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Mitch Evans of New Zealand and Jaguar TCS Racing drives on track during Free Practice ahead the Formula E 2023 Rome E-Prix

Rome E-Prix: Multi-car incident throws the pack order into disarray

Who's the King of Rome?

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A major shunt on lap 9 changed the pecking order at the Rome E-Prix, as the title contenders battled it out on track. 

Jaguar driver Mitch Evans with the pole position trophy
Polesitter Mitch Evans seems right at home in Rome… (Image credit: Formula E on Twitter)

It was an all-Jaguar front row, with title contender Mitch Evans starting in pole position. Evans was in good standing, as his championship rivals Cassidy, Dennis and Wehrlein all started from far further back. Heading into the race, Jake Dennis, who currently heads the standings, didn’t seem to be brimming with optimism. “The Jaguars this weekend are extremely strong,” Dennis said. “It’s going to be a tough day in the office today and tomorrow, but if we can just try and survive and pick up points here and there we should be pleased with that.”

In other news, McLaren’s Jake Hughes was unable to take part in Saturday’s race, following his shunt in qualifying. After making contact with the barriers in a high-speed section of the circuit, the rookie sustained significant damage to the front end of the chassis. The repair job proved too substantial to be completed in the few hours between qualifying and the race.

The damaged McLaren of Jake Hughes
Hughes’ McLaren was in a bad way. (Image credit: Formula E on Twitter)

Writing on Twitter after qualifying, Hughes confirmed that he was unharmed, writing: “All good from my side. Must have hit a bump slightly different to the lap before but it was all a bit sudden. Shame as we had strong pace by looks of it.”

No matter where they were starting on the grid, each of the 21 drivers shared a common obstacle to overcome: the heat. With Italy in the midst of a mighty heatwave, track temperatures were averaging about 59 degrees Celsius.

Starting grid

Lights out

A good start for Mitch Evans, but an excellent start for Sam Bird, who take the race lead from out under his teammate, From the get go it looked as of Sébastien Buemi was struggling with his car, as he slipped down from P4 to P9. There was a squeeze in Turn 7, the two Envisions going side by side into the corner.

Pascal Wehrlein, down in tenth, encountered problems early on in the race. It turned out that the nose of Wehrlein’s Porsche made contact with the rear of the Maserati ahead, picking up damage and forcing Wehrlein into the pits on lap two.

The Jaguars continued to hold onto the lead of the race, Fenestraz in third and Rast now up into fourth. Jake Dennis gained two places on the opening lap and was now trailing Rast in P5. Mitch Evans fancied an overtake on his teammate; though he attempted to line a move up, he couldn’t put it into motion.

Lotterer out

Going too deep into Turn 6, Avalanche Andretti driver Andre Lotterer made contact with the barriers, sustaining damage to the front end of the car. The incident brought out a safety car as marshalls began to recover the stricken Andretti.

The safety car came in at the end of lap 4 and racing got back underway, with a clean restart for the two Jaguars. Mitch Evans made a move on Bird in the run-up to Turn 6, taking hold of the race lead. Meanwhile, Nick Cassidy attempted to close the gap to Jake Dennis.

Making moves

On lap 6, Sacha Fenestraz was able to get ahead of Sam Bird, slipping up into second place. With Jaguar’s defence tactic jeopardised, Evans was now vulnerable to possible attacks from the Nissan driver. Heading into lap 7, drivers at the rear of the pack opted for the first of their attack mode.

Sam Bird encountered further opposition, as McLaren’s René Rast made a move past the Jaguar driver, taking P3. As Mitch Evans took his first attack mode, Sacha Fenestraz took hold of the race lead. Lap 9 saw Sacha Fenestraz then take his attack mode, maintaining the race lead as he did so.

Multi-car incident

There was a huge incident on lap 9 and the session was immediately red flagged. Thankfully, all drivers involved were okay.

Sam Bird appeared to lose the rear of his Jaguar on the run out of Turn 6, spinning out. The incident continued to unfold from there, with the Envision of Sébastien Buemi unable to avoid tagging the stricken Jaguar, heavily clipping the rear of Bird’s car. The high speed, narrow nature of this section of the circuit made it practically impossible for other drivers to avoid getting caught up, with both da Costa and di Grassi sustaining damage as a result.

With nowhere left to go, Edoardo Mortara shunted into the side of Sam Bird. Robin Frijns appeared to get caught up in the incident too, bringing his race to an end. Jean-Eric Vergne sustained damage in the incident but was able to make his way back to the pits in an attempt to repair the DS Penske.

