Lucas di Grassi is the first driver to interrupt Renault e.Dams’ run of six consecutive wins – three at the end of season 2 and the first three of the current championship. At the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport driver took his first win in this championship at the end of a day that was really action-packed and exciting for him and the team.
It would be hard for any motor racing series to provide a driver with such a mix of opposing feelings as experienced by the Brazilian driver today. After a poor qualifying which saw him line up on the third from last row of the starting grid, he had to pit immediately after the start to change the front wing, damaged in a collision with Sarrazin, so that no one would have bet on his winning. However, the German team did not lose heart, even though it had also seen its other driver Daniel Abt lose his pole position, having to start right from the back, because of a rule infringement relating to tyre pressures. It adopted a brave strategy, bringing Di Grassi in for the car change as early as lap 18. From then on Lucas was superb, driving in magisterial and effective fashion reaching the finish line with far less energy left than all his rivals bar one.
That one other driver was Jerome d’Ambrosio who actually changed cars two laps before the Brazilian. Passed by the ABT driver when they were still battling at the back of the pack, D’Ambrosio found himself in second place when the leaders, with Lopez in front, ahead of Heidfeld and Vergne, came in for pit stops. The Faraday Future Dragon Racing driver repeated the display of defensive driving that he’d put on at this track last year and kept ahead of the pack almost to the very end, until he was overtaken by Vergne and then finished out of the points with barely a single kilowatt left in his car. The French Techeetah driver took a bitter-sweet second place, because everything seemed to be in place for his first win, but strenuous resistance from the Belgian meant he was unable to exploit his full potential, although he proved to be a rising force who could play a major role in this championship.
Sam Bird made it to the third step of the podium, having put in a gritty drive, always among the front runners. There was suspense for the Englishman right to the end because of an investigation for an unsafe release: however, the two second penalty handed out did not affect his final result. It was a good weekend for DS Virgin Racing, with Lopez coming home sixth: however, the Argentinian cannot be that pleased with the result given that he was leading for much of the time, dropping to third at the start of lap 35, after he spun at turn 1, which put him out of the running for the podium.
The biggest loser on the day was undoubtedly Sebastien Buemi. The Swiss had only arrived in Mexico City the previous night, along with Lopez and Sarrazin, all three having taken part in the FIA WEC Championship prologue at Monza. He managed to score just a single point for putting in the race fastest lap. He started from sixth on the grid and it looked as though he would be able to haul himself up the order to a point where he could be in the fight for the win, but a spin just a few seconds after Lopez’s saw him drop to the back of the pack. For Renault, a fifth place for Nico Prost was not enough to make up for the disappointment of a day that didn’t live up to the team’s capabilities. Delight in the Jaguar camp, with Mitch Evans fourth and Adam Carroll eighth, while there were opposite emotions in the Mahindra squad, which looked to be heading for a good points haul until a close scrap in the closing stages prevented Heidfeld and Rosenqvist making it into the points. There was disappointment also for NEXTEV NIO, with Oliver Turvey sidelined with a technical problem when leading, while Nelson Piquet Jr. drove conservatively on his way to ninth place.
The final point up for grabs went to the debutant, Esteban Gutierrez, who finished tenth. The local hero – over 36 thousand spectators turned out at the circuit named after the Rodriguez brothers – endured a difficult maiden qualifying, but then produced a calculated performance to fight his way into the points. After four races, Buemi now has just a five point lead (76 to 71) over Di Grassi in the Drivers’ championship, with Prost third on 46 and Vergne closing in on 40. In the teams classification, Renault e.Dams still has a solid lead on 122 points, even though the gap to ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport, now on 91, has come down by 20, with DS Virgin Racing third (43) and Techeetah fourth (41.)
The next round of the championship takes place on 13th May, with the second Monaco ePrix being the first European race of the season.
Quotes of the top three drivers
Lucas di Grassi
“What an incredible change of fate, but actually that’s what Formula E represents, there are such ups and downs. You can have a bad weekend or good weekend - the level of the drivers is so high. Somebody crashed into my back, broke the rear wing and there was a safety car. I managed to open a gap, keep on just using regen, just trying to be as energy efficient as possible, just focussing on my race as much as possible until the last corner and then just celebrated like crazy. For me it was one of the best races of my life, in terms of how I drove, how energy efficient I had to be, so I’m very pleased.”
“I have very mixed emotions, I think this race was ours - 100 per cent. What D’Ambrosio did was totally unacceptable, he just doesn’t know how to defend, he crashed too many times into me, forced me to go off the track - so I’m not a fan. He changed direction many times, so I’m very frustrated but on the other hand I’m happy that I’m here for the championship. We started very far away but I know I’m in the right team with the right car to win the championship. I think we’re coming back a little bit better and we’re getting stronger every race as a team.”
“It was a good race for TV and for Formula E - a race like this was fantastic; all the drama, lots of things going on, ups and downs, you don’t know what’s going to happen next. I think it’s really good for the championship. I was happy with the move I pulled on Jerome. I watched the battle between Jerome and JEV and I was in the mix as well. The team have done a good job, we struggled in FP2, to come back with a third place is pretty strong.”