Three rounds, two locations and one amazing start to the year. Season 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship got underway in January and here are all the key takeaways from the opening races.
Cassidy is right at home at Jaguar TCS Racing
When Nick Cassidy moved from Envision Racing to Jaguar TCS Racing for the 2023/24, it was obvious that this would be the driver swap to keep an eye on. The Kiwi would be lining up alongside fellow compatriot Mitch Evans at the team, with the two of them having a long history as friends and previously teammates as teenagers. The duo make up one of the strongest pairings we’ve ever seen in Formula E, and we always knew this would make for a fascinating dynamic.
Evans has always been top dog at that team since the British manufacturer joined in Season 3, and has comfortably beaten every teammate he’s come up against. However, this time around it’s Cassidy who has started off stronger - achieving three podiums and a win over the first three rounds in Season 10 whereas Evans is still without any silverware.
With third place in Mexico and the first race in Diriyah, followed up by the win in Round 3, Cassidy seems right at home at Jaguar and is filled with nothing but praise. Labelling it as a “dream start”, he’s also been stressing the importance of finally feeling like he has a “team behind him” in Formula E. He’s not agrogent though, stating that he knows he is due a bad day and that it should have been Evans on the podium in Round 2, had he not made a last-lap move on Jean-Eric Vergne that failed to stick.
Next up is São Paulo, a circuit that suited the Jaguars - and their customer team Envision - very well last season. Let’s see how they both perform during the battle in Brazil! Cassidy goes into Round 4 comfortably ahead in the Drivers’ standings on 57 points, with TAG Heuer Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein behind him on 38.
Struggles for da Costa at TAG Heuer Porsche
It’s been a disappointing start to the season for Da Costa at Porsche. During the first race of the season where his teammate Pascal Wehrlein achieved the Julius Baer Pole Position and went on to win the race, the Portuguese racer made contact with the ABT CUPRA of Nico Mueller and failed to finish the race. He was handed a three-place penalty for the next round, and started Rounds 2 and 3 in 20th and 21st, respectively.
“At the moment he doesn't have the confidence to deliver over one single lap and especially here with these tight walls and narrow track you need the confidence to attack and he struggles at the moment,” Florian Modlinger, TAG Heuer Porsche Team Principal said in Saudi Arabia.
The Season 6 champion has failed to score a single point so far this season, with a best finish of 14th, and reflected on these ”‘tough times” over on Instagram.
“[I’ve] been in difficult situations and movements before and the good thing is I hate to lose and the motivation to turn it around is huge,” da Costa shared with his fans. “Me and the team will do it. I could come here with a million reasons and excuses, but that’s not my style. We will get our heads down and get it done. Good thing is that there are 14 races left. Let’s get to work. Thanks a lot for the amount of messages and support. Means a lot!”
Dennis domination is back… sort of
After a slow start to the season for reigning World Champion Jake Dennis at Andretti, the Brit was back on the top step in Diriyah. Dennis finished ninth in Mexico City, but managed to convert a third place grid slot to his sixth win of the all-electric championship.
He did so in style too, crossing the chequered flag with a gap of 13.289s to Jean-Eric Vergne (DS PENSKE) in second place - the second biggest winning margin in Formula E history. Battling Vergne and Evans, Dennis climbed up into first place and pulled an almighty gap from the rest of the field, in a move we haven’t seen a great deal of in GEN3.
Porsche powertrains have been strong here in the past with Wehrlein doing the double and winning both races in Diriyah last season, so all eyes were on Dennis to repeat this in Season 10. However, this wasn’t to be as the following day Dennis labelled his X99 “the worst car I have ever driven in Formula E”. Strong words from the champ, but he could only manage a finish of 12th in Round 3.
Currently fourth in the standings, there’s a long way to go with another 13 races left until the season’s finale in London. Dennis has also remained calm and collected as he tries to achieve back-to-back title wins, but with the competition getting closer by the minute, he’s going to need to replicate the same consistency he found last year.
