After a subdued Mexico season opener, Pascal Wehrlein won for Porsche with Jake Dennis in his Andretti and Sam Bird in the Jaguar also on the podium.
Practice heralded some surprises with Jaguar who seemingly were nowhere in Mexico, topping FP1 with Sam Bird and perennial back markers of the last few years NIO once again continuing their rise up the grid with Dan Ticktum topping FP2. However, it wasn’t all bliss during free practice as Nico Muller crashed which led him to miss qualifying.
Qualifying was a mixed bag in terms of predictability and shocks. The same drivers from Mexico who progressed into the duels were there in Jake Hughes, Rene Rast, Lucas Di Grassi, Sebastian Buemi and Ticktum. However, the group section was a disaster for Maserati MSG who had both their cars crash out with Maximilian Gunther not being able to even make the race due to damage sustained.
The main surprises of Qualifying as in general were Jaguar somehow finding pace and Bird getting into the semi finals and Mitch Evans getting into the quarter finals. However, when it came down to it the ever impressive rookie Jake Hughes was beaten to pole in the Qualifying final by championship stalwart Buemi with a gap of just 0.060 seconds.
With Buemi on pole and Hughes in second, Most expected this to be a fight between these drivers. However, the race turned out to be so different. After the usual lap one incident that often happens in Formula E which this time involved Antonio Felix Da Costa and Oliver Rowland.
Buemi and Hughes slipped down the field with the high flying Sam Bird building a significant lead as the race progressed. This however wasn’t to be the decided winner.
During the race both Porsche powered cars in the factory driver Pascal Wehrlein and the Avalanche Andretti of Dennis slowly exploited the Porsche’s high energy efficacy in race conditions to come up through the field from P9 and P11 to P3 and P2 respectively. What followed in the second half of the race was a reminder of why Formula E tenses the body and excites the mind in a way not many other series do.
Wehrlein and Dennis both overtook Bird to set up an intriguing fight in the last nine laps with Dennis having half a percent more energy than Wehrlein it looked liked Dennis would take a back to back win. However, Pascal displayed a defensive masterclass which pressured Dennis into dropping back in the last lap and failing to complete a thrilling drive.
My closing thoughts
This performance from Wehrlein and Dennis should have the other manufacturers concerned as while marques like Jaguar, NIO and Nissan have quali pace.
It is certainly a shock at how the Weissach based squad have managed to get such efficiency and speed from the new dual powertrain setup in a way no other team has in race conditions. This will now certainly turn the season into a development war based on who can crack the code and produce what Porsche have done themselves.
Bar that the race certainly from my view got me off the seat and pacing around the room in a way that only Formula E can do consistently. This is certainly rasing expectations that the Saturday race can deliver the same.