TAG Heuer Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein has reignited his title ambitions by claiming his third win of the season in the opening race of the 2023 Gulavit Jakarta E-Prix double-header at the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.
The win puts Wehrlein just two points behind Nick Cassidy (Envision Racing) at the top of the Drivers’ Championship in a hard-fought title race alongside Avalanche Andretti’s Jake Dennis, who is third after his third podium finish on the upswing in Jakarta.
The German looked like the man to beat after claiming three podiums – including two wins – in the first three races of season 9 and taking the lead in the Drivers’ Championship.
But a string of disappointing performances and bad luck – notably when he clashed with Envision Racing’s Sébastien Buemi at the Cape Town E-Prix, forcing an early retirement – allowed Cassidy to take the lead in the Championship.
After the race, Wehrlein admitted the team had been suffering lately, but expressed confidence that fortunes had turned after the win in the Indonesian capital.
“It feels great, of course,” he said. “A very good race, qualifying was much better than in the previous races. Many thanks to the team – the car was great today, I was in the lead for most of the race. It wasn’t that easy for me with the energy, I knew that the guys behind them had a bit more and riding in the slipstream also helps. But I think we defended well and we’re happy to be back at the top. The team definitely deserves it and now we’re looking forward to tomorrow.
“In the last few races we weren’t where we wanted to be, didn’t get the points we wanted and qualifying was a problem for us. Today we qualified with P3 for the best placement so far this season. We’ve seen a big turnaround in the past few weeks and as I said, thank you to the team for all their hard work. There is still a long way to go.”
Wehrlein led Dennis home, who reacted violently after the race, claiming the Porsche driver performed a “ridiculous” maneuver that forced Dennis to take evasive action.
Maserati MSG Racing driver Maximilian Günther stayed on top throughout the race and finished third. He started in the Julius Baer pole position, the first Maserati pole in single-seater motorsport since 1958.
In the first race of the double-header in Jakarta, Wehrlein started third and swapped places with polesitter Günther in the first third of the E-Prix after initially passing his compatriot on lap 4.
From lap 12 and the second activation of ATTACK MODE, Wehrlein easily mastered the most difficult conditions on a hot and humid afternoon with temperatures reaching 30 degrees Celsius.
Dennis started second and finished second, although his Avalanche Andretti wasn’t quite enough to overtake Wehrlein’s works Porsche 99X Electric. His push forward was marred by a push from Günther towards the end of the race, pushing the Brit into second and giving Wehrlein some breathing room.
Ultimately, Günther could not find a way through. DS PENSKE teammates Stoffel Vandoorne and Jean-Éric Vergne finished fourth and fifth respectively, while Günther’s Maserati MSG Racing teammate Edoardo Mortara was sixth.
Championship leader Cassidy tried his best in the middle of the race to edge out defensive maestro Vergne. He was lucky when on lap 20 he smashed into an unobserved Vergne from far behind, narrowly avoiding damage to both front corners of his car and finishing in seventh place.
Season 6 Champion António Félix da Costa (TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team) finished eighth, some 15 seconds behind Cassidy. Robin Frijns underlined his impressive performance in qualifying and secured the first points of the season for the ABT CUPRA Formula E Team with ninth place.
Jake Hughes completed the top 10 for the NEOM McLaren Formula E Team and received the ABB Driver of Progress Award for most places in the race after starting back from 20th on the grid.
It was another frustrating performance for Jaguar TCS Racing, however, as their cars collided again, as they did in Hyderabad when Sam Bird edged out Mitch Evans from eighth position and the crucial points towards the end of the race.
Cassidy leads the standings by 128 points while TAG Heuer passed Porsche Envision Racing at the top of the teams’ standings by nine points and 198 points.
::Watch Race 2 of the 2023 Gulavit Jakarta E-Prix Double-Header live on Eurosport 2 on Sunday 4th June from 08:30 BST.