Mitch Evans and Sam Bird executed a perfect strategy in the opening race of the 2023 SABIC Berlin E-Prix double-header to secure a show-stopping one-two for team Jaguar TCS Racing. Maximillian Gunther in third put the iconic Maserati trident on the podium for the first time since returning to single-seater motorsport this season following a hiatus of more than 60 years.
In a deeply strategic yet fiercely competitive race, the capacity crowd filling the grandstands of the Tempelhof Airport Circuit witnessed 190 overtakes, 53 lead changes and eight different leaders taking charge – all breaking previous Formula E records.
Tensions were high in Berlin 🤬😳@SABIC #BerlinEPrix pic.twitter.com/sWlJ2pzqw9
— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) April 22, 2023
Round seven of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship was already marked down in record books before the race began – Pascal Wehrlein and his TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E team both leading the points standings going into their home race in Germany.
The race was also the European debut of the GEN3 – the world’s fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient electric race car – and the cutting-edge EV lived up to its potential as the first formula car specifically designed for wheel-to-wheel racing on high-speed street circuits.
Throughout the 43 laps, a record number of drivers took charge of the race as the teams’ strategies emerged, with an early surge of front-runners electing to take ATTACK MODE early on and those further back running for longer.
Dan Ticktum (NIO 333 Racing) launched into the lead in stunning style with a move around the outside of Turn 1, right by Julius Baer Polesitter Sebastien Buemi (Envision Racing), Sam Bird (Jaguar TCS Racing) and Stoffel Vandoorne (DS PENSKE).
After the lead group jumped for their second 50kW boosts, the racing settled for just three laps before Edoardo Mortara (Maserati MSG Racing) and Vandoorne pushed to the front. Glancing at the timing screens yielded a different race leader at almost every stage as positions changed almost continuously. The first of two spells under the safety car compounded things further with the field split by just over 5s going into the second half of the race.
Quick-starting Ticktum had been shuffled into the top 10 until he and Vandoorne came into heavy contact, deploying the safety car for the second time. The Jaguar pair and Buemi then fought to fill out the top three spots after Gunther had briefly taken P1 as the race headed into its closing stages. The Jaguar-powered cars went on to assert their new-found dominance and pace, with Gunther looking to pick up the pieces as the front three challenged for the race lead.
Evans managed to edge second-placed Bird on the exit of the hairpin with a good run down the start/finish straight to make a lunge into Turn 1 stick for the lead on Buemi as the race headed into three added laps. The Kiwi was able to get the jump and pull away, extending a 0.750s lead with two full laps remaining as Bird hassled Buemi for second just behind in the sprint to the finish.
Bird’s incessant efforts paid off as he took the gamble to brake late in the approach to the Airplane turn and squeeze by Buemi for the second spot, sealing Jaguar TCS Racing’s first one-two in Formula E.
Gunther then broke the Jaguar-power stranglehold as he fired up the inside of Buemi at the final turn to prevent a second consecutive 1-2-3 for the I-TYPE 6. The Maserati MSG Racing’s podium is the first under the Italian marque and builds nicely for the Monegasque/Italian team following an unexpectedly disappointing start to the season as they head to their two “home” races in Monaco on May 6 and the Rome doubleheader on July 15-16.
“The last race was special having us both on the podium and also with Nick, all Jaguar powertrains on the podium,” Evans said after the race. “At this one, it’s extra special because it’s a one-two for the team and a really hard race to manage. It got a bit chaotic out there. I wasn’t expecting a victory in this place. This place has haunted me for many years. So super happy to get a second win, but here it was unexpected. It’s full credit to everyone. Sam drove really well. He’s been quick all day. I was surprised to get in the front bunch so early. There was a lot of games being played out there and it was hard to manage but we got it done.”
Standings leader Pascal Wehrlein started all the way down in 15th and made up huge ground before slipping to ninth late on. Out of sight, the German driver made up good ground on that final lap to finish sixth with nine places and strong points gained, nullifying Nick Cassidy’s comparatively quiet and collected run to fifth position for Envision Racing. Jean-Éric Vergne (DS PENSKE) recovered from contact early-race to seventh spot, again, another important if unsung drive in the battle for points.
Wehrlein heads into round eight tomorrow in Berlin with a standings lead and 94 points. Cassidy is second with Vergne doing enough to retain third position. TAG Heuer Porsche’s early season dominance however is coming under severe and increasing pressure from the Jaguar-powered cars.