There was a lengthy red flag period as marshalls tackled the mighty clean-up job. With carbon fibre strewn across the track, and multiple cars awaiting extraction, it understandably took some time to restore the track to racing conditions.

Race restart

21 cars started the race; 13 lined up for the restart, with more than half the race distance left to go. Around half an hour after the incident, racing was able to get back underway.

Lining up at the front of the grid for the standing restart was Sacha Fenestraz, a hungry Mitch Evans right behind him. It was a strong restart for Fenestraz, fending off Mitch Evans as the Jaguar driver made a lunge for the lead. Also eyeing up a higher position was René Rast, who couldn’t quite get past Evans. Jake Dennis managed to jump the McLaren driver, getting past Rast to nestle in behind Mitch Evans.

Vergne, Vandoorne and Nato all opted for their attack mode. Up in third place, Dennis still had the entirety of his attack mode left to take, whilst Fenestraz and Evans still had four minutes each. Fenestraz, meanwhile, had three per cent less energy remaining than Mitch Evans, putting the Jaguar driver in a strong position.

Moving into Turn 7, the NIO of Dan Ticktum sustained damage as it became entangled with Nico Müller’s ABT Cupra. Lap 13 saw René Rast tumble down the order as he was forced into the pits, reporting an issue with the car. In the meantime, Nick Cassidy had managed to move up into fourth position. Three of the title contenders now lined up one after the other, from P2 to P4. Pascal Wehrlein, however, was still down in P12.

Ten laps remaining

Entering the latter stages of the race, there were attempts throughout the grid to hold position. Fenestraz continued to look vulnerable, with both Dennis and Evans in a stronger position energy-wise.

Jake Dennis managed to make a move on Mitch Evans, slipping past the Jaguar driver to take P2. Cassidy followed in Dennis’ lead, attempting to make a move of his own on Evans. The Envision driver couldn’t quite bring it to fruition and remained in P4. Dennis carried that earlier momentum forward, going on to overtake Sacha Fenestraz to take the race lead.

Fenestraz, struggling with overconsumption of energy, had little choice but to let Evans go. The Jaguar driver immediately set his sights on Dennis and began to try and close the gap to him. Past Fenestraz went Cassidy, three of the title contenders now in line for a podium. At the back of the pack, Wehrlein had managed to gain two places but was still only as high as P10.

Dennis took attack mode on lap 17, managing to maintain his race lead as he did so. Nick Cassidy, in P3, still had all eight minutes of attack mode left to take. Max Günther made a dive past the still-vulnerable Fenestraz, taking hold of P4.

Final five laps

Evans took the race lead as Jake Dennis went for the second lot of his attack mode. Mitch Evans began the difficult task of opening up a gap to Jake Dennis, whilst the Andretti driver continued to try and re-catch Evans, six-tenths back from the Jaguar driver.

Dennis got past Evans as he attempted to take attack mode. But Evans accidentally missed one of the activation points — both losing position and failing to actually take the attack mode. Evans tried again a lap later as Jake Dennis’ attack mode began to run out.

With 350kW of extra power under his wings, Evans was able to snatch the race lead from Dennis’ grasp. The British driver vented his frustration over the radio, describing himself as a “sitting duck”. Perhaps proving his point, Cassidy then immediately overtook Dennis, dropping the Andretti driver down to P3.

Günther, who had more energy than Dennis, began to prove a threat to the Brit. It wasn’t long before Günther got past Dennis, taking the last podium position. But the Maserati ran wide soon after, enabling Dennis to close the gap to him somewhat. It wasn’t clear whether this would be enough, as Dennis was in full-on power saving mode.

Last lap + 2

Further back in the pack, Nico Müller was in excellent standing in P6. Just behind him sat Pascal Wehrlein, who had managed to work his way further into the heart of the points-finishers. Up ahead, Evans continued to lead, looking well on his way to a fourth victory in Rome.

Debris on track brought out the yellow flags on lap 25, as Stoffel Vandoorne lost his front wing. Two extra laps were added, as Dennis was forced to fend off an attacking Jean-Eric Vergne.

Though Cassidy remained hot on Evans’ heels, the Jaguar driver made it a third consecutive win in Rome. Günther managed to hold onto P3, preventing Dennis from achieving the podium finish he’d hoped for.

Final classification

Featured Image Credit: Emmanuele Ciancaglini via Getty Images

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