Jake Dennis went into the first race of Formula E’s Diriyah E-Prix doubleheader thinking he had a shot at the win, but his 13-second demolition job took him by surprise.
While less than a second covered the rest of the top five, Dennis sailed off into the distance, keeping enough in hand to add the fastest lap late on, too. He knew he was fast, but the mammoth gap wasn’t expected.
“Nobody expects to win by 13 seconds, and if you do you’re very arrogant,” he told RACER. “But yeah, we had an incredible race today and didn’t expect it at all. The car was performing absolutely amazing. It’s good to hear that there was overtaking from behind — it looked like it was a pretty exciting race on the big screens but yeah, awesome race. Hopefully we can replicate it tomorrow.”
The Andretti Global driver had a watching brief as DS Penske’s Jean-Eric Vergne sparred for the race win with Jaguar TCS’s Mitch Evans, but a perfectly timed Attack Zone strategy allowed him to get the leap on both, and unlock the true pace of his Porsche-powered car.
“There was obviously a lot going on; the team had their numbers and I had the feeling I had in the car and I think they didn’t realize how much pace I had compared to what I could do,” he said. “Ultimately, being able to show that pace allowed me to make the jump on JEV and Mitch.”
Dennis’ first Attack Zone run brought him right into the victory fight, but instead of using that and his pace to fight for position, and saving his second pass though for later in the race, he got it out of the way two laps later. It was a decision that consolidated his position at the front of the field, and ultimately helped him stretch out a big lead.
“You just want to get it out of the way because the Attack mode here isn’t that powerful,” he said of the quick one-two punch with the Attack Zone. “It was important to get it done and then cover ourselves if there was a safety car or something.”
Dennis’ relatively trouble-free run fit the narrative in the paddock pre-race that Diriyah could be a somewhat dull affair, but behind him there was plenty going on as Evans and Vergne battled over second, with Evans eventually slipping to fifth. Saturday’s second race though will be a lap shorter, with the same starting energy amount, meaning that there will be less energy saving and less opportunities to overtake. Conversely, track evolution could help drivers push harder, in itself opening up more opportunities.
“I’m glad that there’s overtaking — I didn’t expect there to be any and it’s good that there is,” Dennis said. “Each lap we do the track cleans up more and more, which allows us to take more risks on overtakes. The race will be more difficult to overtake tomorrow because it is shorter and more energy, and hopefully we’re at the front and we can do our own thing.”