Mitch Evans said the Sao Paulo E-Prix was “going to be pretty nuts” before the race and he was spot on because it was manic stuff all the way through Formula E‘s first event in Brazil.
The predictions of a cycling-style peloton, with a bunch sprint at the end came true because nobody wanted the lead and it caused chaos.
Evans time his run to the front perfectly to hold on from Nick Cassidy and Sam Bird as three Jaguar-powered cars were on the podium.
Perhaps the win will also mark the start of Evans‘ championship comeback as he came into the weekend 66 points behind Pascal Wehrlein.
How did Evans win in Sao Paulo?
Jaguar had fantastic pace at the last two rounds in Hyderabad and Cape Town but have nothing to show for it due to Bird‘s contact with Evans, plus accidents and penalties, were very costly.
It became clear they had a very efficient car in Sao Paulo, so pole-sitter Stoffel Vandoorne was soon out of the equation for the win.
Vandoorne had a rocketship start and led early on, but soon had a significant energy disadvantage to the rest of the field.
Antonio Felix da Costa, Cassidy and Evans all had spells at the front and at the halfway mark it was the Envision driver in the lead.
Da Costa, Vandoorne, Evans, Jean-Eric Vergne and Sam Bird followed as the race resumed for second time after a safety car interruption.
Evans took his second attack mode and went from fourth to first in the space of a lap, showing the pace of his Jaguar machine.
A key moment came when Da Costa was running in third but went deep going into Turn 1, so had to obey the race director’s rules by coming to a half before getting going again.
This was arguably Evans‘ most dangerous rival out of contention because Da Costa is usually dynamite in these chaotic, strategy races.
Cassidy then took the lead from Evans with nine laps to go and the latter smartly stayed around 0.6-1.2 seconds behind in the slipstream, thus saving energy.
Evans nearly got to the front too early
Cassidy had around 1.5 percent less energy than Evans with five laps to go and appeared to try and let him through.
Evans had none of it and waited another lap to take the lead, perhaps noticing teammate Bird was on a charge, having overtook Vandoorne.
It allowed Cassidy to get back on terms energy-wise and Evans had to get very defensive during the final lap.
He put his car in the right positions though and did just enough regening, even when he nearly hit nought going into the penultimate corner, to get over the line brilliantly.
“To put these races together in terms of strategy is not easy but the team guided me perfectly,” said Evans.
“It was all about where you wanted to be at certain stages of the race. I tried to find my time to use that energy advantage.
“I thought I maybe went a little bit too early because once Nick got behind me he was able to accumulate some energy and stick in my tow. But we got the victory so did the right job.”
Evans probably made it more difficult than he did by taking the lead with four laps to go, but, like he said, it didn’t matter and his 66-point deficit is now 44 to Wehrlein.
Wehrlein limits the damage
Speaking of Wehrlein, a poor qualifying was somewhat salvaged with seventh place. He stormed up the field early on from 18th to 10th after just three laps, but didn’t have the pace of the top six drivers.
“After a difficult qualifying session, it was more or less about damage control in the race,” said Wehrlein.
“To move up from P18 to P7 and score important points is something we can be happy with. However, more would have been possible today.
“If we’d done better in qualifying, the race would’ve been easier too. At least we extended our lead in the drivers’ and team standings. We’re working hard to keep improving from race to race.”
Disaster for Dennis
Jake Dennis had another day to forget as he was following Wehrlein before being hit by Dan Ticktum, who simply didn’t stop going into Turn 1.
Dennis was furious with Tickum post-race, calling him a “plonker” as he went a third consecutive race without scoring points.
DS Penske didn’t have the race pace to fight for the win so Vergne maximised what he could get with fifth, so it now means he has been jumped by Cassidy and is 26 points behind Wehrlein.
It’s only right that the title race got a little bit closer with the Jaguar-powered machines looking very strong heading into the Berlin double-header next month.