Cape Town E-Prix – There were thrills, spills and jawdropping moves as Antonio Felix da Costa made a glorious return to the top of the podium.
The first ever Cape Town E-Prix saw only sixteen drivers line up on the grid and one line up at the end of the pit lane following the withdrawal of all four Mahindra powered cars – Mahindra and ABT Cupra – due to rear suspension safety concerns, as well as Sam Bird’s Jaguar after a crash in qualifying. That meant it would be the first ever E-Prix not to include Lucas di Grassi while Robin Frijns’ replacement, South African Kelvin van der Linde wouldn’t get to race at home, but he did join Jack Nicholls and Nelson Piquet Jr in the comms box.
At the head of the smaller than usual field will be Sasha Fenestraz after setting Formula E’s fastest ever lap, with an average pace of 154.987km/h, to beat Maximilian Guenther to take his first ever pole position.
While Fenestraz held on at the front, Guenther and Nick Cassidy had quite the battle over P2 but the German managed to hold on. The first lap wasn’t without incident though as Pascal Wehrlein locked up and went into the back of Sebastien Buemi. A Full Course Yellow was called and then a Safety Car soon afterwards but the championship leader was out while Buemi managed to keep going.
At the front, Guenther got ahead just as the Full Course Yellow was called and while it was all looking good for that side of the Maserati garage, Edoardo Mortara was seen stopped in the run off and that was the end of his race. Guenther got to lead his first racing lap of the year on lap 5 when the Safety Car left the track but he had Fenestraz right on his tail.
The first of the top ten to head to the Attack Zone was Jean-Eric Vergne in P5, the DS Penske driver activating one minute of the boost on lap 9 while the following lap Fenestraz activated his first two minutes which dropped him back to P3.
Lap 11 saw the race leader go offline and take his first minute of the power boost, that handed the lead over to Nick Cassidy while Guenther had to fight off Fenestraz to hold P2. As the podium places were trading hands, Mitch Evans was handed a drive through penalty for overuse of power and he dropped from P4 to the very back in P15.
On lap 13 both Cassidy and Guenther took three minutes of Attack, the Envision racer holding the lead but Fenestraz was able to get ahead of the Maserati this time.
Lap 19 saw Vergne right on the back of his teammate from last year, da Costa, as the Penske driver tried to take P4 from the Porsche who’d moved well up from his P11 starting position. While that was happening, the stewards were handing out another drive through, this time to Jake Dennis in P9 for not respecting the minimum tyre pressure.
Maserati’s day became one to forget on lap 21 when Guenther hit the wall, leaving his car crabbing and dropping down the order and out of the race. The Full Course Yellow was called out again on lap 22 just as Cassidy and Fenestraz activated their last Attack Modes. Cassidy once again held his place but both da Costa and Vergne made it past the Nissan racer just before the FCY started.
The lead changed again on lap 24 when da Costa zoomed past the Kiwi and then Vergne followed through soon afterwards. Things were looking good for the Porsche driver but two laps later he went to activate his final minute of Attack Mode but missed the loop and now had to try pull a gap on Vergne who had closed right up behind him when da Costa had gone off line.
With a dwindling number of laps left and not wanting to fall foul of any FCY or Safety Cars, da Costa had to try for Attack Mode again and while he did activate it on his second try, he opened the door and Vergne breezed through into the lead on lap 27.
There would be two additional laps due to the time spent behind FCY and Safety Cars in the race and on what would’ve been the final lap, lap 30, Fenestraz got himself back into a podium spot as he got past Cassidy. A lap later da Costa also made a move and muscled past Vergne to take the lead and held on despite the Frenchman’s best efforts to regain it.
As the battle for the lead raged, Fenestraz hit the wall on the final lap and fell off the podium, and out of the race, handing the final podium spot back to Cassidy.
Rast took the chequered flag in P4 ahead of Buemi, who recovered well after being his on the opening lap, while NIO 333 got another great haul of points, to add to their P5 in Hyderabad, as Dan Ticktum came home in P6.
Stoffel Vandoorne finished in P7 while Norman Nato in P8 was the only Nissan to score as he crossed the line with the only Andretti in the points, Andre Lotterer, in P9 after his five second penalty, for not staying within ten lengths of the car in front of him while behind the Safety Car, was applied. The final points went to Jake Hughes took the final points spot, P10. As well as taking P2, Vergne also set the fastest lap of the race, a 1:09.740.