upper hand in terms of approaching the home stretch of the season.

Nick Cassidy

Cassidy on his way to victory at Portland; Credit - John Lamparski/Getty Images

Much like Dennis, Cassidy's season has seen plenty of highs, but the Kiwi hasn’t had a tough streak of races in between, as was the case for Dennis mid-season. In fact, despite sitting second in the standings, one could argue Cassidy has been the best driver on the field so far.

While he gradually got up to speed at Mexico and Diriyah, it was in Hyderabad when Cassidy stepped up, and kicked off a run of five consecutive podium finishes, a golden run for the Envision Racing driver. He showed strong resilience, often brushing off tough qualifying sessions to net a lofty finish later in the race. 6th to second in Hyderabad, and picked up his first win of the season from eighth on the grid at Berlin.

Two weeks later, he won at one of motorsport’s most iconic racetracks, the streets of Monaco, having started one position further down the grid than at Berlin. And most recently, on Portland’s road course, Cassidy won a thrilling race, having started tenth on the grid. He’s certainly been a “Comeback King” this season, and all his wins have come from much further back on the grid.

Although Cassidy hasn’t won on either of the upcoming races in the past, he would certainly fancy his chances of being a championship contender, considering his consistency throughout the season, and his ability to finish on the podium despite starting lower down the grid. He is definitely one of the favourites for the title, and it would be a shock to see him missing out. That’s how well Cassidy has driven this year, in only his third season of Formula E.

Pascal Wehrlein; Image credits - Formula E

Now we come to a driver who’s been on top for a large chunk of the season, and has been in the championship fight all year round. Yes, that driver is Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein.

This is Wehrlein’s fifth season of Formula E, and the German driver has won four times in 60 races. Three of those have come in season nine, highlighting the strengths of Wehrlein’s season. Wehrlein’s biggest strength all through the season was being able to outscore his main competitors, and managed to hold on to his championship lead until the Monaco E Prix, despite winning twice and not scoring a single podium after the race.

Wehrlein’s biggest trait was in the form of being able to consistently outscore his closest competitor on off days. While Dennis, his closest challenger for most of the season, floundered in between, Wehrlein kept it clean, and extended his championship lead. A fourth place at Hyderabad was his best result after the Diriyah double, and barring an early DNF at Cape Town, the experienced German scored points consistently. His points-scores will definitely play a major role in a series of fine margins, such as Formula E.

The win at Jakarta catapulted Wehrlein back into championship contention, while championship leader Nick Cassidy had a tough weekend. However, an eighth place finish followed after a poor qualifying at Portland, with Wehrlein losing vital ground to Cassidy and Dennis in the standings. Both drivers finished in the top two of the race, and left Wehrlein with more work to do than he would have expected.

He would need to outscore his championship rivals at Rome, should he want to remain in the championship fight, and take it right down to the wire in the finale at London. But with Formula E known for its unpredictability, a 16-point gap can be wiped out in no time, and thus Wehrlein is definitely not one to be counted out of the championship fight.

Mitch Evans

Evans drove to P4 in Portland; Credit - Jaguar Racing

Every championship between multiple drivers always has an underdog. Though the driver sits further off, he can spring a big surprise in the upcoming weekend, and put himself firmly into the main battle once again. And this has more chances of prevailing in a series as unpredictable and competitive as Formula E, where it is on the driver to make the difference. And that driver has a huge chance of closing the gap this weekend, at a circuit which bodes superbly for him.

Sitting 32 points off leader Dennis is Jaguar driver Mitch Evans. On his day, he is unstoppable, as evidenced by his wins at Sao Paulo and Berlin earlier this year, but those days have come few and far this season. Apart from the wins, he has finished on the podium only twice, runners-up to his fellow Kiwi Cassidy at Monaco, and third at Jakarta.

A fourth place at Portland, achieved from 20th on the grid, should instil some confidence heading into the home stretch of the season, nevertheless, Evans is still a driver with an outside chance of winning his maiden Formula E title.

His charge this season hasn’t been helped by two major run-ins with teammate Sam Bird at Hyderabad and Jakarta, both costing him valuable points in a tightly-contested championship battle. A penalty for overuse of power on lap 11 of the Cape Town E Prix too cost him valuable points, the Jaguar driver having started fourth on the grid, and narrowly missing out on points in 11th.

However, the Jaguar driver would certainly be looking forward to the Rome E Prix weekend, and catapult himself back into the thick of it once again. After all, this is the track where Evans won twice last year. A good showing at Rome will put Evans firmly into the championship charge once again, with all to play for at the ExCel Arena in London.

The Road Ahead

Standing ahead of the championship-contending quartet is the home stretch: Two double-headers, one in the European heartland of Rome, and the tricky test of the indoor-outdoor circuit at ExCel Arena, London. Who will excel (pun not intended) and drive their heart out in order to achieve what they’ve been dreaming of, ever since they started racing way back in January? Only time will be able to tell us the tale.


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