Thursday, April 18, 2024

Monaco E-Prix: Nick Cassidy Wins Anti-Climactic Fight to Take Championship Lead

Nick Cassidy is the new leader of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, after the New Zealander claimed victory at the iconic Monaco E-Prix, marking back-to-back wins for the Envision Racing driver. Joining Cassidy on the podium was Mitch Evans and Jake Dennis, who were robbed of the chance to fight for the win on the final lap.

Cassidy Goes on the Charge

With Sacha Fenestraz‘s time from the Final having been deleted for an overuse of power, it was Jake Hughes who led the all-rookie front row, with both drivers targeting their first podium in the Formula E. Could either driver go even further and claim their maiden Formula E win at the Circuit de Monaco or would the title favourites work their way to the front?

As the lights went out for the ninth round of the season, it was Hughes and Fenestraz who got away the cleanest, with the pair having remained first and second on the run up to Massenet. Norman Nato also remained in third on the opening lap, meaning Nissan maintained their powertrain 1-2-3. For the championship contenders, Evans found himself in sixth with Cassidy and Dennis in eighth and ninth, whilst standings leader Pascal Wehrlein was all the way down in thirteenth.

The man on the move, though, was Oliver Rowland, who extraordinarily made up seven places on the opening lap, before becoming the first driver to activate their Attack Mode. The Mahindra Racing driver found himself in ninth after activating his Attack Mode, with him having been sixth before taking it. An early yellow flag was briefly needed after André Lotterer pulled into an escape road to retire from the race, as a result of damage to the front of his car after crashing at the final corner.

Back at the front and the pace was visibly being managed in a bid to preserve energy, something which bunched the field up. Cassidy was busy making the most of the bunched field, with the Kiwi having overtaken two cars at once on Lap Five around the outside of the Grand Hotel hairpin, to promote himself to sixth. Two laps later and the Berlin Race Two winner was suddenly in third, after overtaking Dan Ticktum and Nato at consecutive corners.

Cassidy, Evans, Dennis Take Control

Third became second for Cassidy after Hughes opted to take his first Attack Mode, demoting him from first to fourth on Lap Seven. A lap later and Cassidy was in the lead, as Fenestraz took his first Attack Mode, before crucially remerging onto the racing-line ahead of Hughes. The lead order changed again on Lap Nine as Cassidy and Nato both took their first Attack Mode, promoting Ticktum, Evans and Fenestraz into the top three.

Elsewhere, René Rast was busy dragging his front wing around the circuit at the back of the field, marking a miserable weekend for the German. After a bright start to the race, Rowland was also forced into the pits after hitting Edoardo Mortara earlier in the race, resulting in front wing damage. The lead continued to change at virtually every blink of an eye, with Ticktum and Dennis having taken their first Attack Mode on Lap Ten, promoting Evans into the lead. A lap later and Cassidy was back into the lead, with Evans having become the last of the leading drivers to take his first Attack Mode.

So as Lap Eleven came to a close, Cassidy was back in the lead from Evans and Dennis, whilst Fenestraz sat in fourth but having actually taken both of his Attack Modes. It was proving to be a challenging day for Wehrlein, who sat outside the top ten as the race moved closer to its halfway point. Cassidy fell behind Evans on Lap Thirteen after activating his second Attack Mode, promoting his fellow New Zealander into the lead.

In unusual fashion for Formula E this season, a sizeable gap appeared between the top four and the rest of the field, with Hughes in fifth having clearly been off the pace of the leaders. The field quickly bunched back up, though, as the pace once again slowed after a brief burst of speed from the leaders.

Late Collision Sets Up Chaotic Finish

As the frenetic race moved into its second half, it was Evans who led after overtaking Cassidy, with Dennis having occupied third ahead of Fenestraz. Behind Fenestraz, the two Maserati MSG Racing drivers were looming large at their home race, whereas António Félix da Costa was dealt a huge blow. The Portuguese driver was forced to pit with a puncture at the end of Lap Sixteen, massively hurting his title hopes. Things still weren’t going much better for Da Costa’s team-mate, who remained outside the top ten.

As Lap Eighteen got underway, Cassidy moved back into the lead, whilst Dennis tried to overtake Evans for second; albeit, to no avail. The entire field was once again unbelievably close, with all of the drivers having fought breathlessly for position. The pace at the front began to increase as the race entered its final ten laps; however, it remained a Kiwi 1-2 at the front. Cassidy, though, had a little less energy than Evans and Dennis, putting the Envision driver under immense pressure.

