This past weekend, Cape Town (South Africa) hosted the first-ever Sub-Saharan FIA ABB Formula E race, in what was a thrilling event. This surely reaffirmed the “Mother city” as a leading host for International events.
Cape Town in the limelight
There is much to be said regarding South Africa’s deteriorating electrical infrastructure, or the fact that Eskom decided to be present at the FanZone this weekend.
Rather, the first-ever Sub-Saharan FIA ABB Formula E event and the buildup since 2022, showcased the true potential of Cape Town as an International host. With a 5-year contract to host the event, the City of Cape Town showcased the potential of cleaner and more sustainable means of travel to the public.
There was something for everyone, from electric scooters to electric bicycles, and electric cars. The event was also run, using alternative and cleaner sources of energy, such as biofuels to power the generators.
Even more astonishing was the amount of attendees, with the stands around the circuit, almost entirely filled. Compared to other recent International motorsport events in South Africa, this was certainly a welcoming site.
It also brought with it a general change in public perception, which is the exact aim of this championship. Whereas the ticket sales were initially slow, a good marketing strategy propelled this event to a nearly sold-out event.
While many were initially pessimistic about EV racing, the competitive nature of Formula E quickly changed perspectives. More of this in our race-review below.
The City of Cape Town also did wonderful work since 2022 to change the circuit surface and it was mesmerizing to see the changes made, since we last took on the circuit with a Jaguar I-Pace, early in 2022.
On a perfect Cape Town summer day, the Mother City delivered an astonishing event.
Bittersweet victory for Porsche
Porsche came into this race as one of the clear favorites, with only Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Penske) having bested the rest at round 4 in Hyderabad, India. Initially, the Mahindra powertrains (including Maserati MSG Racing, and Neom McLaren Racing Formula E Team) seemed to have the winning pace during the two practice sessions.
The Nissan Formula E Team rookie, Sacha Fenestraz, however, took a sensational pole from Maximilian Günther (Maserati MSG Racing), as the Jaguar Racing car of Sam Bird and Edoardo Mortara (Maserati MSG Racing) crashed hard into the wall at the fast sweeping turn 9.
Porsche could only to slot into a top position of sixth as Pascal Wehrlein (Tag Heuer Porsche Formula E) aimed to extend his championship lead.
The first lap, however, resulted in chaos as the German out braked himself into the 90-degree left hand turn (turn 10), careering into the back of Sebastien Buemi (Envision Racing). Both cars were sent into retirement.
Unfortunately, the local motorsport hero of Kelvin van Der Linde was unable to start the race as his ABT Cupra team was forced to retire ahead of the race, alongside Nico Müller, and Lucas Di Grassi (Mahindra Racing).
Nick Cassidy (Envision Racing soon overtook the polesitter of Fenestraz and led for most of the race, while Maserati’s race went from bad to worse on lap 21 as Günther hit the wall and retired from a strong third position.
This sent the race into another full-course yellow, bringing the leaders of Cassidy, Felix Antonio Da Costa (Tag Heuer Porsche Racing), Vergne, and Fenestraz, together.
Upon the restart, Da Costa passed Cassidy for the lead, while Vergne did the same a lap later. With attack mode activated, Vergne passed Da Costa for the lead on lap 28 as the latter took to the outside racing line to activate ‘attack mode’.
Da Costa soon passed Vergne in a sensational move, heading out of the fast sweeping left-hander of turns 8 and 9. As Fenestraz hit the wall, propelling Cassidy into third, the 2020 champion (Da Costa) fended off the 2018 and 2019 champion (Vergne) on the last lap of the race to take his first win as a Porsche driver. Even most astonishing, was that the Porsche driver managed this all, as he charged from 11th on the grid.
Whilst Wehrlein retired from the race, the Porsche driver still holds onto the championship lead with Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) following some 18 points behind. Vergne now slots into third, while Da Costa’s win slots him into fourth.
While all eyes will be on round 6, which will take place in Sao Paulo (Brazil) on 25 March, many will talk about this Cape Town race as an instant classic race for the history books.