Formula E

Pascal Wehrlein Claims Sensational Victory Under the Diriyah Lights

5 Mins read
Credit: Simon Galloway courtesy of FIA Formula E

Pascal Wehrlein recovered from ninth place to claim his second-ever victory in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, as the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team driver claimed victory at the second round of the 2022/23 championship at the Riyadh Street Circuit. Championship leader Jake Dennis recovered from eleventh to claim second at the Diriyah E-Prix, with Sam Bird rounding off the podium on his one-hundredth race in the all-electric series.

Sam Bird Makes the Dream Start

A stunning lights and drone show set the exceptional mood for the first of two races this weekend at the Riyadh Street Circuit, with Sébastian Buemi having started on pole for the second round of the championship. The race was initially set for thirty-nine laps; however, additional laps are added at the end of the race following any Safety Cars.

As the lights went out in the Diriyah night, it was Buemi who made the perfect launch off the line, as Jake Hughes behind was slow to get going, resulting in somewhat of a concertina effect behind which was only worsened by Mitch Evans running wide. It all bunched up at the expense of António Félix da Costa, who had nowhere to go except into the back of Oliver Rowland in front. A one-lap Safety Car was needed to recover Da Costa’s stricken front-wing, before Buemi restarted the race in fine fashion.

Little overtaking took place following the restart; however, Bird managed to overtake Hughes for second, with Buemi and Bird having looked all weekend like the fastest drivers. The Jaguar TCS Racing driver was right on the back of Buemi almost immediately, as the two Formula E centurions prepared for an imminent battle. Buemi’s and Bird’s pace was evident, as a gap between the leading duo and Hughes and Dan Ticktum behind quickly appeared.

On Lap Seven, Bird finally made his move at Turn Seventeen on Buemi, as the Envision Racing driver put up next to no fight whilst losing the race lead. Whilst Bird was then suddenly building a lead over Buemi, further down the field, Mexico City E-Prix winner Dennis made his way into the top ten, after starting eleventh. A great group was formed from fifth to tenth, as several drivers began to take their first Attack Mode, largely due to René Rast being off the pace at the front of the pack.

Bird Breaks Away Whilst Wehrlein Charges Again

Whilst Bird was clearing off into the distance, all the action was taking place in the midfield, with rookie Sacha Fenestraz having embarrassingly hit the wall whilst activating his first Attack Mode, breaking his front-wing as a result, resulting in an unfortunate pit-stop. Back at the front, and Bird took his first Attack Mode, yet managed to remain in the lead, thanks to his healthy margin over Buemi and Hughes behind.

The main man on the move, though, was once again Wehrlein, who got himself into fourth on Lap Fifteen despite having started the race in ninth, highlighting the race performance of Porsche’s powertrain. On Lap Eighteen, Hughes decided to become the first of the group battling for second place to take his first Attack Mode; however, the British driver did have less energy than those ahead.

In the other Jaguar it was misery for Evans, who was awarded a five-second time penalty for being deemed as at fault for the opening corner multi-car bumper cars, effectively ending his hopes of a points finish, despite running in eighth. At the front, and it was evident that Buemi was the slowest of the leading pack, with Wehrlein having gotten right on the rear of the Envision Racing driver. A few places further down and Dennis was making great progress towards the top five, with the Brit having gotten himself into sixth behind Rast.

On Lap Twenty-Three, Bird activated his second Attack Mode and once again maintained the lead, thanks to Buemi having opted to activate his first; however, Wehrlein got ahead of the Swiss driver and instantly began to apply the pressure on the race leader.

Wehrlein and Dennis Hit the Front

On Lap Twenty-Five, Wehrlein’s pace was absolutely incredible, to the point where the German driver dived down the inside of Bird at Turn Seventeen, although, he failed to make the epic move stick after running wide at the corner. Bird and Wehrlein both broke away from Buemi behind, whilst Dennis moved closer to the leading trio after overtaking Hughes for fifth. Wehrlein loomed behind Bird terrifyingly, with it seemingly being a case of when, not if he’d overtake the centurion.

He finally made the move on Bird stick at Turn Seventeen on Lap Thirty, with his pace and energy advantage having been clear as day to see. Whilst Wehrlein took the lead of the race, Dennis made further progress after overtaking Rast and Buemi, elevating the championship leader into third. Wehrlein’s and Dennis’ Porsche powertrain was the strongest by a mile, with no one having been able to compete with their pace. Almost in the blink of an eye, Dennis was suddenly right behind Bird for second, whilst Wehrlein was breaking away easily out front.

On Lap Thirty-Four, Dennis made his move on Bird at the exact same corner as Wehrlein, elevating the British driver into second. At the same time, Wehrlein activated his final Attack Mode and re-joined the racing-line right ahead of Dennis; however, the Avalanche Andretti Formula E driver had more energy than the German.

Wehrlein Holds on For Sensational Victory

On Lap Thirty-Six, it was announced that there would be no additional laps, meaning Dennis had three laps to try and find a way past Wehrlein to claim a second consecutive win of the season. The two leading drivers rapidly built a gap of several seconds to Bird in third, with the Brit having become somewhat lonely on-track.

As the penultimate lap began, Dennis was right on the back of Wehrlein, as the duo who claimed first and second at the season opener looked set to do battle. On the final lap, the duo were right together, with there having been absolutely nothing to separate the two down the bobsleigh run. Wehrlein defended magnificently across the entire final lap to claim his second-ever victory in Formula E from Dennis, who crossed the line narrowly behind the German driver. Bird went on to claim a lonely third whilst Buemi finished fourth and Rast in fifth, to seal the top five places. Rast also claimed the additional point for fastest lap, whilst Buemi received an additional three for pole position.

The result meant that the drivers who finished first and second in Mexico City switched places at the first race of the weekend in Diriyah, with Dennis having narrowly maintained his championship lead. It was a truly brilliant race where Porsche’s powertrain proved to be sensational, they’ll be hoping to do it again in Round Three in Diriyah on Saturday.

Diriyah E-Prix Round 2: Race Full Results

POS.NO.DRIVER.NAT.TEAM.TIME/GAP.
194Pascal WehrleinGERTAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team47:45.567
227Jake DennisGBRAvalanche Andretti Formula E+0.531
310Sam BirdGBRJaguar TCS Racing+3.526
416Sébastian BuemiCHEEnvision Racing+6.048
558René RastGERNEOM McLaren Formula E Team+7.471
637Nick CassidyNZLEnvision Racing+7.614
725Jean-Éric VergneFRADS Penske+12.394
85Jake HughesGBRNEOM McLaren Formula E Team+15.187
936André LottererGERAvalanche Andretti Formula E+15.563
109Mitch EvansNZLJaguar TCS Racing+17.914
111Stoffel VandoorneBELDS Penske+26.307
1217Norman NatoFRANissan Formula E Team+27.070
1311Lucas di GrassiBRZMahindra Racing+28.799
1433Dan TicktumGBRNIO 333 Racing+37.318
153Sérgio Sette CâmaraBRZNIO 333 Racing+45.034
164Kelvin van der LindeZAFABT CUPRA Formula E Team+1:00.135
1723Sacha FenestrazFRANissan Formula E Team+1:09.547
1813António Félix da CostaPORTAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team+1 Lap
198Oliver RowlandGBRMahindra Racing+1 Lap
2048Edoardo MortaraCHEMaserati MSG RacingDNF
2151Nico MuellerCHEABT CUPRA Formula E TeamDNF
227Maximilian GüntherGERMaserati MSG RacingDNS
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