Pascal Wehrlein steered his Porsche 99X Electric Gen3 to a second win in as many days in the CORE Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia, once again heading home Avalanche Andretti driver Jake Dennis, while Rene Rast secured a first podium for NEOM McLaren in Formula E.
Wehrlein made things easier on himself Saturday, qualifying fifth rather than the ninth he managed a day prior. From there, he always looked a threat to those ahead. Mitch Evans had taken the lead from polesitter Jake Hughes through the first corner on the opening lap, before Hughes and Rast made it by the Jaguar RCS Racing driver during Attack Mode.
Rast then briefly held first through that first round of 50kW boosts before Wehrlein stepped up a gear, having bided his time behind the lead trio managing his energy. Passes on Hughes then Evans just a lap apart, each down at Turn 16, put him right with race leader Rast before Wehrlein undercut the McLaren driver through Attack Mode and pulled out to a two-second lead.
Dennis and Bird were making moves of their own as Wehrlein clambered into the lead. The Andretti driver took fifth from Edo Mortara (Maserati MSG Racing) on Lap 21, with Bird following suit thanks to a trademark audacious maneouvre at the final corner.
Just a lap later, pre-race standings leader Dennis sliced by Hughes for fourth and in quick succession saw off Evans and made it three on the spin by taking second from Rast — with the Jaguar of Bird matching Dennis up to take third, just behind the customer Porsche 99X Electric Gen3.
Wehrlein had by then drawn out a lead and looked peerless. A late-race safety car could have thrown a wrench in the works but no such problems for the Porsche driver who stretched his legs again to win by just over a second over Dennis and become only the fifth driver to take to the top step of the podium in both races of a Formula E doubleheader.
POV: You've just won the #DiriyahEPrix… ⭐🎉 pic.twitter.com/E92S2IQJuv
— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) January 28, 2023
Bird had looked to be in the box seat for third, but lost the spot and couldn’t gain it back after taking Attack Mode, overcooking his attempt to outstrip Rast — the multiple DTM champion knowing exactly where to place his McLaren.
Hughes couldn’t quite capitalize on taking pole but yet again scored good points to maintain his consistent start to the campaign with fifth. Sebastien Buemi (Envision Racing) needed no second invitation to steal sixth from Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) after the Kiwi fouled up a move on Hughes over the line – getting caught with the McLaren and allowing the Swiss to nip in.
Sacha Fenestraz produced the best drive of his rookie season to-date with eighth for Nissan, while Edo Mortara got his team’s first points on the board with ninth – something to show for Maserati MSG Racing’s tireless efforts on a testing race weekend. Dan Ticktum brought home his NIO 333 in 10th for his first points of the season – well deserved given the squad’s pace over a lap in Diriyah.
Two wins on the spin for Porsche and Wehrlein yields the srivers’ championship lead ahead of Dennis, with Porsche powertrains having finished one-two in every race so far in 2023. Porsche narrowed the gap to Teams’ table toppers Avalanche Andretti to just two points with that result.
Formula E returns in two weeks for its first trip to Hyderabad, India, for Round 4 of the season on February 11.