Rome E-Prix: Evans wins from Cassidy after early-race pile-up
The Jaguar driver beat fellow Kiwi and championship protagonist Nick Cassidy by 1.6s to the win, as the runner-up spot moved the Envision Racing driver into the points lead.
Maserati’s Maximilian Guenther completed the podium while Jake Dennis – who had led the championship standings ahead of the race – took fourth after a defensive drive over the final laps to keep Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Penske) and Nico Muller (Abt Cupra) behind.
The race was red flagged on lap nine after numerous cars were involved in a high-speed accident after Jaguar’s Sam Bird lost control through the high-speed left-hand Turn 6 sweep after running wide.
The Briton had started on the front row alongside team-mate Evans, initially led the opening laps after taking the lead into the first turn but was running fourth when the incident took place.
While Dennis, Cassidy and Guenther immediately behind were just able to avoid the spinning Bird after the Briton had bounced off the wall, Envision’s Sebastien Buemi was unable to avoid the stricken Jaguar which had stopped broadside across the track.
The heavy impact sent Bird’s Jaguar further onto the racing line, with Stoffel Vandoorne hitting the wall in avoidance, while team-mate Vergne just squeezed through on the inside of the wreckage.
Edoardo Mortara’s Maserati was unable to avoid the stricken Jaguar, though, suffering a heavy head-on collision as the resulting chaos and debris caused a concertina effect behind which claimed Antonio Felix da Costa (Porsche), Lucas di Grassi (Mahindra) and Robin Frijns (Abt Cupra).
All drivers involved in the incident were able to extract themselves from their respective cars and underwent medical checks.
The same spot on the track had already claimed the Andretti Autosport machine of Andre Lotterer earlier in the race which caused a safety car, as well as the McLaren of Jake Hughes in qualifying, with the latter unable to start the race due to the damage caused in the crash.
Marshals remove the car of Sam Bird, Jaguar Racing, Jaguar I-TYPE 6, with a crane after a big crash on the 9th lap
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images
Fourteen cars took the standing restart after a lengthy delay with Sacha Fenestraz resuming in the lead having kept ahead of Evans and McLaren’s Rene Rast prior to the restart.
But the Nissan driver quickly began to lose more energy compared with his rivals, with Dennis taking the lead midway through the race into the 90-degree left of T7 having jumped Evans at T3.
Dennis led for a lengthy period, only dropping behind Evans when activating his final Attack Mode with the Kiwi following suit two laps later.
The Jaguar driver rejoined second and clear of Cassidy, who had also demoted Fenestraz, but Evans had missed the Attack Mode activation sensors meaning he had to run off-line again the following lap.
This time with Attack Mode activated, Evans overtook Dennis for the lead on the approach to Turn 7, with Cassidy pulling off the same move further round the lap.
While the top two remained unchanged until the flag, Dennis lost a further position to Guenther with five laps remaining as he conserved energy.
The Briton was just able to hold on to fourth from Vergne and Muller over the final laps, as Pascal Wehrlein completed the top seven.
The Porsche driver, who is also in championship contention, was forced to pit on the opening lap after damaging his front wing and then suffered suspension damage in the Bird incident.
Although his car was repaired and he recovered to seventh, the German is under investigation by the stewards for going too fast under the red flags.