"Even set against the backdrop of Formula E’s most unpredictable season ever, you would do well to find someone in the paddock who believed that a rookie could win the title. Yet here we are going in to the final weekend in Berlin with two true rookies in title contention, which even if neither of them wrap up the World Championship is still a remarkable achievement."
Born about a year apart, Nick Cassidy (Envision Virgin Racing) and Jake Dennis (BMW i Andretti Motorsport) have both taken obscure routes to Formula E. Neither are the big name signings that we have seen in the past, but there is plenty of evidence of the pedigree of both if we take a look back through their junior careers.
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Despite being so similar in age, Cassidy 26 and Dennis 25, they never competed together much on track. After Dennis finished third in the Formula 3 European Championship in 2015, he moved on to GP3 for 2016, which was the year Cassidy completed his first full season of the series. That third place for Dennis in 2015 was impressive. It was only his second season, and former Mahindra Formula E driver Felix Rosenqvist won the title in what was his fourth year of Formula 3. Second in the standings that year was Alfa Romeo Formula 1 driver Antonio Giovinazzi in his third campaign, then it was Dennis.
If anything, it’s the drivers that Dennis finished ahead of that season that is the most impressive list. Charles Leclerc, Lance Stroll, George Russell, Alex Albon were the drivers fourth to seventh in the standings at the end of the year… Admittedly, he did then finish fourth in his first year in GP3, behind Leclerc and Albon, but comfortably outscored his teammate at Arden, a certain Nyck de Vries (Mercedes-EQ). And that’s where the money dried up for Dennis, as it does with so many drivers. He moved into GT racing, which ultimately led him to Formula E with BMW i.
Cassidy’s story is so similar. Fourth in European Formula 3 in 2016, where he had to play second fiddle in the Prema Powerteam to Lance Stroll was an impressive season, but the finances weren’t there to continue up the single seater ladder, so he moved to Japan. The New Zealander won the Japanese F3 Championship in 2015, the Super GT Championship in 2017, and wrapped up the prestigious Super Formula title in 2019. That two year pattern means he is about due another crown.
Both also struggled in the early stages of their Formula E career. They both picked up their first points finishes at the fifth race of the season in Valencia, although Cassidy had taken a pole in the drying qualifying session in Rome two weeks previous. In the second race in Valencia, Dennis won from Julius Baer Pole Position pole position. A tough and pointless weekend in Monaco for both suggested that the Valencia weekend had been something of a fluke, but then the points started racking up.
Dennis has scored 48 points in the last six races since Monaco, Cassidy has picked up a remarkable 57 which is the most of anyone in the field in that time. The question is whether they can keep that momentum up at a notoriously specific Tempelhof Airport Street Circuit. Dennis also finds himself in Group 1, and maximising that situation is where Frijns in particular and reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa last year excelled, and handed the DS TECHEETAH driver the title. Cassidy is seventh, so will be in the second qualifying group, which in a season of fine margins could be just the push he needs.
Neither driver expected to be in title contention as they started their rookie seasons, but both have a realistic shot of winning the biggest title of their careers. That’s one of the things I love about Formula E, two drivers who had no shortage of talent but ran low on funds on the way up the ruthless - and ruthlessly expensive - motorsport ladder have a chance to prove how good they really are.