Rowland inadvertently hands Maserati a much-needed Formula E win


Maximilian Guenther brought Maserati MSG a much-needed Formula E victory in the series’ inaugural Tokyo E-Prix, denying long-time leader Oliver Rowland a fairytale win for home team Nissan.

Rowland claimed his second pole of the season and led the majority of the race, albeit seemingly having to carefully conserve energy while doing so as he kept a long pack of cars at bay on a circuit where overtaking was relatively difficult.

Guenther had lost second to Edoardo Mortara’s Mahindra at the start, regained the place using his second attack mode boost, and then took the lead from Rowland around two-thirds distance when Rowland felt the only way to meet his energy target would be to hand over the lead and tuck in behind the Maserati, hoping to get back ahead when it went for attack mode again.

Rowland had managed to clear both his attack modes early without relinquishing the net lead, while Guenther still needed to take one more trip to the attack mode zone once he reached the front.

But he quickly pulled out enough of a gap to do so and stay ahead of Rowland.

Guenther then withstood multiple inventive attacks from Rowland around the final lap to claim Maserati MSG’s first victory since Jakarta last June and first podium of the season, at a time when the team still needs more investment to secure its long-term future.

Rowland’s second place was a third consecutive podium, but was so agonisingly close to being the works Nissan team’s first victory since August 2020, at its most important race.

PORSCHES HELD AT BAY

Guenther and Rowland benefitted from the potentially faster and more efficient Porsche runners being bottled up – Mortara’s Mahindra and its second row partner Sergio Setta Camara’s ERT both holding back quicker packages at various times after great underdog qualifying efforts.

In by far his strongest race of what had been a painful season up to now, Antonio Felix da Costa battled past works Porsche team-mate Pascal Wehrlein and Andretti’s Jake Dennis to emerge as best-placed Porsche runner in the closing stages and had substantially more energy than Guenther and Rowland ahead.

But when da Costa tried an outside-line move on Rowland with two laps to go, Rowland kept da Costa out wide – to the Porsche driver’s chagrin – and Dennis was able to slip between them and deny da Costa what would have been a first podium since last June.

Wehrlein’s race went awry when a failed attempt to pass Dennis left him with a mangled front wing and allowed Norman Nato and Robin Frijns (who later had their own collision that left Frijns with no wing and Nato with a time penalty) to demote him. He recovered to fifth, ahead of Nico Mueller, whose sixth place is Abt Cupra’s first points finish of the season.

Mueller was seventh on the road before Mortara was disqualified from what would’ve been a hugely appreciated breakthrough sixth for Mahindra due to a power over-use being detected.

CASSIDY SAVES JAGUAR’S WEEKEND

Jaguar’s Nick Cassidy still leads the championship leaving Japan, but now only on countback, tied with Wehrlein after a canny damage limitation drive to seventh.

A throttle map infringement in qualifying meant Cassidy lost a lap that would have put him into the duels and left him 19th on the grid.

His team-mate Mitch Evans starting ninth after being penalised for impeding Jake Hughes then ran into Sette Camara while passing Frijns in the race and had to pit for repairs, leaving him 14th.

MCLAREN BACK DOWN TO EARTH

Though the works Nissan team’s long Formula E win drought goes on, its customer McLaren had at least won in Sao Paulo a fortnight ago.

There was no sign of that form in Japan. McLaren’s Brazil hero Sam Bird spun in qualifying and was penalised for impeding Jean-Eric Vergne, then spent the race at the back and in and out of the pits.

Team-mate Hughes was 13th after a clash with Lucas di Grassi sent him into the barriers.





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