There’s still no favourable ATTACK MODE strategy
Since its introduction in Season 5, ATTACK MODE has always been a key part of how a race plays out. The mandatory boost of additional power takes drivers from 300kW to 350kW in GEN3, as the grid must drive off the racing line and into a specific zone to activate it. However, from the three races so far, several drivers have had different techniques.
In Mexico, Pascal Wehrlein banked his early on route to victory, whereas Nick Cassidy waited until very late in the race in Round 2 on his way to third. Cassidy and Envision Racing’s Robin Frijns then had a fascinating strategic battle play out in Saturday’s race as they fought for the lead of the race, but even then Nissan’s Oliver Rowland would have played things differently.
Starting from pole for Round 3, Rowland stated that “if I had led, I would have taken a completely different approach to what they did. I think I would have tried to keep it quite tight, and not allowed the ATTACK MODE to be as open as it was in the end. If you don't quite have the efficiency and you have the chance to take ATTACK MODE and not lose a position you need to take it.”
With the kind of racing we expect in Formula E changing every weekend, it shows just how much ATTACK MODE still influences the results come the end of the race.
Bird and Hughes deliver some NEOM McLaren magic
As well as the adorable bromance that is forming between Sam Bird and Jake Hughes at NEOM McLaren, both drivers seem to be really comfortable within the team. Hughes, who is in his second year of Formula E, managed his best-ever finish during Round 3 in Diriyah with a very respectable fourth place.
His new teammate Sam Bird also finished in fourth the race prior, with the two Brits keeping title partner NEOM happy at their home event with their efforts! Although a small mistake from Sam took him out of the running during Saturday’s race in the Diriyan desert, he was flying up the order. On Friday’s race in Riyadh, he scooped the ABB Driver of Progress award by making up five places in the E-Prix and was on track to do the same the next day when he had gained five positions before his retirement.
There is clearly some fantastic pace in that NEOM McLaren, so let’s see what they can bring to the table over the rest of the season.
Positive start to the season for DS PENSKE
As we leave Round 3 of Season 10, the DS PENSKE team find themselves second in the Teams’ standings. The outfit, which is made up of two former Formula E champions, had moments of brilliance last year like Vergne’s win in Hyderabad and Stoffel Vandoorne’s pole position in São Paulo. Nevertheless, they finished last season fifth in the Teams’ World Championship and almost 80 points behind the next best, Porsche.
Although they were ‘best of the rest’ when it came to the Porsche and Jaguar powertrains, both two-time champion Vergne and Season 8 champ Stoffel Vandoorne obviously wanted more. Season 10 has been a much better start for the duo, as JEV now sits third in the Drivers’ World Championship and Vandoorne in 11th. But, more importantly, they both have done enough to place DS PENSKE second in the Teams’ title after three races.
“It feels good for the team and for the hard work that the guys put in to improve and to get to where we are now,” Vergne said after locking in the Julius Baer Pole Position after Round 2. “It's great, so now we have to do it all in the race.”
How close the field are
With GEN3 being in its second year, and several months for teams to work on and develop their cars, it’s no surprise that there’s been some big leaps in performance coming into Season 10. As a result of these improvements, the grid seems to be closer than ever with just under seven seconds separating the top ten after Round 3.
Although it have been only the Jaguar and Porsche powertrains that have secured the first three wins this year, we’ve seen a mix of Nissan and Stellantis powered cars on the podium too. With qualifying being so important, and several drivers getting the most out of their cars or being in the right place at the right time, we’ve also had some unexpected individuals through to the Duels.
Sergio Sette Camara and ERT had a phenomenal qualifying during Round 2 to place his car fourth on the grid, and ultimately finished in ninth - two vital points for the Anglo-Chinese team. Maserati MSG Racing’s Jehan Daruvala also managed to qualify for the Quarter Finals in Round 3 when Envision’s Sebastien Buemi brought out the red flags during the group stages.