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Pascal Wehrlein celebrating his second victory of the weekend in Diriyah.

Formula E: Double delight in Diriyah for Wehrlein

Does Diriyah mark the dawn of Porsche domination?

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Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein was the man to beat all weekend, securing the win in both Friday and Saturday’s races.

Wehrlein and Porsche celebrating their victory on Friday.
Porsche were overjoyed after Wehrlein’s back-to-back victories. (Image credit: TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team)

It was a double race weekend in Diriyah, and it belonged to Pascal Wehrlein. The Porsche driver bagged back-to-back victories after two incredible drives, in a dominant display that has firmly established both Wehrlein and Porsche as title contenders. 

The Diriyah E-Prix also saw Jake Dennis clinch a double podium, finishing P2 in both races. It was the pair’s third consecutive 1-2 finish, after Dennis beat Wehrlein to the top step of the podium at the Mexico City E-Prix

“I’ll never forget this weekend. Two wins are an unbelievable success,” said Wehrlein after Saturday’s race. “The whole team gave a fantastic performance over the weekend. Everybody worked hard for this achievement and I’m incredibly proud of the team.”

Climbing the grid on Friday

It was a hard-fought series of victories for Wehrlein, who started neither race on the front row. On Friday, it was Envision’s Sebastian Buemi that started from pole position, whilst Wehrlein started from a less-than-ideal P9. A stellar drive and a series of impressive overtakes saw Wehrlein climb the rankings. Jaguar’s Sam Bird made a move on Buemi early in the race, overtaking the Envision driver on Lap 7. Bird looked strong all race, and it seemed like he might have the race win under his belt.

However, Wehrlein was steadily making his way up the grid. He swept past Buemi when the Envision driver entered attack mode on Lap 22. The German driver then began to hunt down race leader Bird.

A terrific overtake on Turn 18 allowed Wehrlein to take the lead of the race on Lap 30. From that point on, it was a matter of holding off Jake Dennis, whose Porsche powered Avalanche Andretti had been lightning-quick all day. 

Wehrlein and the Porsche team were overjoyed after Friday’s victory. “What a great race,” said Wehrlein. “I knew we had a good car, even though not everything went to plan in qualifying with P9. Still, I was confident that I could make up a few positions. But I didn’t expect to win!”

Continued success on Saturday

Qualifying on Saturday went better for Wehrlein, allowing him to start from P5 on the grid. Once again, the lack of a front row start proved to be no obstacle for the Porsche driver. Having already established himself as a threat on Friday, all eyes were on Wehrlein — would he be able to make his way to the podium again?     

The answer was a resounding yes. An overtake on Turn 1 of Lap 17 handed Wehrlein the lead of the race. Jake Dennis attempted to catch up to Wehrlein, but an excellent restart from the German driver after a safety car was deployed on Lap 28 enabled Wehrlein to pull away from Dennis. An extra lap was added, and though Dennis tried once more to close the gap, it was Wehrlein who crossed the line victorious.

“This weekend has been incredible, a double victory”, said a visibly ecstatic Wehrlein. “Our race pace was incredible again and today we had the perfect strategy, using the ATTACK modes at the right time and not having to use it again after the safety car – that was crucial.

“What can I say, just amazing for my team – all their hard work has finally paid off and I am so proud of them. This weekend is one I will never forget.”

Despite starting from a better position on the grid, Saturday’s race was no less challenging for Wehrlein.

“[T]oday was not easy and I would say it was even a bit more difficult,” said Wehrlein after the race. “Obviously the others learned from yesterday, Sam Bird had quite a lot of energy in the end but still had to take his attack mode – so that probably saved us a little bit. But you could clearly see they made steps forward today and that made it a bit more difficult.

“You could see that our rivals were catching up. That means we can’t rest on our laurels either.”

Competition from Dennis

The Diriyah E-Prix may mark the beginnings of a championship battle between two Porsche-powered teams. Wehrlein and Dennis went into Saturday’s race separated by only one point. After Wehrlein’s second victory, they left Diriyah six points apart.

Avalanche Andretti, who use the Porsche 99X Electric Gen3 powertrain, were exceptionally quick all weekend. Dennis was hot on the heels of Wehrlein, climbing the grid from P11 to P2 on Friday, and going from P6 to P2 on Saturday. Only three races into the season, the two drivers have already firmly established themselves as the pair to look out for.

Featured Image Credit: TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team 

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