With Wehrlein having still been outside the top ten on Lap Twenty-One, it was clear that the leading trio knew that a big result could have a massive effect on the championship. Behind the leaders, though, and there was a terrifying collision on the way up Beau Rivage on Lap Twenty-Three, as Ticktum moved across to block Maximilian Günther. The collision resulted in Günther retiring on circuit, meaning a late Safety Car was needed with just a handful of laps remaining. Seconds before Ticktum and Günther’s incident, the NIO 333 Racing driver went into the back of Fenestraz, which damaged the Briton’s front wing.

Cassidy Wins Following Anti-Climactic Finish

As Cassidy led the field behind the Safety Car, he was informed to push as hard as he could when the race resumed to green flag racing, which it did with just five laps remaining. The leading trio set-off at a rapid pace, all knowing that victory in Monaco was on the cards. Not too far behind them, Jean-Éric Vergne had remarkably made up fourteen places, having started in twenty-first. Wehrlein, on the other hand, remained outside the points and knowing that he was going to lose the lead of the championship.

With three laps remaining a small gap began to appear between Evans and Dennis, with it having looked set to be an all-Kiwi fight for the win. Nothing separated the pair who were pushing absolutely flat-out; however, Cassidy remained narrowly ahead and on-track for a second consecutive win. In a huge disappointment to all the fans and the leading drivers, a Safety Car was needed for the final lap of the race, after Nico Müller and Sam Bird collided at the opening corner.

It meant that the race was completed behind the Safety Car, to the delight of Cassidy and to the frustration of Evans. The Safety Car pulled in at the final corner to allow Cassidy to cross the finish line, to add his name to the list of Monaco E-Prix winners. Cassidy’s back-to-back wins promoted him to the top of the Drivers’ Championship, with Evans finishing second and Dennis in third. Former championship leader Wehrlein, could only salvage eleventh.

Cassidy’s win also marked four in a row for New Zealand in Formula E and also for Jaguar powertrains, highlighting their recent dominance. The result has put Cassidy in the lead of the standings by twenty-one points ahead of the Jakarta double-header, which takes place next month. It gives Wehrlein plenty of time to go back and reflect on the recent rounds, which have been a bitter disappointment for him. In the Constructors’ Championship, Envision are the new leaders having overtaken TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team, to further add to Porsche’s woes.

Dennis was also awarded a bonus point for fastest lap, whilst Hughes received three bonus points for pole position.

Monaco E-Prix Round 9: Full Race Results

POS. NO. DRIVER. NAT. TEAM. TIME/GAP.
1 37 Nick Cassidy NZL Envision Racing 50:23.842
2 9 Mitch Evans NZL Jaguar TCS Racing +0.390
3 27 Jake Dennis GBR Avalanche Andretti Formula E +1.017
4 23 Sacha Fenestraz FRA Nissan Formula E Team +2.148
5 5 Jake Hughes GBR NEOM McLaren Formula E Team +2.788
6 33 Dan Ticktum GBR NIO 333 Racing +3.368
7 25 Jean-Éric Vergne FRA DS Penske +4.374
8 16 Sébastian Buemi CHE Envision Racing +4.783
9 1 Stoffel Vandoorne BEL DS Penske +5.394
10 10 Sam Bird GBR Jaguar TCS Racing +6.469
11 94 Pascal Wehrlein DEU TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team +6.705
12 48 Edoardo Mortara CHE Maserati MSG Racing +7.624
13 11 Lucas di Grassi BRZ Mahindra Racing +8.576
14 4 Robin Frijns NLD ABT CUPRA Formula E Team +9.620
15 3 Sérgio Sette Câmara BRZ NIO 333 Racing +10.684
16 13 António Félix da Costa PRT TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team +11.141
17 58 René Rast DEU NEOM McLaren Formula E Team +12.295
18 17 Norman Nato FRA Nissan Formula E Team +13.423
19 51 Nico Müller CHE ABT CUPRA Formula E Team DNF
20 7 Maximilian Günther DEU Maserati MSG Racing DNF
21 8 Oliver Rowland GBR Mahindra Racing DNF
22 36 André Lotterer DEU Avalanche Andretti Formula E DNF
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