Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein said it was a weekend he would never forget after completing a double victory in the 2023 CORE Diriyah E-Prix to take the lead in the Formula E Drivers’ World Championship.
Wehrlein won the second race of the double-header after again tussling for the lead with Avalanche Andretti’s Jake Dennis – who finished runner-up to repeat the Round 2 result and give the pair clear breathing space at the top of the standings.
It was also a day to remember for NEOM McLaren as the British team secured its first podium in Formula E with Rene Rast holding off relentless competition from Jaguar TCS Racing’s Sam Bird to finish third.
Rast’s teammate Jake Hughes also took his first ever pole position but was unable to hold on during the race and finished fifth – a respectable result for the rookie.
Wehrlein and Dennis were well clear of the chasing pack by that point and are looking like the pair to beat this season after three consecutive race wins.
But the weekend belonged to Wehrlein who was visibly ecstatic after taking the chequered flag under the Saturday night lights at the Riyadh Street Circuit.
“This weekend has been incredible, a double victory”, he said. “Our race pace was incredible again and today we had the perfect strategy, using the attack modes at the right time and not having to use it again after the safety car – that was crucial. What can I say, just amazing for my team – all their hard work has finally paid off and I am so proud of them. This weekend is one I will never forget.
“I would say yesterday was a bit more exciting as I had more cars to pass, today was not easy and I would say it was even a bit more difficult. Obviously the others learned from yesterday, Sam Bird had quite a lot of energy in the end but still had to take his attack mode – so that probably saved us a little bit. But you could clearly see they made steps forward today and that made it a bit more difficult.”
Wehrlein made things easier on himself ahead of Round 3, qualifying fifth rather than the ninth he managed a day prior. From there, he always looked a threat to those ahead. Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) had taken the lead from polesitter Hughes through the first corner on the opening lap, before Hughes and Rast made it by the Jaguar TCS 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 danced into 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 Edoardo Mortara (Maserati MSG Racing) on Lap 21, with Bird following suit thanks to a trademark audacious manoeuvre 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.
Wehrlein had by then drawn out a lead and looked peerless. A late-race safety car could have thrown a spanner 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 double-header.
Formula E returns in a fortnight for its first trip to Hyderabad, India, for Round 4 of the season on 11 February.