Envision Racing’s Nick Cassidy claimed another podium to retake the lead of the Formula E Drivers’ Championship standings at the Rome E-Prix on Saturday.
The heat was on in the Italian capital as the 2022–23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship motored towards its climax. After a dramatic race, amid sweltering heat wave conditions, Envision Racing’s Nick Cassidy raced superbly to take second, confirming his seventh visit to the podium in 2023, and retakes the lead of the Drivers’ Championship.
Cassidy started the weekend just one point shy of Jake Dennis at the summit of the Drivers’ Championship standings, and heading into Sunday’s second race of the weekend the Kiwi driver leads his British rival by five points. Coming home behind eventual winner Mitch Evans, Cassidy once again executed a superb race strategy, mixing aggression and decisive overtaking with calm energy saving.
As well as ensuring a return to the top of the Drivers’ Championship, Cassidy’s points haul places Envision Racing at the head of the Teams’ Championship going into Sunday’s Round 14.
Cassidy’s Envision Racing team-mate Sébastien Buemi enjoyed a strong qualifying. Starting fourth, the Envision Racing driver recovered from a slow start to run in eighth, looking good before slamming into Sam Bird’s stricken Jaguar, as part of an unavoidable chain reaction involving multiple cars, causing a lengthy race stoppage.
Thankfully all drivers involved emerged unscathed from the biggest accident of the year.
Both Envision Racing drivers headed out in Group B qualifying for the opening race of the weekend in Rome, and Buemi held the second fastest time throughout the opening phase. And second is where the Swiss driver would end up, as more crucially, a crash from Jake Hughes in the dying seconds ended the session prematurely, meant Cassidy would end up ninth on the grid and have no chance to make the shootout.
It was left to Buemi to take up the challenge for Envision Racing in the knock-out phase of qualifying, and he took on McLaren’s Rene Rast as track temperatures continued to rise. After a tense duel, it was Buemi who brilliantly mastered the heat and bumps in Rome to nail the final sector progress into the semi-finals.
And in the second semi-final, Buemi went up against eventual pole position-winner Evans.It was the Jaguar driver who bettered the Envision Racing machine of Buemi to hand the former Formula E champion a fourth place slot on the starting grid.
— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) July 15, 2023
At the start of the weekend’s opening race, Sam Bird snatched the lead from polesitter Evans as Buemi slipped back immediately, coming to a virtual standstill halfway around the opening lap due to a wayward Maserati. This relegated Buemi to ninth, but aided team-mate Cassidy who slipped by, finding himself in sixth by the end of the opening lap, one place behind championship leader Dennis.
On lap two the first real drama occurred when championship contender Pascal Wehrlein suffered a puncture, relegating the German driver to the rear of the pack. Back up front, Bird cycled to the lead, whilst Cassidy looked to keep in touch with the top five, as Buemi recovered a place back to eighth.
A crashed Andre Lotterer brought out a safety car on lap three, closing up the pack. At the restart the two leading Jaguar cars swapped places with Evans once more assuming the lead with the two Envision Racing cars separated by the Maserati of Maximilian Günther.
Ahead of Cassidy it was all change, and by lap seven Sacha Fenestraz split the two Jaguars, taking second place, followed by Rast who took third, relegating Bird to fourth. One lap later Fenestraz took the lead as a huge crash involving the Jaguar of Bird, an unsighted Buemi and Edoardo Mortara immediately brought out the red flag, stopping the race.
With heavily damaged cars, carbon fibre shards and debris littering the circuit, a lengthy clean up was required, and when the action got back underway, Cassidy restarted in fifth, one of just 13 cars remaining from the 21 that started.
An understandably cautious Cassidy was passed by Günther on the opening lap of the restart, as Fenestraz headed the field. Cassidy’s caution made way for bravery a few corners later as Cassidy overtook Günther to claim fifth with an artful pass.
Rast became the next target for Cassidy on lap 12, and the Envision Racing driver made a brilliant move at Turn 14, to slot in behind Dennis and apply enormous pressure as Günther continued to hassle.
With 10 laps remaining, the battle at the front really came to the boil as Dennis hit the lead from Fenestraz, Evans and Cassidy. On lap 17, Cassidy claimed third at Turn 4, setting about new second place man Evans as the top three closed up.
Entering the final five laps, Evans headed Dennis with Cassidy just about keeping touch in third and pulling away from Günther. As Evans and Cassidy took late-race Attack Mode phases, Dennis assumed the lead, only to be re-passed by Evans as Cassidy closed in and snatched second from Dennis. With two laps added to the initial 25-lap distance, Cassidy set about chasing fellow New Zealander Evans as Dennis slipped further down the field.
At the chequered flag it was Evans who triumphed, with Cassidy close behind in second place. Günther completed the podium with Dennis holding on to fourth, losing his championship lead to the Envision Racing driver.
“At the start of the race I didn’t expect to be on the podium,” revealed Cassidy. “We had a quick car, and more than anything I was disappointed with qualifying as we had a good shot to make it into the duels, but that was what it was, and we started ninth and had a good race. I felt at the end of the race Mitch was a bit stronger than me, but it is a good result and we will regroup tonight, look at where we are and we will go again tomorrow.”
Drivers’ standings (after Rd 13):
1. Nick Cassidy, 171pts
2. Jake Dennis, 166pts
3. Mitch Evans, 151pts
4. Pascal Wehrlein, 144pts
5. Jean-Éric Vergne, 107pts
8. Sébastien Buemi, 72pts
Teams’ standings (after Rd 13):
1. Envision Racing, 243pts
2. Porsche Formula E Team, 237pts
3. Jaguar Racing, 213pts
4. Avalanche Andretti, 189pts
5. DS Penske, 149pts