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Formula E

Winners and losers as Portland shakes up Formula E title fight

by Sam Smith
11 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E's second - and for now, final - visit to Portland was always likely to offer the leading contenders a few hurdles to negotiate if they wanted to emerge unscathed.

But few could've predicted the title race opening up in quite the way it did across the weekend's two races.

Here's our pick of winners and losers.

Winner: Antonio Felix da Costa

Even in his title season of 2019-20, da Costa didn’t enjoy this level of momentum in success.

Four wins from five races is the stuff of dreams. Which is just as well because da Costa was living in a nightmare in the first three races of the season, before at first steadily pulling himself out of it in Sao Paulo and Tokyo.

Then came Misano, where he'd have taken his first win of 2024 but for his disqualification, before the recent glut of sumptuous performances began.

At Portland, he and his side of the Porsche garage read the races perfectly, being serene in the eyes of so many storms. He got the occasional rub of the green such as surviving an Edoardo Mortara clash on Sunday, and he broke free at just the right times.

“I just understand this type of racing really well. I'm not the only one, and I have an efficient car, which helps me to do it,” da Costa told The Race.

“It’s crazy, insane as these moments don't come very often. Sometimes a champion has two wins, three maximum. So, this run of races is incredible. I’ll keep riding this wave because we don't know how long it lasts.”

Should it last until the end of the season, who knows what could happen. If results go his way again in London - and he has proved he’s more than capable - the most unlikely of motorsport turnarounds could play out.

However unlikely that seems right now, the momentum is massively with da Costa and Porsche.

He couldn’t, could he?

Loser: Nick Cassidy

A nightmare in two parts.

One self-inflicted with a title-defining victory in sight, the other a classic wrong-place, wrong-time shunt-aggedon sob story.

Saturday’s error was so untypical of Cassidy and inevitably led to ‘pressure’-related philosophising from some in the paddock. They clearly don’t know Cassidy well because it’s under pressure when he thrives the most.

The upshot of his Portland disappointment is that on one hand he had his title lead slashed in half, yet on the other it could have been a whole lot worse had team-mate Evans’s controversial penalty not played out, or had Wehrlein got his mojo singing properly in the first race too.

“Yes, it could have been a lot worse,” Cassidy told The Race on Sunday. “We can’t control what others do but what feels really tough is I think we had a one-two on the cards and from a championship context and it was a big potential milestone moment.

“That’s in my head now but to be honest that doesn’t really help much to look at would/could have been, you’ve just got to look forward.”

That foresight will all be on London in three weeks’ time. That'll be a defining time for Cassidy, who revisits a title fight for the second time in as many years. Except this time, he’s in the box seat - albeit one that leaves him with one very noisy neighbour on one side of his elbows and an ultra-dangerous German on the other.

Winner: Mitch Evans

Evans’s bitter resentment at the steward’s decision to penalise him on Saturday after contact with Jake Hughes appeared to feed a fire to get back into title contention on Sunday.

As ever, Evans made it happen but he got a little compromised by the on-track chaos and resulting debris fields triggering a safety car, which delayed his second attack mode activation and put him on the back foot for a win he really needed.

Come race two, Evans was “expecting to get to the front a lot quicker and a lot easier but everyone was really aggressive, so it was very hard to make progress”. That meant he had to really get his elbows out, which made it tricky to get a clean run at da Costa and Robin Frijns.

When he got the necessary track position he couldn’t mount a challenge to the Porsche and with Frijns finally flying, third was the maximum Evans could get.

Still, that result and the eight points he scored on Saturday ensured he made a 23-point stride into his team-mate's points lead, setting up the mouth-watering prospect of what is now at least a three-way title scrap between he, Nick Cassidy and Pascal Wehrlein.

Loser: Andretti

A home race weekend in which Andretti gathered 15 points may not seem too bad. But when held up against the light of what should have been and how it lost big points momentum in its quest for third in the teams’ standings, it was a very poor weekend.

