until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

Winners and losers from Formula E's Shanghai debut

by Sam Smith
10 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E's return to China on the Shanghai Formula 1 circuit felt like a not-ideal-but-fairly-pragmatic option coming into the weekend - an impression that it never fully shook off once the action started.

That start was more a stumble, too, as a software issue for six cars in first practice on Friday meant a delay to proceedings.

But that gave way to a race on Saturday featuring some intra-team angst, and a Sunday contest won in resounding style by the series' resurgent force.

Here's our pick of winners and losers from the Shanghai weekend.



Jaguar was again a big winner in the teams' and drivers' title fights with a decent points swing in each, so it was another immensely fruitful weekend (as most have been so far this season).

It’s testament to the expectations of drivers Mitch Evans and Nick Cassidy that neither was completely satisfied with Sunday’s outcome in particular. But striving for perfection and achieving it in Formula E are very different things indeed.

Cassidy had a decent chance to secure a 1-2 on Saturday but a little bit of uncertainty from the team cost him that, while on Sunday he also had to contend with erroneously receiving his energy management lift-off ‘beeps’ in the middle of the Turn 8 right-hander, which must have been distracting.

The overall sensitive areas though, of trying to effectively choreograph Evans and Cassidy, will likely continue in the final races. While Jaguar has mostly executed these well there have also been flash points, notably at Berlin and again at Shanghai in race one.

The upshot is that you can’t fully satisfy each side of the garage in these situations. Someone will always be miffed that the maximum wasn’t achieved. What Jaguar is doing though is getting closer than its rivals to that maximum, and doing so consistently well.

There will be big decisions to be made either at Portland or just after, in terms of if and how Evans supports points leader Cassidy in the title fight. That will be a bittersweet pill for Evans to swallow but he’ll just have to get it done.

That’s all to come. But for now, Jaguar is showing that it can exploit its package effectively, see off Porsche’s inconsistent challenge, and finally bring at least one - but very possibly two - championship trophies home in a few months’ time.

Antonio Felix da Costa

The man for whom it’s all been about form this season. Terrible form in the first three races and then mostly electric form in the last six.

It’s a turnaround that will probably keep da Costa at Porsche for 2025 now, something that if uttered at Tokyo or Misano would have been met with incredulity, such was the fragility of the relationship between elements of the team and da Costa.

Da Costa harnessed the best traits of the Porsche 99X Electric and his team to pull off his second win of the season, although some would give him three after his Misano ‘first across the line’ performance that was cruelly taken away on a whimsical technicality.

Should Porsche’s appeal of that be unsuccessful, it will leave da Costa way too much to do to get in proper contention for a late title charge. Therefore, his biggest job will likely be to secure second in the teams’ title and back up and assist Pascal Wehrlein’s title tilt.

That might feel unjust for da Costa. But in combination with his wins and overall racing performances he has shown that he and Porsche, when in positive mindsets together, can be a truly unstoppable force.

On Saturday, his only negative was a far-too-forceful move on former team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne that resulted in him losing an otherwise strong fifth position. That, though, was soon forgotten when he matched Wehrlein’s two wins - meaning that Porsche power goes 5-4 up on Jaguar victories so far this season.

Jake Hughes

It always seemed a bit ridiculous to think that Hughes, after 27 E-Prix, was yet to stand on a Formula E podium. But that’s a stat he banished with a classy run to second place behind da Costa on Sunday.

It lifted a darkish cloud from above both him and McLaren, which has had a very average season so far with just 68 points collated before the Shanghai weekend.

Hughes showed at Misano that on flowing tracks he is right up there with the best but at Shanghai he was unable to really deliver it until the Sunday race. Having got bogged down in the midfield on Saturday and seen his fair share of carbon splintering action, Hughes had a much cleaner Sunday with several strong laps in qualifying netting a head-to-head with Stoffel Vandoorne’s DS Penske in the final.

It was an epic battle with Hughes taking his fourth Formula E pole by the slenderest of margins - 0.001s! - and he then backed that up with an assertive race, battling tooth-and-nail with Cassidy to get track position for when the race became locked-in.

It impressed his team principal Ian James, who told The Race: “We’ve already discussed if there could have been more and I’m not sure there could have been.

“With the cars that we had around us, with the performance that they have intrinsically in their package, I think that Jake did a phenomenal job so I couldn’t be more pleased.”

Norman Nato

It’s been a while coming but Nato reminded Andretti why, on his day, he is a genuine contender.

There is an urban legend in the paddock that Nato is a slow starter and an excellent finisher in any given season. And the stats tend to back that up.

However, it needs to be firmly caveated with the understanding that he has never had anything other than one season with each of his four teams - Venturi, Jaguar (only as a reserve), Nissan and Andretti (so far).

Continuity is vital in Formula E and Nato is the anomaly. That’s usually down to some brutal decisions from team principals, so there is widespread genuine sympathy for Nato on this front.

He has already long since outscored what Andre Lotterer achieved as Jake Dennis’s team-mate last season. But there have also been mistakes and plenty of shunts.

His Shanghai weekend was a tale of two halves. A messy Saturday saw him struggle with damage after contact but 24 hours later he was looking strong with seventh on the grid and an excellent aggressive surge to the front early.

A decent period in the lead allowed him to conduct the pace pretty comfortably before da Costa and Hughes were able to muscle through. Still, third was a fine run for a driver who is often undervalued but who, when the time is right, is capable of delivering big.

