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Maserati’s Max Gunther grabs Tokyo Eprix win

“KONNICHIWA” from this author as Formula E (FE) returns this weekend, taking its fifth round to Japan.

Japan is a popular racing spot with a rich motorsport history. Several current FE drivers have raced there in both Formula 1 and SuperFormula, often leading to exciting moments, like this year’s inaugural Tokyo EPrix.

HIGH STAKES AND OVERTAKES

Following a thrilling Sao Paulo EPrix, FE fans were treated to another race winner in Maserati MSG’s Maximilian Gunther. Gunther took the chequered flag after 35 laps (two added for the safety car), and grabbed his and Maserati’s first win since the 2023 Jakarta EPrix. 

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The race kicked off with Nissan’s Oliver Rowland leading from pole position, going into a narrow turn one and already fending off Gunther in second, and Mahindra’s Edoardo Mortara in third. 

Energy management was a big focus in the race, as it contributed to Gunther taking the lead on lap 24 from Rowland, who ceded in order to conserve energy to finish. 

The German driver managed to block off three attempts from Rowland to gain the lead back in the last lap, which gave fans a spectacular photo finish. 

“Just an amazing shot by everybody. I feel great in the car. I’ve made some really good steps. In the last few weeks, I think everybody could see that we have a really strong pace, and after that, we could convert it into a win,” Gunther said.

“I think we covered ourselves well. It was super tight in the last lap even.I just perfectly executed the strategy, the moves, everything. So yeah, good one today.” 

Rowland and Dennis reactions

READ:  Formula E double-header arrives at Misano Circuit. 

Rowland’s performance in his team’s home race ended in second place after a fierce battle for the front between him, Gunther, Tag Heuer Porsche’s Anthony Felix Da Costa, and Andretti’s Jake Dennis. 

“If someone offered me a pole in the second, of course, I’d have snapped that handoff. But yeah, I led the whole race. But it was just tricky after the second safety car dropped the target so much that I just couldn’t hang on anymore. I knew I had to relinquish,” Rowland said.

Rowland conceded that his podium result still gave Nissan a positive reaction to his performance in the team’s home race. 

“I don’t think we could have asked for so much more. As the big bosses, I think we’ll be pretty happy with what they’ve seen. So yeah, I’m just a little bit disappointed I didn’t get the win, but I have to be grateful,” he said.

Dennis grabbed third when an opportunity arose through Da Costa’s overtaking gamble for second place, with Da Costa dropping to fourth place. 

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“(I) Felt like I probably could have got a mould a little bit more on the final lap with these guys, but I just wanted to come home in a P3 and get the points and something which we can be happy with,” Dennis said.

“I think as I get older and more experienced, I still just accept what I’ve got underneath me on certain days, and we did that in qualifying. P3 was the absolute maximum for the car, and to come along with third against two cars, which are a lot quicker than us today, is very good.”

READ:  São Paulo heats up with dramatic win for Sam Bird

Setbacks and Disappointments

In Formula E, the overuse of energy outside of the allocated amount can amount to penalties or a race disqualification. This was the case for Mahindra’s Mortara, whose energy ran out towards the end, and used extra to cross the line. 

Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein made a few risky overtakes for the podium, which gave him a damaged front wing and a fifth place finish. 

Wehrlein’s fifth place, however, gave him marginal points in the drivers’ championship standings, going level with Jaguar TCS Racing’s Nick Cassidy at the top with 63 points. 

Cassidy gave a massive performance from the back in 19th, climbing the grid to end in seventh at the outset. 

Jaguar’s Mitch Evans had a damper of a race, with an ambitious overtake on Envision Racing’s Robin Frijns in lap 18 that got him a damaged front wing and a 14th place finish. This ended Jaguar’s hopes of scoring a podium in its 100th EPrix race. 

McLaren’s Jake Hughes hit the wall on turn 10 in the race, dropping back from his 16th place start position and ending in 13th.

Teammate and winner of the Sao Paulo EPrix, Sam Bird, only managed to finish 15th in the race, summarising a difficult weekend for the McLaren outfit in Tokyo. 

Championship Standings

FE has now had five different winners from their past five races, with an unpredictable turnout for the sixth round in Italy, but with a new standing leader in Wehrlein and Jaguar holding their lead in the manufacturers’ championship standings. 

READ:  Zanzibar bids to host Africa’s 1st F1 race

Star of the EPrix: Although Gunther won, Rowland emerged as the weekend’s standout after impressing in the second practice session, securing pole position, and leading for most of the race.

Hard knock of the EPrix: It was a disappointing weekend for Mortara and Mahindra, taking the knock of the EPrix with a disqualification. Mahindra has struggled since the start of the season, and Mortara’s pace and positioning have been their best since the season started. 

Final results from the 2024 Tokyo Eprix.

Tokyo’s hosting highlights

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The metropolis of Tokyo played host to the FE World Championship, with all ten drivers hoping to score a win in Tokyo’s first-ever EPrix. 

Japanese Formula 1 driver Yuki Tsunoda got to experience the track as a guest, exploring the circuit and participating in FE and the FIA Girls on Track’ programme. 

Fast & Furious actor and car enthusiast Sung Kang also made an appearance for Formula E, and drove the podium drivers from the finish line to the podium stage. 

Nissan welcomed their competitors to their home race with gracious fashion, gifting the teams with specially designed kimonos ahead of its home EPrix. 

The 11 manufactuers’ kimonos by Jun Nakamura. Picture: Supplied/Nissan

It partnered with well-known Japanese fashion designer Jun Nakamura to create the bespoke kimonos. The team had its own kimonos decorated in cherry blossoms (known as sakura) for their drivers, Fenestraz and Rowland. 

The sixth round of the FE championship heads to the Misano race track in Italy. Some of the teams’ reserve rookie drivers will take over in the first free practice session, including Andretti and current Formula 2 driver, Zane Maloney.

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By The African Mirror

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