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Formula E

Da Costa victorious as championship leader suffers rare error

Antonio Felix da Costa inherited victory in the opening race of the Portland E-Prix double-header.

Da Costa
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To news overview © Simon Galloway / Formula E

Antonio Felix da Costa claimed his third victory in the last four races, in what was a chaotic opening race in the Portland E-Prix double-header. 

The Porsche driver crossed the line in second but inherited the win, as Mitch Evans who crossed the finish line in first, had a five-second time penalty for a collision with Jake Hughes. The incident infuriated Evans, who had no way of avoiding fine contact with the McLaren driver a high-speed.

Evans dropped to eighth as a result, with Robin Frijns and Jean-Eric Vergne. Astonishingly, Evans further reduced his championship deficit to Nick Cassidy, who span out of the lead on the penultimate lap in a huge shock. 

The third title contender, Pascal Wehrlein, finished P10 but is under investigation. 

Opening stages – Peloton mayhem

Mitch Evans started on pole position after defeating Norman Nato, scoring the Jaguar driver three points before the race even got underway. Due to a grid penalty for Nato, Jake Hughes joined Evans on the front row. 

As the lights went out, the initial pace was expected to be slow, due to the Portland International Raceway being the most energy sensitive circuit. Nevertheless, Evans made a strong start but opted to yield the lead on the exit of the opening corners to Hughes. 

As expected, the Porsches and Andrettis quickly made its way to the lead group, with track position for the late charge being crucial. However, just like in Berlin, Cassidy remained towards the back in the opening laps. 

Come the fifth lap, and there was the first bit of drama, as Hughes cut across the grass at Turn 9 and dropped from third to 18th, but had to pit also for repairs. The McLaren driver was on the outside of Dennis, causing a huge snap on the dirty line. 

At the front, it was Antonio Felix da Costa, Robin Frijns, Evans, Jake Dennis, Nico Müller and Nato in the main lead group. The six drivers continued swapping positions throughout the first half of the race. Importantly, 

Cassidy charge, Evans frustration

The crazy peloton was in full effect, in what was simply a case of the drivers preserving as much energy as possible whilst remaining as close to the front as they can. 

Crucially, Cassidy decided to make his move to the front on lap 12, with the Jaguar driver having swept from eighth to first along the start/finish straight. However, a lap later and the lead changed again, as Evans moved to the front. 

The pace slowly started to decrease, resulting in more frantic overtakes as the drivers quickly became aware that track position was vital. Weirdly, both Andretti drivers dropped to the back of the field as the race move into its final third. 

In a huge blow to Evans, it was announced on Lap 15 that he had a five-second time penalty for hitting Hughes earlier in the race, eliminating him from victory and points contention. Despite this, he remained in the lead group.

Cassidy once again found himself in the lead come Lap 16, as the pace improved by several seconds. The laps quickly ticked down, with the pace continuing to improve lap by lap. Cassidy at the front had an energy advantage, allowing him to attempt to stretch the field. 

Lap 20 was the critical one, where the peloton style ended and the race truly began. 

As the race entered its final five laps, it was da Costa who led the field after overtaking Cassidy a lap prior. The Porsche driver led from Cassidy and Evans, although it was Frijns technically in the final podium position. 

Wehrlein was the driver on the move, with the championship contender having found himself well down on energy and towards the bottom of the top 10 come the late push. Back at the front, and Cassidy was informed that team orders with Evans were not in place. 

The Jaguar drivers both swept past da Costa to make it a one-two for the outfit, who attempted to push and leave the pack behind them. da Costa sat in third but found himself under pressure from Frijns. 

Despite a five-second time penalty, it was clear that Evans was not giving up, as he looked at several lines to consider an overtake. Evans did not need to attempt an overtake as Cassidy suffered a rare error at the penultimate corner, as he lost the rear and span. 

It was a huge moment for the championship, as it left Evans to cross the finish line in the lead; however, he dropped to eighth with his penalty. It left da Costa to win the race, ahead of Frijns and Vergne. Wehrlein and Cassidy both finished outside the points. 

Edoardo Mortara, Müller, Dennis, Sam Bird, Evans, Stoffel Vandoorne and Wehrlein completed the top 10.

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