Nyck de Vries

De Vries has generally been completely anonymous in most races this season but behind the curtain he has contributed a great deal to the much improved Mahindra proposition.

While Edoardo Mortara reaped some rewards with fantastic performances in Tokyo and Berlin, De Vries was a few steps behind. Until now.

De Vries was able to race close to the front on Saturday and then right at the front on Sunday. He was rewarded in the first race with eighth position for a doughty drive, but a day later what looked like a possible top-six cameo ended at the hands of Sam Bird after an ill-judged move at the chicane.

Like Oliver Rowland, de Vries now has a tough task understanding the nuances of Portland next month on what will be his first visit.

But then comes London where he has excelled before and where strong one-lap qualifying pace, which the Mahindra has, on a tight track could be a perfect foundation for a cork in the bottle big result to end off what was always going to be a building-up season for himself and the team.


Pascal Wehrlein

Wehrlein’s title challenge hit a big bump in the road in what were generally unfortunate circumstances that had very little to do with his own performance.

Indeed, Wehrlein was sharp and quick for the majority of the double-header with a fine second place on Saturday and then the possibility of some damage limitation points on Sunday.

That didn’t come to pass after a tag from Bird at the chicane punctured his left-rear tyre. But Wehrlein really shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place after failing to make it into the knockout duels for only the second time this season.

After a disrupted practice session the team went through his Porsche electric 99X with a fine-tooth comb to find a suspected fault. It wasn’t fine enough.

“In qualifying he struggled with the balance and we found out after qualifying, despite searching for every little detail on the car, that two parts of the car were damaged,” Porsche Formula E motorsport director Florian Modlinger told The Race.

“We found it after Pascal was insisting that something was wrong on the car and this was due to the big impact with Rowland in the race yesterday. That’s really disappointing and annoying.”

That could be a very costly incident for Wehrlein as he now faces a 25-point deficit to Cassidy heading to Portland. But it’s a track where the Porsche should be strong and, with da Costa likely to be riding shotgun, it would be no surprise to find the two title contenders closer together heading to the London finale.

Formula E

Returning to China was a big deal for Formula E but the world barely noticed.

Choosing to race on a weekend when the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500, MotoGP and FA Cup final were taking place was always going to put the event in the shadows. But it was the first impression in FP1 on Friday afternoon that really gave a sense of foreboding.

A bugged-out software update was administered to all cars via battery supplier Fortescue WAE in the Shanghai paddock the day before but seemingly had not been tested properly. This led to six cars stopping on track just a few minutes into the first track running.

The only saving grace was that no-one really noticed as only a handful of people were at the track and less than 1500 were watching on Youtube. It was, despite being rectified quickly, immensely embarrassing.

The TV figures are likely to be just as modest, meaning that Formula E CEO Jeff Dodds' recent trip to California to meet with some streaming giants was well-timed if Formula E wants to start to make real in-roads in maximising its generally excellent sporting package.

On a weekend when the Indy 500 is being streamed live on YouTube, it's hard to understand why Formula E isn’t pursuing similar initiatives even occasionally just to grow what are very modest live figures in some territories.

Off track it was more promising for Formula E with great action and several interested Chinese EV manufacturers in attendance.

A Chinese race is likely to now become a staple of the Formula E calendar, yet its restart felt like it was tucked away as nothing more than a national-level event. That clearly has to change for 2025.

On the upside, the track was interesting and not as barren and featureless as many believed it might be. The final chicane brought action and, while the attack mode transponders probably need to be placed in an area with more time loss, it generally worked well.


Appearances in the losers’ column have been a rarity for Nissan this season, so this entry tells you how far it has come in a campaign that has surprised even itself.

Are the expectations of Nissan now too high after Oliver Rowland’s heroics so far in 2024? Possibly, but that doesn’t mean it maximise everything at its disposal last weekend.

Rowland got a fourth and a 10th, which in his mind was probably the maximum he could achieve, but the fact remains that Sacha Fenestraz hasn’t really turned up yet this season and therefore any meaningful contribution to the teams’ points has not been forthcoming.

That will be a concern for Nissan and Fenestraz, whose position in the team may now come in to question despite at one stage last season looking like a nailed-on long-term relationship.

For Rowland, a crack at the title was always going to be a long shot and now it seems highly unlikely. Yet he still scrapped for every point on offer and even survived a sustained campaign from DS Penske to get him turfed out of fourth on Saturday after contact with Vergne.

He’ll stay in the fight for as long as possible and may well haul himself back into contention at Portland, although he will be playing catch-up initially after missing last season’s race there.

Envision Racing

It feels like Envision has been an ever-present in this section of team assessments this season and it knows it can have little complaint.

Its fantastic title success last season feels a very long time ago now as points-collation wise it's been down with Abt Cupra, ERT and Mahindra. That fact just seems unfathomable considering Envision has arguably the strongest technical package on the grid.

Such is the fickleness of Formula E that a run of poor qualifying can create a run of disasters. While Envision had that in the first half of the season, now a number of things seem to be going wrong.

At Shanghai it occasionally looked completely lost, especially on Sunday in qualifying when both Robin Frijns and Sebastien Buemi were embarrassingly off the pace with no real idea why they couldn’t find grip.

Frijns pulled back some dignity with a brave hustle through from 20th to ninth but even that felt like slim pickings after another meagre weekend.

The extra gap to Portland feels like a good time for the team to hold a series of inquests on what has happened to its season and how it can get back to some semblance of competitiveness for the final four races, before some even bigger decisions will no doubt be made in the off-season.

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