It was in keeping with what's been a bit of an inconsistent title defence all-round for Dennis, in a season that after Misano looked to be very much on.

Dennis’s team-mate Nato generally had the upper hand for once and was both quick and unlucky. He flew in qualifying, and would've been on pole but for a 10-place penalty, the result of a third reprimand for a full course yellow speeding offence in practice.

Leading for three laps on Saturday Nato then fell back into the pack as part of his strategy, which team principal Roger Griffiths described as falling apart when “we let him lead for too long”.

Some overconsumption from both drivers eventually told and Nato could only manage 13th, though Dennis fought hard for sixth place.

Though Nato and Dennis worked well together in the early stages and scored points in seventh and 10th respectively, it all felt a bit thin after a lot of genuine promise at various stages of the weekend.

Winner: Robin Frijns

There’s usually an element of a glass-half empty overview from Frijns on his recent racing in Formula E.

Blue-sky thinking generally isn’t really in his make-up. But finally at Portland he and Envision turned up to the party and did what they should be doing, which is challenging for wins and at the very least locking in podiums.

Two spirited and well-constructed runs to second place, matching the best 2024 finish he previously achieved at Diriyah in January, were just reward for finally staying out of range of the mayhem and getting more points in one weekend than the previous 12 races before Portland.

“I’m less happy now than I normally would be with a podium because it’s been a frustrating season,” Frijns told The Race on Saturday.

“I came back to Envision knowing they had a good car - and they have a good car, not saying they don’. We’ve been quick and OK there have been some mistakes etc, like everybody did.

“But in the races with the current race style I was really struggling a lot together with the team; we weren't really getting the right strategy calls and I was a bit lost.”

Now he’s found. And it was good to see the smiles returning, even if at times it seems hard for the famously relaxed but blindingly talented Frijns to be satisfied.

He was happier on Sunday after his second runner-up finish. But the hangover question now really is if it’s too little, too late in his outlook of staying with Envision for next season. That will become clearer this month.

Loser: McLaren

A paltry haul of six points for the papaya cars was a lousy return after both Hughes and Sam Bird showed the pace to fight for podiums over the weekend.

Bird’s fighting seventh place on Saturday was the only tangible highlight however, and some brutally hard knocks and horrendous luck, especially Bird’s outrageous misfortune in collecting Wehrlein’s discarded wing on Sunday, underpinned a chaotic weekend in Oregon.

Hughes was given a three-place grid penalty for London post-race for a clash with Mortara, but broken suspension, courtesy of a barge from Sacha Fenestraz, ended it all early anyway.

Hughes wasn’t too despondent after the trials of the weekend, though, telling The Race that while it would be “very easy to get a bit low” based on McLaren's results, “like I keep saying to people, it’s always hard in the immediate aftermath of these races to do so, but to try and remember that the performance was really good”.

“I’ve qualified in the top five in the last four races because of the car the team has given me. Sam was also in third place today on the grid, and in both races this weekend, my race has been curtailed early because of incidents that the other drivers got penalties for,” he added.

“The incidents that finished my race and stopped me getting points were, in the eyes of the stewards, nothing I could have done. So, I’ll take that back home with me with the knowledge I have a great car to go and fight [with] in London.”

The lack of points though now puts McLaren in greater jeopardy of being caught by Maserati and a rejuvenated Envision in what is essentially a mid-table scrap for sixth, seventh and eighth in the teams' standings.

Winner: Jean-Eric Vergne

Just as he was in 2023, Vergne has been something of an unsung hero of the grid in a DS Penske challenger that just isn’t quite in reach of the Jaguar and Porsche cars.

In a car that has its challenges and isn’t a genuine and consistent race winner, Vergne brings a flair that has both gained the vast majority of DS Penske’s current third-placed points and put team-mate and 2022 champion Stoffel Vandoorne firmly in the shade.

Saturday’s third place was an elegant run amid the madness, while his third pole of the season on Sunday against eventual winner da Costa was one of the highlights of the weekend.

But on Sunday, despite a measured, error-free run, Vergne and DS Penske were poorly rewarded with a fifth-place finish.

