Frijns survives late-race scare to claim top 10 finish in Tokyo

Envision Racing’s Robin Frijns emerged from the first ever Tokyo E-Prix with a hard-won eighth place and important points for himself and the team

After 35 laps of a dramatic, historic E-Prix in Japan, not even the loss of a front wing could hinder Frijns’ quest for points.

The Envision Racing driver executed a calm but rapid race, surviving damage late in the race to end up eighth, with four points in the bag after a tough day on brand new circuit.

In truth it could have been even better for the Dutchman, if he had not been hit by Norman Nato in the closing stages – a collision that earned the Andretti driver a five-second penalty.

Despite setting the pace in practice, Envision Racing suffered another difficult qualifying session which did not reflect the speed of the car and drivers. Robin Frijns narrowly missed out on making the duels ending up 10th on the grid, whilst Sébastien Buemi was forced to settle for 21st after damage prevented him making the most of his final qualifying run.

When the lights went out to start the first ever E-Prix in Japan it was polesitter Oliver Rowland who maintained the lead, and as the pack filtered through the opening sequence of corners, Frijns had moved up two places to eighth.

After a lively opening couple of laps, Frijns managed to settle into eighth, just behind António Félix da Costa, as team-mate Buemi remained boxed in down in 21st place.

In the closing metres of lap four, Frijns made a superb double overtake, surging from eighth to sixth, slotting in behind the Porsche of Pascal Wehrlein.

By lap 10 of the scheduled 33, Frijns found himself in a decent seventh place, behind da Costa, as up front, Rowland maintained his lead from Edoardo Mortara and Maximilian Günther. Three laps later, a temporary drop to eighth was soon resolved as Frijns passed Sérgio Sette Câmara to once again set his sights on sixth place man da Costa.

As the battle for the lead between Rowland and Günther, Frijns elected to take his opening Attack Mode phase on lap 18, dropping down to eighth place. Further back, Buemi had made decent progress, moving from 21st to 16th, aided by a crash for Jaguar’s Mitch Evans.

On lap 20 the debris resulting from Evans’ incident necessitated the first safety car period of the day, bunching up the pack, with Frijns sitting seventh, and Buemi running 16th. 

Racing action resumed on lap 22, with Rowland at the front, chased by Günther and Mortara with Frijns in seventh chasing the two Andretti machines. Two laps later Frijns went for Attack Mode, losing a place to Wehrlein’s slightly wounded Porsche. 

Two additional laps were added to the race distance, extending the contest to 35 laps as Günther headed the pack in the Maserati from Rowland and da Costa. Frijns continued to hold eighth place for Envision Racing, applying the pressure on Norman Nato before a heavy collision for the Dutch driver resulted in the loss of his front wing.

Frijns emerged from the contact with Nato down in 10th, minus a serious chunk of downforce.

Entering the final, added two laps, Frijns was forced to apply all his skill and experience to resist a challenge from Sette Câmara. At the chequered flag, Frijns managed to hold on to finish 10th on the road, which became ninth as Nato was penalised for causing the earlier collision.

Up front, Günther claimed the win ahead of Rowland and Jake Dennis, with Buemi ending up 12th. 

After the race there was further good news for Frijns. Mahindra Racing’s Mortara was found to have used excess energy, resulting in his disqualification, promoting Frijns to eighth (and Buemi to 12th), and adding an extra two points to the Teams’ and Drivers’ Championship tally.

Drivers’ standings (after Rd 5):
1. Nick Cassidy, 63pts
2. Pascal Wehrlein, 63pts
3. Oliver Rowland, 54pts
4. Jake Dennis, 53pts
5. Maximilian Günther, 48pts
9. Robin Frijns, 23pts
9. Sébastien Buemi, 20pts

Teams’ standings (after Rd 5):
1. Jaguar TCS Racing, 102pts
2. Porsche Formula E Team, 83pts
3. Nissan, 63pts
4. Andretti Formula E 62, pts
5. DS Penske, 57pts
8. Envision Racing, 43pts