BMW Andretti's Jake Dennis claimed his second ABB FIA Formula E career win at his home race in London to launch himself into contention for the title with just three races remaining in the 2020/21 season.
Starting from second, Dennis bided his time early on behind pole sitter Alex Lynn but took the lead by opting to delay his second attack mode activation. A subsequent mistake by the Mahindra then allowed Dennis to take his second attack mode while still staying in front, and after that he pulled away to a consummate victory.
An excellent, savvy performance from Nyck de Vries saw the Mercedes driver start from ninth place and steadily work his way forward, pulling off a late pass on Lynn to secure second position in the first of two London E-Prix events.
DS Techeetah driver Jean-Eric Vergne had previously been fastest in first practice held on Friday evening at London's ExCeL Centre, the world’s first indoor-outdoor motor racing circuit. He had been just four thousands quicker than Envision Virgin Racing's Robin Frijns, followed by championship points leader Sam Bird for Jaguar.
BMW Andretti took over on Saturday morning with Max Guenther and Jake Dennis topping the timesheets ahead of Porsche's André Lotterer, who subsequently topped his group and was the quickest driver in a wet/dry qualifying. However it was Alex Lynn who came out top in superpole, three tenths quicker than Dennis.
Sébastien Buemi took third on the grid ahead of Dragon's Sérgio Sette Câmara leaving Lotterer starting in fifth ahead of Venturi Racing's Norman Nato followed by Lucas di Grassi (Audi), Alexander Sims (Mahindra), Nyck de Vries (Mercedes) and Joel Eriksson (Dragon). All the points leaders including Eduardo Mortara, Antonio Felix da Costa as well as Bird, Frijns and Vergne ended up outside the top ten, with Guenther right at the back after crashing out of his group qualifying stage at turn 15. Mercedes' Stoffel Vandoorne did well to qualify in 14th despite missing much of FP2 after crashing.
With the outside track dry by the time the race started, Lynn, Dennis and Buemi all got good starts in the enclosed section inside the ExCeL to lead the race, while Sette Câmara was mugged into the first corners by Lotterer. Further back Sims found himself in big trouble, pushed out toward the wall which did fatal damage to the car. Caught in the congestion, Bird found himself stuck in the middle of the danger zone and had to head to pit lane to retire from the race. There was also bodywork damage for his Jaguar team mate Mitch Evans who had to pit for repairs, as did NIO's Tom Blomqvist.
Lap 5 saw the leaders Lynn and Dennis both activate their attack modes without losing position to Buemi or Lotterer. Meanwhile the man on the move was de Vries who was up to fifth after di Grassi and Sette Câmara clashed as they activated their attack modes. Sette Câmara subsequently also tangled with Nato at turn 17 which sent him tumbling down the order and left Nato with a five second penalty for causing a collision. Next time round de Vries sought to consolidate his gains by going for attack mode himself, as did the remaining cars ahead of him which effectively stopped anyone from gaining a decisive advantage for the duration.
Soon after the initial attack mode activations had run their course, Lynn triggered his second and final power boost at the cost of handing the lead of the race to Dennis who had opted to stay out. Lap 15 saw both Buemi and Lotterer dive for the activation zone, but while Buemi managed to successfully make the move Lotterer failed to arm the system in time. He was left down in fifth place behind de Vries by the time he made a second and this time successful attempt to trigger the system.
A lock-up from Lynn who had been seeking to save energy running behind the race leader enabled Dennis to open up a two second lead by lap 19, a big enough gap to safely activate his final attack mode without losing position. Buemi was a further six tenths behind followed at a similar internal by de Vries, with Lotterer now four seconds further back followed by Audi's Rene Rast and then by di Grassi, Vandoorne, Nato and da Costa.
"I could go much faster but I'm looking after the rear tyres," reported a confident Dennis as he maintained his lead at the front of the field. Lynn also looked to have accepted the inevitability of second even as de Vries pulled off a neat move on Buemi into the hairpin chicane to take the final podium position. The Mercedes driver then had fan boost to apply to his bid to catch and pass Lynn, which he successfully achieved at turn 10 on lap 29.
After 33 laps, Dennis lit up his tyres as he crossed the finish line with Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff on hand to see him claim victory by over five seconds from de Vries and Lynn. Buemi was in fourth followed by Lotterer, Rast, di Grassi, Vandoorne and Oliver Rowland, after Nato ran out of energy even before his penalty was applied.
Mortara was just outside the points in 11th followed by Pascal Wehrlein and Nick Cassidy, with Vergne only able to manage 14th having been handed a ten-second stop-go penalty at the start of the race for taking on replacement parts. Frijns, Guenther, Evans and Oliver Turvey were next up with Eriksson 19th ahead of the ill-fated Sette Câmara and Nato.
The result means that Dennis shoots up to second place in the drivers championship and is now just just two points behind Bird, who retains the lead with 81 points despite failing to finish today's race. Just one point also separates Da Costa, de Vries, and Frijns with Mortara also very much within touching distance in sixth.
In the team standings, DS Techeetah and Envision Virgin Racing are now tied in the lead on 146 points, five ahead of Jaguar, with Mercedes up to fourth ahead of BMW Andretti.
The second London E-Prix takes place an hour earlier on Sunday afternoon, with inclement weather forecast.