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How Formula E's three 2021 rookies fared in Diriyah

A trio of drivers made their Formula E debuts in the Diriyah E-Prix weekend, with a dusty track and rapid drop in temperature between qualifying and the race adding to their challenge.

How Formula E's three 2021 rookies fared in Diriyah

All three showed flashes of pace throughout the double header and it was only due to incidents, penalties or poor qualifying results that they returned from the weekend without any points in their respective tallies.

Motorsport.com looks back at the performances of the three rookies on the Riyadh grid.

Nick Cassidy

Qualifying results: 11th, 21st

Race results: 19th, 14th

Nick Cassidy, Envision Virgin Racing, Audi e-tron FE07

Nick Cassidy, Envision Virgin Racing, Audi e-tron FE07

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

Nick Cassidy carried the biggest burden of expectations among the three rookies in Diriyah thanks to the reputation he’s established racing in Japan. And it’s fair to say that he delivered on the promise in his first Formula E weekend, even if he wasn’t rewarded for his effort with the kind of results he deserved.

After struggling in the first two practice sessions, Cassidy was up to pace by first qualifying on Friday, taking advantage of track evolution to provisionally put himself into superpole. Stewards ultimately concluded that he gained time by speeding under yellow flags, but so did everyone else in Group 4 - which means he would have likely qualified inside the top six in normal circumstances.

But what really caught the eye of the observers was his long-run pace in Race 2, where he carved his way from 10th on the grid to fifth by the time the action was suspended due to a series of incidents. One of the biggest challenges of Formula E is energy management during the race and this is one area where a lot of rookies have struggled in the past. So, it was a testament to Cassidy’s talent that he matched the energy consumption figures of the leaders in his very first FE weekend, particularly when you factor in the limited amount of testing he completed due to Envision Virgin’s status as a customer team. 

The 26-year-old didn’t get to keep his top-five result due to a FCY infringement, but his sheer pace must have got his rivals worried just two races into the season.

Jake Dennis

Qualifying results 14th, 17th

Race results: 12th, DNF

Jake Dennis, BMW i Andretti Motorsport, BMW iFE.21

Jake Dennis, BMW i Andretti Motorsport, BMW iFE.21

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

It was a relatively underwhelming weekend for new BMW Andretti signing Jake Dennis, but both the driver and the team must share responsibility for it in equal measure.

Dennis spent the first race of the double header learning the ropes of Formula E, falling down the order early on before making rapid progress in the closing laps to finish 12th, just five seconds off the final points-paying position.

The second qualifying should have been Dennis’ big chance to make an impression, with the four Mercedes-powered cars and the Porsche of Andre Lotterer absent from the session. But a mistake in sector 2 wrecked his chances of starting higher up on the grid, leaving him vulnerable in the tight midfield. A collision with the Mahindra of Alexander Sims damaged his car before another incident Pascal Wehrlein put the final nail in the coffin, as he joined teammate Maximilian Gunther in the long list of retirees.

Dennis’ job in Riyadh was made much harder by a BMW package that struggled over one lap, something his more experienced teammate Gunther also acknowledged. Dennis on his part admitted that he overdrove the car in both races and is keen to make amends for it in Rome. 

With some more experience in the car, and progress from BMW on the powertrain side, Dennis can become a formidable competitor as the season progresses. 

Norman Nato

Qualifying results: 12th, DNS

Race results: 14th, 16th

Norman Nato, Venturi Racing, Silver Arrow 02

Norman Nato, Venturi Racing, Silver Arrow 02

Photo by: Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

While Edoardo Mortara made the headlines for Venturi in Saudi Arabia, first for his brilliant podium charge in Race 1 and then for an unfortunate incident after FP3 that sent him to hospital for precautionary check-ups, teammate Norman Nato was largely out of the limelight all weekend.

But the sportscar ace held his own against the likes of former champions Sebastien Buemi, Antonio Felix da Costa and Jean-Eric Vergne while battling outside the points in Race 1, finishing a respectable 14th on his debut. 

The second leg of the weekend should have provided Nato another opportunity to showcase his speed, but all Mercedes-powered cars were barred from taking part in qualifying following Mortara’s heavy head-on shunt in practice. 

The FIA did allow Mercedes and Venturi to contest the race after some quick software upgrades from the German manufacturer, but after starting 23rd on the grid there was little Nato could do to break inside the top 10, even with what was arguably the most competitive powertrain in the field. He ultimately wound up 16th in a crash-shortened race, three spots behind the works Mercedes of Stoffel Vandoorne.

With Venturi looking like a major contender thanks to the upgraded Mercedes powertrain, Nato would most certainly be fighting for podiums in the not-too-distant future.

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About this article

Series Formula E
Event Diriyah ePrix II
Author Rachit Thukral
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