“We deserved better as we had a perfect race, we were good on energy, the car felt great,” Vergne told The Race.

“Just the safety car came at the wrong moment so it was very unfortunate. All the hard work for only fifth place is frustrating, but on the other hand I’m very happy with the job that we’ve done as a team.”

Vergne’s pole had come from a dark place after he struggled for pace in free practice on Sunday morning. But hard work from the DS Penske crew and Vergne’s capacity to pull a lap out overturned those issues. From the hard work came an excellent run that just wasn’t justly rewarded.

Loser: Sacha Fenestraz

The scene was set for Fenestraz to shine last weekend.

Becoming team leader after Oliver Rowland’s unfortunate withdrawal, Fenestraz was in a car that had the pace to get at the very least some decent points and keep Nissan in contention for a third-place finish in the teams’ standings.

More importantly from his own personal point of view it would have been a much-needed morale boost to do so in light of a desperately disappointing 2024 season, especially versus what his absent team-mate has achieved so far.

But the mould seemed cast for frustration from the first proper laps on Saturday morning when he dropped it at Turn 10 in free practice and skated into the wall.

That put him instantly on the back foot, enabling rookie team-mate Caio Collet to out-qualifying him.

Fenestraz was racing strongly initially on both Saturday and Sunday but a mistake in race one while battling with Max Guenther’s Maserati lost him momentum and he came home 12th.

Sunday was better, but he “lost the rear” of his car while battling with Jake Hughes’s McLaren-Nissan and he was penalised for the contact, dropping him down to 18th and last.

There is no way to gloss over the fact it was an awful weekend for the genial Fenestraz and, as honest as ever, he knew it.

“The reality is - they weren’t putting pressure on me, of course, because they’re great at the team in terms of how to deal with the driver’s pressure, they’re really helpful,” he said when asked about the pressure he has generally put himself under with the lack of performances and results.

“I had a bit of extra pressure, it’s not the reason, I don’t think, the mistakes of FP2 and stuff, but I think I was just trying too hard this weekend to get that result that I've been needing since the beginning of this season.”

Winner: Nico Mueller

A man in demand for his services in 2025, and rightly so, Mueller again showed why with two expertly cultivated runs.

It brought a fifth- and sixth-place finish to more or less double Abt Cupra’s points tally this season and Mueller's points moved the team ahead of the ERT squad to ninth in the standings in the mini 'basement' division it shares also with powertrain supplier Mahindra.

Mueller again made it through to the duels on Saturday before carving out a no-holds-barred run to fifth, although he was slightly disappointed to have not got Mortara’s works Mahindra at the end.

Sunday’s sixth was just as accomplished but Mueller was actually more content with that run, telling The Race that “I was happier with that lap today and in the race I managed to get to the sharp end quite quickly, stay there for a while”.

He was slightly compromised by what he deemed to be “a small but very costly mistake” on strategy.

This was believed to be a miscalculation in energy targets, which left him “a bit frustrated because today I thought, I’m not saying a podium, but at least the same as yesterday [was possible] if not one position better”.

“That mistake was very costly, but I shouldn’t complain; 18 points in one weekend is by far the best that Abt Cupra has had in its existence. It’s all good.”

Winner: Mahindra

13 points from 12 races prior to Portland was not entirely unexpected for Mahindra ahead of this season.

But in the context of lagging behind both its customer Abt and the ERT team, that haul was both not good enough and actually not entirely representative of some of its strong performances.

It all came together for Mortara on Saturday with a brilliant performance to qualify sixth and finish fourth. It was a result that came on merit rather than fortune and one that rightly made the hard-working team proud.

More points should have come on Sunday but both Mortara and team-mate Nyck de Vries were victims and/or perpetrators of contact, rendering them both out of action with mangled cars.

With its Gen3 Evo test and development programme now kicking in, Mahindra can look forward post-London to attempting to get back into higher echelons of the field and consigning the ultra-challenging first Gen3 phase to history.

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