Günther victorious in Tokyo as Nissan denied home win

Maximilian Günther denied Nissan a famous home victory in the inaugural Tokyo E-Prix, following a strategic masterclass by Maserati.

Starting in second, Günther sat in third for the opening stages of the race, before timing his attack modes to perfection. He made his move into the lead on Lap 25, where he remained until the chequered flag.

Polesitter Oliver Rowland had to settle for second, whilst reigning world champion Jake Dennis completed the podium.

Antonio Felix da Costa finished fourth ahead of team-mate Pascal Wehrlein in fifth, whilst Nico Müller, Nick Cassidy, Robin Frijns, Sergio Sette Camara and Sacha Fenestraz completed the top 10.

Rowland makes super start

The big news ahead of the race was the string of grid penalties, all awarded to drivers for impeding during qualifying. Mitch Evans, Jake Hughes, Sam Bird and Sebastian Buemi were the guilty drivers.

This had no impact on the first two rows, as Rowland started on pole position for the second time in the last three races. Günther was alongside him.

As the lights went out, it was Rowland who made the best start but he was immediately put under pressure from Edoardo Mortara – the Swiss driver quickly overtook Günther for second.

Championship leader ahead of the race Cassidy had an underwhelming start, and only made up one place from where he started in P19.

Despite several overtakes in the opening few laps, it quickly became clear that the style of racing would be similar to Mexico City and Diriyah.

Porsche on the move

Da Costa was a busy driver in the opening laps, as he progressed into P7 on the fifth lap, following excellent overtakes on Nato and Sergio Sette Camara.

Rowland managed the pace resulting in the field remaining bunched, which caught out Lucas di Grassi on Lap 7. The Abt Cupra driver forced Jake Hughes into the wall at Turn 15, but managed to reverse out and continue.

The Porsche powertrain looked very efficient during the opening stages, as Dennis, Wehrlein and Da Costa sat in fourth, fifth and sixth. As for Mitch Evans and Cassidy, they were P11 and P18 on Lap 10.

On the 10th lap, drivers started to become impatient behind Mortara, as Rowland began to build an advantage in the lead. He extended his lead to over one-second to the Mahindra driver.

Lap 11 and Mortara finally lost second but as a result of activating his first attack mode, however, he only lost one spot. Rowland also activated his first attack mode but kept the lead.

Disaster for Evans

Lap 13 and Rowland momentarily lost the lead after activating his final attack mode, although the order remained the same as it had been for the opening stages once Günther took his attack mode.

The German though, pulled off a stellar move on Mortara for second at Turn 16. Weirdly, Dennis did not use either of his attack modes in the first half of the race.

Meanwhile, da Costa lunged up the inside of Dennis for fourth on Lap 18. The Portuguese driver was the strongest he has been all season.

On the same lap, a dramatic moment occurred for Evans in P11, who destroyed his front-wing at Turn 5 after a failed move on Sette Camara.

This dropped him to the back of the field, with a safety car having been released on Lap 21 for debris to be cleared.

Günther hits the front

When the field bunched behind the safety car, Rowland remained in the lead ahead of Günther, Mortara, da Costa, Dennis, Nato, Frijns and Wehrlein. Cassidy had progressed to 12th.

The safety car finally returned to the pits at the end of Lap 22, allowing Rowland to restart the race. Dennis immediately activated his final attack mode and set his sights on the drivers ahead.

Lap 25 and Günther made his move on Rowland ahead of the chicane at Turn 10. Günther pulled the pin and built a gap of over a second, as he still needed to take his second attack mode.

Crucially, he activated his final attack mode on Lap 28 and remained in the lead, to the disappointment of Nissan.

Mortara was the other driver amongst the frontrunners who needed to activate their attack mode, something he did two laps later which dropped him from third to fifth, promoting da Costa onto the podium.

Günther triumphs

Following the earlier safety car, the race distance was extended by two laps. With four laps remaining, Günther led from Rowland, da Costa and Dennis.

Lap 32 and contact between Nato and Robin Frijns destroyed the latter’s front-wing, dropping the Dutch driver to the bottom of the top 10. However, it promoted Cassidy into ninth.

The race’s intensity increased as it approached the closing laps, as an opportunistic move by da Costa on Rowland backfired, as it allowed Dennis to overtake the Porsche driver for third.

On the penultimate lap and there was nothing between Günther and Rowland, who had duelled in the final duel in qualifying.

Rowland tried everything to overtake the Maserati driver but just could not make the move happen, leaving the German victorious in a Tokyo thriller. Rowland and Dennis completed the podium, whilst Mortara was disqualified after running out of energy.

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