ENVISION RACING’S NICK CASSIDY CLAIMED 3RD AT THE CAPE TOWN E-PRIX AS THE TEAM LEAP UP TO 2ND IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
Throughout the two days of the inaugural Cape Town E-Prix, Envision Racing, and in particular Nick Cassidy, looked to be among the favourites for victory come race day.
From qualifying third to leading the early phase of the race, Cassidy continued Envision Racing’s early season promise. At the end of a dramatic and memorable first time out in South Africa, took a well-deserved third place, in a race where the two championship leaders failed to score any points, throwing the battle for both the Drivers’ and Teams’ titles wide open.
The result gives Cassidy his second consecutive podium, following a stellar performance last time out at the Hyderabad E-Prix, however for team-mate Sébastien Buemi, the bad luck would continue.
Having cruelly been denied a podium finish in India, Buemi fought back from a practice crash to make the qualifying duels, qualify seventh, and in the E-Prix looked good to join Cassidy in fighting for the top three, if not victory.
These hopes were seriously dented by a wayward Pascal Wehrlein, who smashed into the Swiss driver on just the second lap of the race, forcing him to turn in a calm and measured drive to power from 15th to fifth at the flag.
— Envision Racing (@Envision_Racing) February 25, 2023
PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
It was big drama from the start of the very first Cape Town E-Prix weekend for Envision Racing. In free practice one, Buemi crashed heavily, necessitating a heroic repair job from the team, and in the second practice session, team-mate Cassidy posted the fastest time, underlining the pace of the Jaguar I-Type 6.
Heading out in qualifying Group A, Cassidy loitered near the top of the timings. With a couple of minutes remaining, the Kiwi set the fastest time, ending up second at the session’s close to get a chance to fight it out in the duels.
Playing catch-up, Buemi shrugged off his practice woes, and during the opening minutes of Group B qualifying showed good pace. So good in fact, that the Envision Racing driver clocked the third quickest time, once again progressing alongside team-mate Cassidy, as the session ended prematurely following a nasty collision between Edoardo Mortara and Sam Bird.
In the first quarter final Cassidy faced off against championship leader Wehrlein, dominating the German driver and making it into the semi finals for the first time in 2023. Buemi followed Cassidy out in the third quarter final, taking on Mitch Evans. What started as a tight battle ended when Buemi tapped the wall at turn 7, meaning the Envision Racing driver would end up seventh on the grid.
For Cassidy, it was the semi finals. The opposition, Sacha Fenestraz in the Nissan. Despite catching a rapid Fenestraz in the second half of the lap, Cassidy couldn’t beat the evential pole-position winner to progress into the final, but nevertheless secured a superb third on the grid.
Cassidy made a lightning start, briefly overhauling second-place driver Maximilian Günther, but being forced to settle for third as the cars snaked through the opening sequence of turns.
There was huge drama on the second lap as Buemi, starting seventh and looking to fight his way to the front, was brutally taken out by an out-of-control Wehrlein at turn 10. The collision forced the Porsche driver into retirement, and Buemi down the order to 15th place, triggering a safety car.
DRAMA ON THE OPENING LAP!!! 🤯
— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) February 25, 2023
Following a three-lap clean-up operation it was game on again, with Günther leading pole-sitter Fenestraz and Cassidy as the race settled down into a waiting game amongst the 15 remaining cars.
By lap eight, Cassidy found himself under pressure from the sole Jaguar of Evans. A lap later, Cassidy slipped into second place, and looked strong, as Fenestraz took his first Attack Mode.
Second place became first as leader Günther took his initial Attack Mode on lap 10, and crucially, the Maserati driver found himself in a close-quarter battle with Fenestraz, allowing Cassidy to pull away and lead a race for the first time this season.
Cassidy elected to take his first Attack Mode phase on lap 14, maintaining his place at the front of the field ahead of Fenestraz and Günther. By the halfway point, the battle was on as Fenestraz keenly pursued leader Cassidy.
On lap 21, Günther’s hopes of victory ended with a crash, promoting António Félix da Costa to third and leading to a full-course yellow. As the race got back underway Cassidy held his lead from new second place man da Costa, with just 1.5 seconds covering the top six cars.
Da Costa used all his skill and experience to pass Cassidy on lap 24 with an artful move, pushing the Envision Racing driver to second, which soon became third as Jean-Éric Vergne took second to set about chasing down da Costa.
As Cassidy moved backwards, team-mate Buemi surged forwards. Recovering from his early-race misfortune, the Envision Racing driver held eighth approaching the closing laps with seventh place and Stoffel Vandoorne in sight.
On lap 28, the Hyderabad E-Prix winner Vergne snatched the lead as da Costa took a late Attack Mode. For Cassidy the focus was now on holding third place and resisting the challenge of Fenestraz.
Two laps later, and with little to choose between remaining battery power, Cassidy lost out to the Nissan of Fenestraz, as the leading duo of Vergne and da Costa pulled away. As the race entered the final two additional laps, da Costa repeated the breathtaking move he pulled earlier in the race on Cassidy to lead from Vergne.
On the final lap, behind the fireworks at the front, Cassidy dramatically retook third as Fenestraz spun at turn 7, meaning the Envision Racing driver just had to fend off Rene Rast in the McLaren to take a second podium on the bounce. Cassidy successfully held on to take a well deserved podium as da Costa triumphed ahead of Vergne.
“I think we have to be happy with the result today,” said Cassidy. “Whenever you finish third in Formula E you have to be happy and I have to walk away with a smile. Part of me thinks we should have won that race, and the full-course yellow really hurt us and it changed the energy of the race, but that’s motorsport.”
— Envision Racing (@Envision_Racing) February 25, 2023
Behind Cassidy, Buemi did exceptionally well to battle back to a brilliant fifth to score vital points for his championship hunt and the Team’s Championship standings. That first victory of the year continues to elude Envision Racing, but the team have shown to be genuine frontrunners, as they head to another new track in Brazil for the Sao Paulo E-Prix.
“What a weekend it has been in Cape Town, a fantastic track and a fantastic venue,” said Sylvain Filippi, Director & CTO at Envision Racing. “It all started with quite a challenge following Seb’s crash in practice, and the team did a brilliant job to rebuild the car overnight. As soon as we overcame that we were fast all weekend with both cars reaching the duels in qualifying.
“In the race, Seb was unlucky to be tagged, but put in an amazing recovery drive, and Nick finishing on the podium again, plus two cars in the top five is a fantastic result.”
Drivers’ standings (after Rd 5):
1. Pascal Wehrlein, 80pts
2. Jake Dennis, 62pts
3. Jean-Éric Vergne, 50pts
4. António Félix da Costa, 46pts
5. Nick Cassidy, 43pts
6. Sébastien Buemi, 41pts
Teams’ standings (after Rd 5):
1. Porsche Formula E Team, 126pts
2. Envision Racing, 84pts
3. Avalanche Andretti, 80pts
4. McLaren Formula E Team, 66pts
5. DS Penske, 61pts