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Formula E - Jake Dennis dominates season 9 curtain-raiser as Gen3 single-seater electrifies Mexico City

  • gb

Avalanche Andretti races into Gen3 in the same way it began Gen2 – on the top step of the podium.

Jake Dennis defied pre-season predictions by dominating the first race of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship’s new Gen3 era in Mexico today (14 January), in front of a packed and enthusiastic crowd of more than 40,000 passionate fans at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.

From second on the grid, Dennis punished a mistake by pole-sitter and early leader Lucas Di Grassi (Mahindra Racing) on lap 12 to seize the initiative at Turn Three, and from that moment on, there would be no stopping him.

A safety car intervention on lap 18 – the third of the race, to retrieve Edoardo Mortara’s Maserati MSG Racing machine from the circuit barriers – erased the four-second advantage Dennis had established over Di Grassi, but if his rivals thought that offered them a second chance, the Briton would swiftly make them think again.

By the time the chequered flag fell – with five laps added to the original 36-lap distance to compensate for the safety car periods – Dennis was just shy of eight seconds clear of his nearest pursuer, effectively the full length of the main straight.

The result marked the 27-year-old’s fourth podium finish from the most recent five outings in the all-electric single-seater series, with fastest lap contributing an extra point to his tally. He also led home a Porsche-powered one-two, as last year’s Mexico City winner Pascal Wehrlein converted sixth on the grid into the runner-up spoils for TAG Heuer Porsche.

The German ran in the leading pack throughout as he stealthily worked his way up the order, advancing to fifth when NIO 333 Racing’s Dan Ticktum picked up an early drive-through penalty for overpower and pinching fourth from former team-mate André Lotterer – now competing for Avalanche Andretti – during the first round of Attack Modes.

Wehrlein then repeated the trick when the second Attack Mode activations came around, overhauling impressive NEOM McLaren Formula E Team rookie Jake Hughes for third before setting his sights on Di Grassi, the Brazilian struggling to conserve as much energy as those directly behind him.

On lap 29, the deed was done as the Porsche nosed ahead of the Mahindra into the chicane, after which Wehrlein pulled clear to cement second place and his first trip to the rostrum since the same race last season.

Di Grassi performed minor miracles to doggedly hang onto third. Yellow flags for René Rast’s stricken McLaren in the closing stages might have offered him some welcome respite, but the 2016/17 title-winner still needed to draw upon all of his experience to stave off a marauding four-car train looming ever-larger in his mirrors.

Lotterer was a consistent threat, and the German’s persistence paid off on the final lap as he prised the door open at the chicane to relieve Hughes of fourth in his maiden appearance for Avalanche Andretti.

Hughes duly crossed the finish line fifth, doing a fine job to keep a brace of champions at bay in the shape of sixth-placed Sébastien Buemi (Envision Racing) and TAG Heuer Porsche’s António Félix da Costa in seventh, with both zeroing in on the podium scrap as the laps ticked down.

Mitch Evans wound up eighth for Jaguar TCS Racing, but stablemate Sam Bird’s run of ill-fortune continued as driveshaft failure forced him out of contention early on and prompted the second safety car interruption.

Nick Cassidy placed ninth for Envision Racing, with defending champion Stoffel Vandoorne sneaking into the points-paying positions in tenth right at the close. That was courtesy of team-mate Jean-Éric Vergne dropping to 12th on a tough weekend for DS Penske.

The pair were separated at the flag by Valencia testing pace-setter Maximilian Günther, as Maserati MSG Racing similarly struggled, while Nissan Formula E Team new boy Sacha Fenestraz ultimately slipped to 15th after featuring up at the sharp end for much of the race.

The 2022/23 Formula E campaign will continue with a double-header in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, on 27/28 January.

Jake Dennis, No. 27, Avalanche Andretti Formula E, said:

"The fans here have been sensational. In that final lap I could really hear them cheering. To start on the front row and then win by that much, with a Porsche one-two, so big shout out to my team.

"It was such a physical race. These cars are so hard to drive physically and with the lower grip as well, it makes everything more challenging. But it’s even more rewarding, especially when you win by five seconds. Time for some tequila with the team, an incredible race.

"My team and I have such a good relationship together. We just work so well. It didn’t look like it was happening in qualifying, we turned it round, made some small adjustments for the race and absolutely nailed it. Big kudos to my guys, this is a small repayment to them and hope to have more success because Saudi isn’t that far away."

Pascal Wehrlein, No. 94, TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team, said:

"Great way to start the season, this place was awesome. When you start in P6 and end up in P2 - that's really really good. I'm very grateful to the car and my teammates for this, I think the last couple of months we have really put in some hard work - especially the last couple of weeks after Valencia - I just want to thank everyone in the team for their hard work. We have a clear goal this season, and that’s the best way to start it.

"It seemed like the pace in the race was really good, even in qualifying all the Porsche cars were super strong. We hope it is not a one-off and we keep working hard. Last year Mexico has also been our best race, so we have to make sure we keep working hard to understand the car really well and to make progress. We want to fight for the championship and it’s a good way to start.

Lucas di Grassi, No. 11, Mahindra Racing, said:

"It was a very very tough race, of course we know in this race that the Porsche's are really fast, remember last year they won P1, P2 and they disappeared. It was impossible to hold Jake and Pascal, I was running low on energy but I tried to defend as much as I could. In the end a podium is like a win for us with only three or four days in this car, there is so much potential to take it out further, so I am very happy."