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Three in a row for Mitch Evans amid chaos and crashes in Rome

Written by Vyas Ponnuri

Evans drove a brilliant race to victory; Credit - FIA Formula E

Gen2 or Gen3, 2022 or 2023, nothing could stop Mitch Evans at Rome once again, as the Kiwi romped to a hat-trick of Rome victories, and his fourth in five races around the streets of the Italian capital city.


It was a near-faultless drive from the Jaguar driver, who leapfrogged Pascal Wehrlein for third in the standings, and stands only 19 points off fellow Kiwi, and championship leader Nick Cassidy. The latter took the lead from Jake Dennis, who had a tough finish to the race, having overused energy while in the lead.


Dennis finished fourth, holding off DS Penske's Jean-Eric Vergne and the ABT Cupra of Nico Muller, who found himself in sixth after a superb drive, taking more points in a single race than his team had netted all season.


Pascal Wehrlein had a tough race, with opening lap spars causing damage to his front wing, and dropping him to the rear of the field. The ensuing major crash and red flag brought him back into contention, and the German made his way back up to seventh by the flag, limiting the damage to the three contenders ahead.


Nonetheless, it was an eventful race, with plenty of incidents and feel-good stories highlighting the weekend, with big swings in the championship spicing up the battle even further.


Evans started the race on pole position; Credit - Jaguar TCS Racing

AS IT HAPPENED

Earlier in the day, Mitch Evans continued his good form from the year prior, taking pole position around Rome's street circuit. It was an all-Jaguar front row, with his teammate Sam Bird too making it to the final, the duo having got the better of Sebastian Buemi's Envision Racing and Sacha Fenestraz's Nissan respectively.


The rest of the championship contenders started lower down, with Dennis the highest-placed starter on the grid in seventh. Cassidy and Wehrlein were the biggest names not to make it out of the group stages, starting ninth and tenth respectively.


A huge crash for McLaren's Jake Dennis in qualifying meant he wouldn't be able to start the race, the McLaren team unable to repair his car in time for the race. The ensuing red flag due to the crash cost Cassidy big time.


As the five red lights went out, Bird managed to beat his teammate Evans off the line, and took the lead into turn four, the opening corner for the race. Lower down the field, Maserati's Edoardo Mortara out-braked himself into turn seven, and took Buemi wide.


The failed overtake allowed Buemi's teammate Cassidy through, and caused damage to Wehrlein's front wing. The German limped around the track, and eventually returned to the pits for a front wing change. He rejoined dead last, and would have a long day ahead.


However, he was given a reprieve on the day, as Dennis's teammate Andre Lotterer went into the wall at the fast turn six, on lap two, bringing out the safety car. This allowed Wehrlein to close up to the rest of the grid, and a chance at limiting damage to the championship contenders.


It was a short turn-around before the restart, which saw Evans re-take the lead from Bird. The former leader would go on to lose two more positions to Fenestraz and Rene Rast. Elsewhere, Evans took his first attack mode, rejoining behind Fenestraz. The Nissan driver then proceeded to take attack mode himself the following lap, rejoining just ahead of Evans.


Although, it would be turn six once again the centre of attention, this time for a multi-car pile-up. On lap nine, Bird went over a manhole cover at turn six, and bottomed out over the bumps, spinning on the run down to turn seven. Dennis avoided running into the Jaguar driver, but the same couldn't be said for Da Costa and Buemi, who were unsighted, and clattered into Bird, with Buemi briefly airborne, before coming to a halt.


The DS Penske cars right behind Buemi escaped with minor damage, but Mortara was caught out, smashing into the side of the stranded Jaguar. Mahindra's Lucas Di Grassi and ABT Cupra's Robin Frijns were also victims of the major incident, and a red flag was called out, to clear the smattering of carbon fibre and the stricken cars on track.



Post the red flag - Many feel-good stories headline a tough race

The race was largely neutralised due to the red flag, and many drivers sensed an opportunity to score big points, on the day. It was Fenestraz who led the field off the line once again. However, the biggest winner off the second start was Jake Dennis, the Andretti driver getting ahead of third-placed Rast, and hounding Evans for the next few laps.


Rast would pull into the pit lane shortly after, though, underlining a tough day for the papaya team. Meanwhile, it was Dennis once again making moves at the front, overtaking Evans into turn seven for second on lap 15.

Cassidy drove a quiet race to finish second; Credit - FIA Formula E

Cassidy had silently made his way up into fourth by then, and was catching the leading trio. At the front, Fenestraz was struggling to maintain his energy, being as much as 3% down on the ensuing trio.


Fenestraz was soon swallowed up by the leading trio, and it became a straight fight between them for the lead. Dennis was ahead, but had less energy left compared to Evans and Cassidy behind.


And it wouldn't be long before Evans was knocking on the door. Dennis took six minutes of attack mode on lap 18, with Cassidy taking two minutes, as the race neared its late stages. Evans, who re-took the lead, attempted to take attack mode on lap 19, but critically, missed the activation point by half-a-wheel. Perhaps his only blot in a perfect weekend.


Evans took attack mode the following lap, and closed up to Dennis, who was slowing due to lack of energy. He swooped ahead of Dennis on lap 22, and took the lead of the race. It wasn't long before his fellow Kiwi Cassidy followed through, as Dennis suddenly went from the lead to battling for a podium.


And even the podium would soon be out of reach, as Max Gunther swept past Dennis in his Maserati at turn seven a lap later. Dennis soon fell into the clutches of Vergne and Muller, who was having a sterling race for ABT Cupra, and threatening an unlikely top-four finish. The race would have two added laps, and thus became a 27-lap race, from the original 25.


A late incident for Vergne's teammate Stoffel Vandoorne at turn seven brought out a yellow flag, taking a major overtaking spot out of the equation.

Truly the king of Rome - MItch Evans. Credit - FIA Formula E

It was a perfect showing for Evans, who won for the fourth time at Rome, and a hat-trick of wins at the circuit, backing up his strong showings in 2022. Cassidy finished second, and gained the lead of the standings from Dennis. Gunther gave Maserati a home podium with a third-place finish.


Dennis defended masterfully from Vergne and Muller to finish fourth, with Muller taking ABT Cupra's best finish of the season. Pascal Wehrlein made it up to seventh, taking six crucial points on a tough day. Fenestraz's teammate Norman Nato, NIO 333's Sergio Sette Camara, and Fenestraz rounded out the top ten, after an attritious race saw only 13 drivers make it past the chequered flag.


A lot of stories from the race warmed the hearts, from a Kiwi 1-2, to Gunther taking Maserati's home podium, and Dennis' stout defence of fourth, along with Muller finishing a lofty sixth on the road.


The best part, though, is that the 22 drivers will be back to do the same all over again, in less than 24 hours time. Do make sure to tune in to Round 14 the following day, as more swings await in the championship race.

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