Sao Paulo E-Prix – Mitch Evans took victory in Brazil with Sam Bird P3 after a very close fought race that ended with an all Jaguar powered podium.
With the heat and long straights on the Sao Paulo Street Circuit, the race was expected to be a tough one on both the drivers and cars today. Stoffel Vandoorne will be starting on pole, his and DS Penske’s first of the season, while the Porsche of Antonio Felix da Costa will be alongside him on the front row.
As the lights went out to start the race it was a great start for Vandoorne but there was a battle for P2 as Mitch Evans tried to demote da Costa. Maserati have been having a rough time of it this season and were hoping to get things back on track this weekend but Edoardo Mortara went straight at the hairpin with a damaged front wing and dropped to the back of the pack. At the same corner Norman Nato went into the back of Jake Hughes and that was the end of his race.
On lap 5 Vandoorne became the first of the front runners to activate Attack Mode, the Penske driver taking one minute and that allowed da Costa to take the lead. At that stage Sam Bird, who’d started P10 after a five place grid penalty, had made it to P6, behind Jean-Eric Vergne.
Lap 7 saw Vandoorne retake the lead while da Costa got mobbed by both Evans and Nick Cassidy, who’d just had quite the airborne moment when he went over the bump. The Safety Car was brought out on lap 8 when Nissan’s Sacha Fenestraz, who set the fastest lap in Formula E history on his way to pole in Cape Town, stopped on track after damaging his rear left.
The stranded Nissan was dealt with and the race got back underway on lap 11 with Vandoorne still leading from Evans and Cassidy. The championship leader, Pascal Wehrlein, who’d started P18 had made it up to P10 by that point while the Brazilians were in P15 and P16.
The laps following the restart saw the top four all constantly swapping positions, the lead not being the ideal place at this stage as they’d be expending more energy than the others who’d be getting a slipstream off them. At the lower end of the top ten Jake Dennis and Wehrlein came together after the Andretti had been hit by Dan Ticktum , the Brit stopping on track to join the Nissans in the DNF list, and the Safety Car was called back out on lap 16 to clear the car and the multiple pieces of debris around the track.
The race was back to green flag at the end of lap 18, Cassidy had been leading but the musical chairs of the top cars restarted as the Envision racer and Vandoorne both activated three minutes off Attack Mode. The following lap da Costa and Evans activated their own three minutes and that saw Cassidy back into P1 briefly, before Evans took over the place.
The stewards then announced that they were investigating potential yellow flag overtakes from da Costa, Evans, Rast and Wehrlein, the championship leader having made it up to P5 at that point and was right in the mix.
On lap 25 da Costa locked up at the first corner and had to go through the runoff and stop before rejoining which meant he fell back from P3 to P7, making his fight for the win much more difficult.
As a result of the Safety Cars earlier the race would be extended by four laps to a 35 lap race and it was Cassidy still in the lead on lap 30 but Evans was closing the gap to his fellow Kiwi. Those two were out on their own, over a second ahead of Bird in P3. Fourth to ninth at that stage was all in pairs with the two Penskes, Porsches and McLarens filling them.
The lead changed once again on lap 32 with Evans going down the inside of the Envision, who then had to deal with the other Jaguar of Bird who was right on his tail. Behind the podium spots da Costa was once again on a charge and was able to dispatch the two black and gold Penske cars and try to close the few seconds of a gap to the top three.
While Bird had more energy, memories of Hyderabad had him play it cautious and it was the two Kiwis who were fighting to the flag. The top three all finished within 0.507 seconds of each other while da Costa held off Vergne for P4. Polesitter Vandoorne took P6 ahead of Wehrlein while the two McLarens of Hughes and Rast were P8 and P9 while Buemi took the final point.
Bird took the fastest lap with a 1:13.684 while the Brazilians had a frustrating day and failed to make it to the points with Lucas di Grassi ending P13 and Sergio Sette Camara P17. There were five retirements – Nico Mueller, Mortara, Dennis, Fenestraz and Nato.