Formula E race six: Talking points as title favourites chase Pascal Wehrlein in Brazil debut
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The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship returns this weekend following a one-month hiatus for the all-electric racing series’ long-awaited debut in Brazil for the Julius Baer São Paulo E-Prix.
Here are all the key talking points as the planet’s favourite motorsport heads to Brazil:
Title favourites back on track
Much had been made of the disappointing starts to the season for pre-season title favourites Stoffel Vandoorne, Jean-Eric Vergne (both DS Penske) and Antonio Felix da Costa (TAG Heuer Porsche).
The trio scored just 13 points between them after three races and watched on as their junior counterparts Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) and Pascal Wehrlein, Da Costa’s Porsche teammate, built a seemingly unassailable lead at the top of the drivers’ standings.
Their poor start also led to suggestions of a changing of the guard in Formula E, from the trio who had won three of the last four titles, as the series’ moved into a new era with the GEN3 – the world’s most sustainable racing car.
But those fears were dispelled in the last two races following Vergne’s victory in Hyderabad and Da Costa’s exhilarating win over the Frenchman at the inaugural Cape Town E-Prix, which featured a dramatic battle with his former teammate as well as a couple of audacious overtakes on the fastest track in Formula E history.
Season 8 champion Vandoorne, though unable to reach those heights, has secured back-to-back points scoring races and will be aiming to replicate the other former champions in setting his mark this weekend.
Wehrlein stutters but Porsche still boasts healthy lead
Da Costa’s victory in Cape Town means it is three wins in five races for TAG Heuer Porsche, and four in five for their powertrain which is also used by Avalanche Andretti.
Team Principal Florian Modlinger heaped praise on his team after the captivating Cape Town race, which he also described as “the best advertisement for Formula E” and will know the significance of such a dominant start in a famously competitive World Championship.
Things did not go as smoothly for Drivers’ World Championship leader Pascal Wehrlein in Cape Town after a collision with Envision Racing’s Sebastien Buemi put the German out of the race, the first time he has finished outside the top four in Season 9.
Based on his form though there is little to suggest Wehrlein will not be back amongst the leading pack in São Paulo. It posts an ominous picture for TAG Heuer Porsche’s rivals with the team already 42-points clear at the top of the Teams’ World Championship.
Misery for Jaguar continues
Jaguar TCS Racing visit Brazil in a desperate state having failed to secure points in the last two races.
The team have one of the most formidable driver line-ups on the grid in Mitch Evans and Sam Bird, with 17 wins and 41 podiums between them, but the team are languishing in sixth place in the Teams’ World Championship on just 42 points.
Their miserable season hit its height when Bird crashed into pole-setter Evans in Hyderabad but was compounded in Cape Town when a drive-through penalty for power overuse kept the Kiwi out of the points, whilst Bird did not even start the race due to damage from a crash in Qualifying.
With over half of the season still to go there is plenty of time for the British team to rectify their issues, but they will know with each race that passes that elusive first title slips further and further away.
Frijns set for return
ABT CUPRA’s Robin Frijns looks set to return to the grid for the first time since fracturing his hand after rear-ending Nissan’s Norman Nato in the season-opener in Mexico City in January.
South African Kelvin van der Linde had been deputising for the Dutchman, but it now appears the two-time E-Prix winner will be back on the grid following a sim session in Germany on Tuesday.
It will be welcome news to ABT who sit bottom of the teams’ standings and pointless after five races.
Another landmark location on world-beating calendar
The Net Zero Carbon Championship makes a third consecutive debut race as it debuts in Brazil in one of the world’s most populous cities.
São Paulo is a key growth market for electric vehicles – in 2022 Brazil surpassed 100,000 EVs on the road, which included a 66% increase between 2019-2020.
The 2.94km track in the Santana district hosted the São Paulo Indy 300 between 2010-2013, with Andretti the last team to win there. It is also the birthplace of legendary driver Ayrton Senna, as well as auto racing pioneer Chico Landi, and is located close to the Anhembi Convention Center, one of the largest events complexes in Latin America.
35,000 fans are expected in attendance to watch the most competitive grid in motorsport, which includes Brazilian duo Lucas di Grassi (Mahindra Racing) and Sergio Sette Camara (NIO 333), at the Sambadrome.
:: Watch the inaugural Julius Baer São Paulo E-Prix live on Eurosport 2 from 17:00 GMT on Saturday 25 March
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