Avalanche Andretti’s, Jake Dennis took a comfortable victory at the Mexico City ePrix to kick off the newest generation of Formula E. Following a string of consistent top-four finishes at the backend of last season, the 27-year-old is demonstrating the type of form needed to fight for the title in 2023. The Brit was joined on the podium by Porsche’s, Pascal Wehrlein, and Mahindra’s, Lucas di Grassi.
There have been some big overhauls to the series since its previous outing in Seoul back in August. Firstly, the new year introduced the powerful Gen3 cars, with a maximum power output that has more than doubled from 250kW to a massive 600kW. This allows the third generation to exceed speeds of 200mph, while being 25% more efficient and 60 kg lighter. These changes deliver a more technologically advanced and sustainable vehicle for the championship.
Despite many of the teams and driver line-ups having seen changes, the qualifying format stays the same. NIO 333’s Dan Ticktum was able to make the duels for the second time in his Formula E career, losing out to NEOM McLaren’s newcomer Jake Hughes. The Andretti pair of, Dennis and André Lotterer, both made the semis, but it was, di Grassi, who took pole with ease.
At the race start, the leaders wasted no time getting up to speed and they all completed the first lap without incident. However, further back, ABT CUPRA’s, Robin Frijns, caused a heavy shunt into the rear of Norman Nato’s Nissan, leaving both the Dutch and French drivers with broken suspension, and an early retirement. More severely, Frijns sustained a broken wrist during the incident. Shortly after, a miserable weekend for Jaguar’s, Sam Bird, ended abruptly as a broken driveshaft forced him to pull over at Turn 2.
These two events caused two separate Safety Car periods, with green flag racing returning from Lap 10 of the 36 around the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. At the restart, di Grassi, led from the British pair of, Dennis and Hughes, but a poor getaway for the Brazilian left him vulnerable. On Lap 12, di Grassi made a mistake on the exit of Turn 1, giving Dennis the opportunity to take the lead with a lunge down the inside of Turn 3. In the meantime, Wehrlein had been able to pass Ticktum for fifth place. Ultimately, an error from the NIO driver resulted in a drive-through penalty for over-consuming power; ending the Chinese team’s best chance of scoring points in the opening round.
It has been a change of fortune for Edoardo Mortara, and the newly renamed Maserati MSG squad – previously Venturi Racing. The 36-year-old Swiss racer has been a title contender at the front of the field over the last two seasons of Formula E; having finished as a runner-up in 2020-21, and third place in 2021-22. The transition to the new Gen3 has not gone smoothly for Mortara. He struggled in Qualifying, managing a lowly P16 that saw his race end in the barriers after losing the rear of his Maserati at Turn 1. This brought out a third Safety Car, with the race restarting on Lap 21.
From here on out, it was complete control at the head of the field from Andretti’s Dennis. After using more energy during his time leading, di Grassi, was now struggling to hold on to second place, allowing Dennis to slowly pull away from the pack. On Lap 26, both di Grassi and Hughes took Attack Mode, but were caught napping by Wehrlein in the Porsche, as the German was able to rise from fourth to second in just one corner.
While the Mahindra of di Grassi was able to repass Wehrlein with his extra power, Hughes was unsuccessful. Despite this, the Brazilian was still struggling for energy in comparison to his rivals, and on Lap 29, he was overtaken once again by Wehrlein - this time for good.
It was now a three-way battle for the final spot on the podium. Due to the previous incidents, there had been five added laps to the planned total of 36. In keeping third place, di Grassi held off Hughes by addressing his energy issue. Now, the focus was on Hughes not to lose position to Andretti’s feisty German veteran, Lotterer.
Under pressure, Hughes became desperate to clear di Grassi due to the threat that Lotterer was posing. However, a yellow flag at the Turn 9 chicane reduced the threat of an overtake by the McLaren driver. Ironically, with the yellow flag being replaced by a slippery surface warning, it was Lotterer who was able to advance as he made a move stick on Hughes into the chicane of the final lap.
At the front, Dennis, crossed the line to win by 7.5 seconds, giving Avalanche Andretti their first victory of Season 9. The Brit now leads the Formula E Championship for the first time in his career, and will certainly be seen as a title favourite. After winning from pole here last year, Wehrlein took second from sixth place on the grid, with an impressive exhibition of race strategy from his Porsche squad. In a difficult display, polesitter, di Grassi was still able to score his 40th FE podium of an illustrious career.
Next up, is the Diriyah double-header on the 27th - 28th January in Saudi Arabia.