Formula E finally made its long-awaited ePrix debut in Brazil on the streets of its most populous city, Sāo Paulo. The layout’s long straights and heavy braking zones through the Anhembi Sambadrome led to spectacular battling, with a mammoth 114 overtakes throughout the race. It was ultimately a compelling 1-2-3 for Jaguar powertrains, with Mitch Evans taking his seventh win in Formula E ahead of Envision’s Nick Cassidy and teammate Sam Bird.
The shorter nature of the track saw any mistakes heavily punished in qualifying. It was reigning champion Stoffel Vandoorne who shone above everyone else to take his first pole with new team DS Penske. Porsche’s António Félix da Costa and Jaguar’s Evans started second and third, respectively, while championship protagonists Pascal Wehrlein and Jake Dennis once again started way outside the top ten.
An awesome start from Vandoorne helped develop his lead, while both Edoardo Mortara and Norman Nato suffered race-ending damage as a result of collisions in the first few corners. For Swiss driver Mortara, this added further pain to a disastrous season so far. After starting the race in P4, a fourth retirement from six races now leaves the Maserati driver well adrift on just three points.
DS Penske went early with their Attack Mode strategy for Vandoorne at the front, with the Belgian dropping to second. This handed the race lead to Da Costa, but the Porsche driver was uncomfortable punching a hole at the front and duly handed the top spot back to Vandoorne on Lap 8. Da Costa then fell back to P4 behind Evans and Cassidy later on the same lap.
Meanwhile, further down the grid, Wehrlein – who had started a lowly P18 – somehow managed to pick his way through the pack up to tenth, one spot ahead of rival Jake Dennis.
Despite missing the previous race in Cape Town due to a crash in qualifying, Jaguar’s Sam Bird was on the charge from P10 and rose to sixth on Lap 9 after taking an early Attack Mode. The Safety Car briefly appeared on Lap 12 due to Sacha Fenestraz’s stricken Nissan.
Throughout the opening stage of the race, the strong draft on the long straights kept the field tightly packed together, with multiple position changes each lap. However, energy use was a constant concern for those who led during this phase. At the front, Cassidy pushed from fourth to steal the race lead, then immediately took his first Attack Mode. He would regain the lead on Lap 16, with Da Costa, Vandoorne and Evans following closely behind.
Unfortunately for Andretti Autosport, Jake Dennis’ race came to a grinding halt as a result of a hefty collision caused by the out-of-control NIO 333 of Dan Ticktum, resulting in a second Safety Car. A third consecutive pointless weekend for the British driver left him extremely frustrated and emotional after the race, labelling Ticktum a “plonker” for his conduct. Dennis remains second in the championship behind Wehrlein but is now in danger of being caught by multiple drivers and will need to bounce back for the double-header in Berlin in April.
Cassidy and Vandoorne went early again and took their second Attack Mode on Lap 20 following the restart. A lap later, it was the turn of Da Costa and Evans to take their first Attack Mode in pursuit of the lead. This strategy worked exceptionally well for Evans, who repassed Vandoorne before launching a move on Da Costa for P2. Finally, on Lap 21, the Kiwi took the race lead ahead of fellow countryman Cassidy.
Soon after, Evans took his final Attack Mode but remained within the top two thanks to the squabbling for third between Da Costa and Vandoorne. All the while, Wehrlein had managed to sneak his way into fifth place, looking to score a solid haul of points on a day when he had no right to, from P18 on the grid. The German’s unusual strategy of two late Attack Modes worked well, with drivers ahead of him making errors.
It was becoming a three-way fight between Cassidy, Evans and Da Costa in the battle for the win. However, on lap 25, the Portuguese driver made a crucial error to end his chances of victory. After completely missing Turn 1, he had to bring his Porsche to a complete halt before returning to the track and subsequently lost four spots, falling to seventh. This error benefited Sam Bird, who had managed his energy well in fifth place. It wasn’t long before Bird dispatched the two DS Penske’s ahead of him and began closing in on the duo out front.
An additional four laps for the Safety Car slowdowns allowed Evans to bide his time, eventually making the move on Cassidy into Turn 1 for the race lead. With Bird now on their tail, neither Evans nor Cassidy could let up in the remaining few laps. As the final lap started, it was an all-Kiwi tussle for victory, with Evans making some heavy defensive maneuverers to keep Cassidy behind. Ultimately, a great display of energy management helped Mitch Evans take his first win of the season and put his campaign back on track after a low-scoring start.
Pascal Wehrlein eventually finished seventh and took six points to extend his lead atop the standings – now 26 points ahead of Dennis in second. Cassidy’s third consecutive podium has propelled him into the title fight, while polesitter Vandoorne could only manage sixth as he lost more ground to those ahead. Aside from Dennis, every driver inside the top eleven in the standings scored points.
Formula E will return on 22nd April as Germany’s capital, Berlin, plays host to a double-header at its Tempelhof Airport Street Circuit.