Rookie Dennis grabs maiden FE win in Valencia, leading home Lotterer and Lynn

Jake Dennis led from pole to flag to seal a maiden ABB Formula E victory, the BMW I Andretti Motorsport driver leading home perennial bridesmaid Andre Lotterer and Alex Lynn after a flawless tactical drive.

Race winner Jake Dennis (GBR), BMW I Andretti Motorsport, BMW iFE.21 crosses the finish line

“Honestly, I am over the moon,” said Dennis after his pole to flag victory. “I really didn’t think it was going to work out, you know. We led every single lap and going into that race everyone saying that is not the strategy. Honestly we went in there hoping Alex would overtake us and it became quite apparent that he definitely didn’t want to but we managed to lead every lap.

“It just shows how efficient we are. This car is really, really good in race pace and everyone back at the factory and obviously back in the garage is just incredible. We pulled off an amazing achievement and obviously me first pole and first win being a rookie is incredible.”

It had looked for a long time that fellow rookie driver Norman Nato would take his spot behind Dennis on the podium. But a five second time penalty meant that the ROKiT Venturi driver would be demoted to fifth behind Oliver Rowland.

Rene Rast drove a brilliant race to climb from 14th on the grid to 6th by the finish, the AUDI Sport man heading Jean-Eric Vergne, Oliver Turvey, Edoardo Mortara and Lucas di Grassi as the remaining points finishers.

“That’s what everyone was expecting, the slipstream effect, Attack Modes and the tyres dropping,” said Lotterer after his sixth second place finish in Formula E. “I kept it calm all the way through the race and really I think it’s the best we could have done. We executed everything perfectly.

“Congrats to Jake, really impressive to be at the front with the slipstream effect. So happy to have a bit of luck as well because I came in third but then there was a penalty (Nato), so I take a second place happily.”

After rain and five safety car situations played a massive role in the final result of Saturday’s chaotic race, clear skies and sunshine greeted teams and drivers as the lights went out.

And it was Dennis who led off the line from Lynn as the fourth group in qualifying held the early advantage, having had the better of the qualifying conditions in this most interesting of formats.

With Turvey and Nato getting past the second NIO of Tom Blomqvist, it was three British drivers leading the race on the opening lap. Like a cycling peleton, tactics would be all important on this day, with energy management affecting the leader more than those conserving and slipstreaming in the clear air behind.

Indeed, pole sitter Dennis had implied earlier that it could be more of a hinderance than a help leading the race. After Saturday’s learning experience on a very different circuity and crazy conditions, it was a cagey start, no team wishing to press too hard early on.

The big early mover was two-time champion Vergne, the Frenchman gaining two early places to run fifth behind compatriot Nato. As is always the case in the world’s premier electric racing series, the utilisation of Attack Mode is often the key to defeat or victory. Whilst delivering a driver an extra 35kW of power for four minutes, the conundrum is having to risk losing places by running wide to activate before putting the pedal to the metal.

With 30 minutes of the race remaining, the race leaders played their hands. Turvey was the first to activate, conceding position to Nato and rejoining fourth before sweeping past both Nato and Lynn and into second.

The top ten all utilising Attack Mode simultaneously, it was still a British top three but as Turvey’s energy advantage expired first, the NIO 333 driver ceded position to both Nato and a charging Vergne.

Formula E regulations dictate that all drivers must utilise Attack Mode twice during the course of a race. And with under 20 minutes of the race remaining, it was still the collected Dennis who led the race from Lynn, before the Mahindra driver was clipped by Nato, running wide into the gravel and losing position. It was a tough pill for Nato to swallow, the Frenchman also cruelly denied a podium in Rome after running out of energy on the penultimate lap.

“Everyone was in the same position with conservation and when I was in P3, Dennis slowed massively which caused the pack to bunch up,” reflected Nato. “This caught me off guard and I applied the brakes as soon as possible but I touched Alex [Lynn] and he went off the track. It wasn’t on purpose and I’m really sorry it happened. It was a shame to get the penalty because it cost us another podium today which is difficult to swallow.”

It meant Dennis led the Venturi driver and both activated their final Attack Modes with 15 minutes of the race remaining. Then drama, former F1 drivers Vandoorne and Buemi colliding and leading to the latter’s retirement. It meant a frantic scrap for the remaining points finishes.

After the chaos of Saturday’s final lap, there were no such problems in race 2 as the leading protagonists had plenty in reserve for the final charge to the flag. And with Nato being slapped with a 5 second time penalty for his incident with Lynn, it was Dennis who gleefully took the flag from Lotterer and Lynn.

Race winner Jake Dennis (GBR), BMW I Andretti Motorsport, BMW iFE.21 talks to TV Presenter Nicki Shields in Parc Ferme

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.