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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: Britain’s Jake Dennis was on the brink of claiming his first world championship title as the Avalanche Andretti Formula E team driver went into the final two races of the season in front of home fans on a track where he has won twice before.
A repeat of his victory on the streets of Rome the last time out would be enough to seal the title crown in the opening race of the 2023 Hankook London E-Prix double-header on Saturday.
But as this season has proved time and again, anything can happen – and usually does – in Formula E.
Races 15 and 16 in Season 9 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship will settle what has been arguably the most competitive and entertaining in Formula E history.
The introduction of the third generation GEN3 race car this year – the fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient electric race car ever built – has seen Formula E records smashed, including the fastest lap, most overtakes, lead changes, and different leaders in a race.
There have been seven different winners representing six teams, with only TAG Heuer Porsche able to count both their drivers as winners in Season 9. Eleven drivers have made it to the podium and 19 have led a lap – beating Formula E’s Season 7 record.
Resultingly, the Formula E fanbase has been expanding fast as the unpredictable, exciting, competitive, and entertaining nature of the sport has stood out from the crowd.
Dennis is one of four drivers who quickly got to grips with their revolutionary electric-vehicle technology and battled for supremacy all season as the championship returned to established circuits in Berlin, Mexico City, Diriyah, Jakarta, Monaco, and Rome, while debuting in Hyderabad, Cape Town, Sao Paulo, and Portland.
TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E team driver Pascal Wehrlein set the early pace after finishing second to Dennis in the GEN3 debut in Mexico City followed by a win double in Diriyah. Wehrlein did not return to the podium until winning Round 10 in Jakarta but consistent points in the intervening races kept him in touch at the top.
It was Envision Racing’s Nick Cassidy who took control in mid-season claiming five podiums in six races from Rounds 4 to 9 including back-to-back wins in Berlin and Monaco to emerge as a strong championship contender.
Meanwhile, Mitch Evans of Jaguar TCS Racing entered the title picture in Round 6 in Brazil after a frustrating start to the GEN3 era for the Kiwi kept him off the podium. Evans followed success in Sao Paulo with a win in the Berlin opening race to force his way into the title conversation.
From mid-season it was Cassidy, Dennis, and Wehrlein edging the lead in the championship, often separated by just a single point, with Evans staying in close contention.
That all changed in the final stop on Formula E’s 10-city world tour before the London finale.
On the sweltering streets of Rome and what is regarded as the most challenging circuit in the series, the biggest crash in Formula E history in Saturday’s race was the main talking point. But Evans secured an impressive win from amongst the carnage, while second for Cassidy put him a point beyond Dennis who could only finish fourth.
Fast forward 24 hours to the end of the second Rome race and it was all change.
With Cassidy and Evans in close formation hunting down Dennis for the race lead, sharp braking caused Evans to lose control of the back of his car, clipping Dennis ahead of him, before going fully airborne and hitting the top of Cassidy’s car. Evans had to retire while Cassidy limped to P14, both losing critical points.
The dramatic incidents in Rome highlighted the uniquely intense, high-risk nature of wall-to-wall street racing in Formula E with no margin of error.
The impact on the Drivers’ World Championship was equally significant: Dennis somehow managed to avoid damage and delivered the most supreme performance of the season claiming a Formula E grand slam – Julius Baer pole position, TAG Heuer fastest lap, and the race win – while leading the entire race from lights to chequered flag.
The result propelled Dennis to the top of the leader board with a 24-point advantage over Cassidy in second. Evans is 44 points back in third while Wehrlein still has a mathematical chance of the top spot at 49 points behind Dennis.
With 25 points for the race win, and 18 points for second (plus three points for pole position and one for the fastest lap), only a Dennis victory on Saturday will be enough to claim the title outright with a race to spare. One thing is for sure: Cassidy, Evans, Wehrlein, and the other 18 drivers will be out to rewrite that storyline.
The Teams’ World Championship is also wide open and likely to go to the final race.
Envision Racing lead the way in the Teams’ table by 14 points over TAG Heuer Porsche, while Jaguar TCS Racing lie in third with 228 points.
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