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Vergne’s Masterclass in the Inaugural Hyderabad E-Prix

Written by Simran Kanthi, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Credit: Simon Galloway - Formula E

What was an inaugural E-Prix in India, turned out to be one of the best and most remarkable Formula E races in a long time. Jean-Eric Vergne won a thrilling race in Hyderabad which consisted of action and drama in almost every lap.

After the calm settled over the emotions that the Hyderabad E-Prix is nothing short of historic on Friday, the excitement and buzz loomed over Saturday, where all the action happens on a typical Formula E weekend. Free Practice 2 kicked off early in the day on the high-speed flowing corners of the Hyderabad Street Circuit, where the top 15 drivers were separated by only six-tenths of a second.

It could have been a clean sweep for McLaren during the group stages of the Qualifying when both Jake Hughes and Rene Rast topped in the timings sheet but unfortunately, Hughes’ best times were deleted since the team did not respect the minimum pit stop time. Turns 1 and 2 were causing issues for most of the drivers and it was evident during the Duels. Rast, Sam Bird, and Edoardo Mortara had their lap times deleted for crossing the track limits which gave Jean-Eric Vergne a free pass into the semi-finals. In the end, it was the strong-looking Jaguar of Mitch Evans on the pole position.

Credit: Simon Galloway - Formula E

Taking the ATTACK MODE early in the race, Evans lost out the lead to Sebastien Beumi and dropped to third behind Vergne. It was a catastrophe for Jaguar TCS Racing on lap 13 which saw Bird make a lunge on Sacha Fenestraz at the hairpin but could not stop the car and crashed straight into his teammate Evans causing him to spin which ultimately resulted in both cars’ retirement. Fenestraz and Maximilian Gunther were caught up in the incident which tumbled them down the order. Two laps later, Vergne took the lead from Buemi.

Benefitting from the Jaguar crash were Nick Cassidy and Jake Dennis who found themselves in second and third place from 9th and 11th positions. Buemi passed Dennis when the Andretti driver activated his second ATTACK MODE, but he looked faster and was chasing down the Envision driver for a place on the podium. Hughes brought out the Safety Car on lap 23 when he lost the car at the exit of the hairpin. After the restart, Rast rear-ended Dennis - who was looking for a podium finish - which saw the Brit go into the pits due to damage and ending his chances to overtake Pascal Wehrlein in the championship standings.

Credit: Sam Bloxham - Formula E

It was all about the Vergne versus Cassidy show after that, with the latter right on the heels of the Frenchman the whole time and with more energy. But in a true and classic Vergne defence, the two-time Formula E champion fended off all that the Kiwi threw at him. He put his car in all the right places and did not allow it to be overtaken. On the last lap (32 plus 1 added lap due to the safety car), at one point, Vergne’s battery came down to 0% charge but his energy management in all his experience brought him out first at the chequered flag. It was a masterclass drive, one of his best ever, that got him back to winning ways, after two years, at the top step of the podium since Rome 2021 in Season 7.

Buemi came home third to make it a double podium for Envision, only to be given a post-race drive-through penalty equivalent to 17 seconds for an overpower infringement which dropped him down to P15. That bumped up Antonio Felix da Costa to third place, marking his 100th race in Formula E with a podium finish. His Porsche teammate and championship leader Wehrlein finished fourth, starting from 12th, and extended his lead to Dennis by 18 points. Sergio Sette Camara kept out of trouble and finished fifth for NIO 333 Racing which was their best finish since Season 4. Oliver Rowland scored his first and crucial points for Mahindra in their home race finishing sixth. Nissan’s Norman Nato came seventh with the fastest lap of the race. Stoffel Vandoorne at eighth had his best result of the season yet. Andre Lotterer came in ninth and Edoardo Mortara got the last point after early damage to his front wing.

Vergne’s victory got him to third in the drivers’ standings and Porsche leads the teams’ championship at 101 points to Andretti’s 78.

Credit: Sam Bloxham - Formula E

Drivers’ thoughts…

Nick Cassidy on being asked about the P2 finish and the track,

“I don’t really like climbing ladders [started from P9] but today we had to do it. It was a good race, I was also very lucky. But we had good speed as well. It was a fast track. It was great. There were a lot of people, so it feels really good.”

When asked about being a centurion in Formula E with a podium in a historic E-Prix, Antonio Felix da Costa said,

“It was an emotional day and a weekend I have to say. Looking back at the other 99 starts that I did, using that experience to capitalise on a day like today. I knew I had a good race car so yeah, just go forward. I am super happy with the podium. He continued when asked about the terrific result without having any track time in Free Practice 1 on Friday, “Absolutely, we missed a lot of track time. Again, it’s the experience that was my biggest strength today. And yeah, I’m really happy I came all the way to India and got a podium in my 100th race.”

What the Mahindra Racing drivers had to say after the team’s first home race in nine seasons.

Oliver Rowland:

“Good points, first of the season for me. It has been a mega weekend. I think I had a bit of pressure. Obviously, we have a lot of fans here at the home race, the big bosses from Mahindra are here, they were in my garage, so it was an element of pressure. We performed well in the race. Lucas did a great job, I did a great job. The car was good, it was competitive. We have to now understand why, because honestly, it came as a bit of a surprise but at least we showed some promise. Without the penalty, I think I would have been on the podium. Because I knew I had five seconds [penalty] when I tried to pass Buemi and then da Costa got me because of that. I wouldn’t have done that if I had have known.”

Lucas di Grassi:

“Very happy to be here. The circuit was very good as well. Very happy with the result from the team. Collected good points here in India, very important points for us. Oli [Oliver] did a fantastic race. Together with me, we would both be P5 and P7. Just a few laps in the end and very happy that he managed to finish P6 and it’s very important points for the team. I hope we will come back next year. On how the relationship with the new Team Principal Frederic Bertrand is, di Grassi said, “we are getting better, the team is getting better and the car is getting better. We need to improve but we are gonna be there.”

Credit: Sam Bloxham - Formula E

All in all, it was an entertaining and successful first Hyderabad E-Prix. The drivers enjoyed the circuit. The race was thrilling. It is one of the tracks where the car could reach top speed and also has the hairpin corner which is the biggest stopping zone in the calendar. The historic event was attended by over 25,000 spectators, including FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem and several Indian sportspersons and celebrities. It is the opinion of many that Hyderabad should become a permanent fixture in the Formula E calendar.


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