Jean-Éric Vergne returned to the top step in Formula E’s Hyderabad round after surviving pressure, and a qualifying session where track limits became a major talking point. The French driver’s victory launched his 2022-23 campaign, after a tough opening to the season. He’s now looking to recover ground on runaway leader, Pascal Wehrlein.
In qualifying, Sam Bird, Edoardo Mortara, and René Rast all had their times deleted in the quarter-final of the duels. The beneficiary of this was DS Penske’s Vergne, who advanced through to the final. However, it was Jaguar’s Mitch Evans who took his second consecutive pole position in a tight showdown. Championship protagonists Pascal Wehrlein and Jake Dennis both failed to make the duels, and started alongside each other on the sixth row.
Despite the dusty nature of the track surface, a clean start saw Evans hold off Vergne for the lead. At the beginning of the second lap, Envision’s Nick Cassidy showed his pace, and moved up to sixth with a slick move on Bird. Just a lap later the Kiwi was almost removed from the contest as a result of an overly ambitious move from Maserati’s Mortara. This resulted in the Swiss driver pitting for a new front wing, and returning to the track at the back of the pack.
On Lap 7, race leader Evans took his first Attack Mode, but lost ground, and filtered back out into fourth. Simultaneously, Envision’s Sébastien Buemi dived past Vergne to take the lead. Evans’ managed to gain a place back and took P3 from Sacha Fenestraz. His efforts to recover first place were halted when Buemi took his first Attack Mode. The Swiss driver lost P1 to Vergne, but was able to hold Evans’ Jaguar behind him. Next, it was the turn of Vergne to take Attack Mode, handing the lead back to Buemi. Further down the field, Dennis had been able to rise up to ninth place, whereas his title rival Wehrlein struggled outside of the points.
Lap 14 saw a depiction of the cardinal sin of motorsport. Jaguar’s Bird, tried to pass Fenestraz for fourth, but misjudged the overtake and took his teammate Evans out of the race in an unfortunate turn of events. Both Fenestraz and Maximilian Günther were caught up in the fracas; neither would go on to score points. An apologetic Bird retired shortly after, leaving Jaguar without any points, despite securing pole position, and P6 on the grid.
This allowed Cassidy to jump up to third in a matter of a few corners, while Dennis rose to fifth place. At the front, Vergne retook the lead from Buemi when the Swiss driver failed to successfully use his second Attack Mode. With both Envision cars keeping a rampant Jake Dennis at bay, the British driver narrowly avoided an incident despite colliding with Buemi into the Turn 3 hairpin. His championship rival Wehrlein, had risen to ninth through all the ensuing chaos.
A Safety Car on Lap 24 backed the pack up after McLaren’s Jake Hughes suffered an unusual crash. The rookie claimed that his mirror came loose and became jammed in his steering wheel. At the restart, his German teammate, Rast, rear-ended Dennis, causing heavy damage to both. While Rast would retire immediately, Dennis had to pit because of a puncture, and he was unable to salvage any points. This allowed Wehrlein to move up to seventh place in the process.
At the head of the field, and with five laps remaining, Vergne was under immense pressure from the Envision duo of Cassidy and Buemi. Despite Cassidy holding a major energy advantage over Vergne, the Frenchman showed every inch of his talent, and somehow held on for a historic victory. The first Formula E race in India was won by DS Penske; the American team’s first victory in the series since the Mexico ePrix in 2016. This was also Vergne’s first win in almost two years, and the two-time Formula E Champion grabbed his eleventh P1 in the series.
Out of the Top 10 on the grid, only Vergne, Cassidy, and António Félix Da Costa, finished in the points. This trio would find themselves on the podium together. It was Buemi who crossed the line in third, but a post-race penalty for overconsumption saw him lose his first podium in two and a half years. Finally, having benefited from the carnage at the end, Porsche’s Wehrlein achieved an excellent P4 from twelfth on the grid. This helped extend his championship lead to 18 points on a day where Dennis failed to score.
The fifth round of the 2022-23 Formula E Championship will see another newcomer to the calendar, as South Africa debuts its Cape Town Street Circuit on the 25th February.