Lucas di Grassi, Pascal Wehrlein, 2019 Mexico City E-prix

Di Grassi wins sprint to flag in thrilling Mexico EPrix

Formula E

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Lucas di Grassi won a thrilling Mexico EPrix in the last few metres of the race, snatching victory from long-time leader Pascal Wehrlein within sight of the flag.

An early red flag following a heavy crash for Nelson Piquet Jnr threw the leaders’ strategies into disarray, and led to both Nissan EDams drivers running out of power on the final lap while they were pursuing the race leader..

Wehrlein hit empty and coasted off the line while Di Grassi dived between the Mahindra and the pit wall to claim his second win at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Wehrlein had impressed by taking pole position for his third Formula E start but faced the threat of 2016-17 champion Di Grassi starting alongside him. The rookie held his nerve at the start, breaking away from the pack while Oliver Rowland vaulted from fourth to second and Jerome D’Ambrosio made up six places on the first tour.

But just two minutes into the race Jean-Eric Vergne was tackled clumsily by Nelson Piquet Jnr. The Jaguar driver s front tyre ran against Vergne’s rear, sending Piquet Jnr airborne and collecting Alexander Sims as he flew towards the chicane. Sims skidded into the TecPro fence while Piquet thumped the wall and came to a rest with much of his car’s front end missing.

Given the limited space to recover the wreckage, race control elected to red flag proceedings. Happily, the drivers involved were unharmed, including Piquet Jnr after his alarming flight.

With nearly 20 minutes lost to the red flag, the restart was declared with 41 minutes remaining on the clock. This was only announced two minutes before the restart, which prevented teams fully recalculating their energy targets, and ultimately set up the thrilling climax to the race.

Wehrlein left the pits leading the race behind the Safety Car for two laps, then maintained the lead despite fierce competition behind him. The assumption was that energy management would play no further part in the race, with the majority of drivers at 88% remaining energy or more – only just below the level at which they can regenerate.

With 34 minutes remaining, Buemi and Antonio Felix da Costa were fiercely fighting, Da Costa trying to make the most of his final minute of Attack Mode. However, Buemi remained a solid barrier to third position and despite burning extra energy fighting off the BMWi Andretti, kept his place.

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Rowland had slipped somewhat back from Wehrlein since the restart, unable to get closer than roughly half a second back from the leader – while just outside the points, both Virgin cars were battling each other and Jose-Maria Lopez for the final points place. Sam Bird repeatedly radio’d to ask Robin Frijns be moved out of his way, while Daniel Abt advanced behind them and Frijns was unable to leave a gap while staying close behind the obstruction of Lopez.

Fortunately for one team salvaging a weekend (although less fortunately for Dragon, whose other driver was at the absolute back of still-running cars) Lopez was handed a drive through and ten second penalty, removing himself from the battle and allowing the Virgin drivers to attempt to continue the race, although not before they managed to make slight contact with each other.

By the time the clock had ticked down to under ten minutes, Di Grassi was on a charge – although most drivers had around 15% energy remaining by this point, it was clear he had about a 2% advantage, which would prove crucial as the 45-minutes-plus-one-lap format began to trip some drivers up. Having recalculated energy targets quickly, the Nissan cars were beginning to struggle with heavy lifting and coasting needed to get round a lap.

Di Grassi, still able to activate Attack Mode, pushed past Buemi and then Rowland – who then clipped each other – and went on to hunt down Wehrlein. Despite maintain a 2% energy advantage over his rival, Di Grassi was unable to get past the Mahindra and both Da Costa and Edoardo Mortara were in turn hunting the Audi down as they rose up an order of attrition caused by drivers hitting zero. Both Nissan cars fell to the back, nothing left for the final lap and Wehrlein went into it with just a couple of percent remaining.

Wehrlein’s chance to win the race vanished when he cut a chicane on the final lap to keep Di Grassi behind. He was given a five-second time penalty after the flag fell, but before then Di Grassi was determined to sort things out on the track.

Coming out of the final chicane the ABT Audi driver seized his chicane. Wehrlein’s remaining energy hit zero as he arrived on the start/finish straight, and Di Grassi swerved right to collect the chequered flag first.

Di Grassi, Wehrlein and Da Costa crossed the line covered by less than half a second. Wehrlein’s penalty handed second place to the BMW driver, and also elevated Mortara, D’Ambrosio and Lotterer. D’Ambrosio’s recovery from 18th puts him in the lead of the championship, while despite their disappointment in Mexico Mahindra lead the teams’ standings ahead of Virgin. The next Formula E round is in Hong Kong on March 10th.

Video: 2019 Formula E Mexico EPrix highlights

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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  • 43 comments on “Di Grassi wins sprint to flag in thrilling Mexico EPrix”

    1. Poor Wherlien, let’s hope DeGrassi gets a taste of his own medicine being pushed off the track hard for next race.

      1. legitimate pass, could have kept p2 if he gave the place back.

      2. Nah, man. That was a clean move, nothing to complain about. The penalty was deserved, although, as kpcart rightly states, he should’ve surrendered the place to di Grassi to avoid consequences. But that’s easy to say from the outside, when you’re not in the middle of a feverish fight for the race win.
        It has to be said that Wehrlein was quite unlucky to finish 6th for a relatively minor incident between him and di Grassi that didn’t affect anyone else. But that’s just how it is, 5 seconds is the smallest penalty there is, and if there are four more cars following that closely, that’s bad luck.

        1. DeGrassi should have stayed a little patient in that chicane. He did get the place finally to the line(crazy overtake) which is where he should have tried to attack on penultimate or final lap. Also by Poor Wherlien I meant he ran out battery power towards the end either due to bad management at some point in race or just Mahindra being a little power hungry.

          1. Nah, man. There was absolutely no way for di Grassi (D-I-_-G-R-A-S-S-I) to know that Wehrlein (W-E-H-R-L-E-I-N) would run out of power just before the finish line. That’s crystal ball stuff, completely unpredictable. Also, that spot where he finally overtook Wehrlein was by no means an overtaking spot under normal conditions. He did try to catch him at the end of the straight on the final and penultimate lap, but Wehrlein defended his line too well. Di Grassi was absolutely right to attempt an overtake where he did, because he caught Wehrlein thinking he’d done enough to keep him behind by taking a very narrow line (but activating the regen earlier than di Grassi needed to, because he knew he was absolutely marginal on battery juice). All in all, there was absolutely nothing wrong with di Grassi’s pass. He took a calculated risk that paid off. Wehrlein didn’t play along and cut the chicane to stay ahead, but at that very instant, di Grassi had won the race. Thankfully, di Grassi almost miraculously managed to cross the line in first place, so that the penalty didn’t decide the outcome of the race. It was one hell of a great race, and I would’ve hated to see the word ‘controversial’ pop up in headlines.

            As for Wehrlein’s power outage mere metres from the finish line, I’d blame it on his lack of experience in a tricky race. His team mate d’Ambrosio was one of the drivers to capitalise on Wehrlein’s penalty, finishing in 4th place, so I guess the car was just fine. My impression was that the final lap was one too many, as Wehrlein crossed the finish line for the penultimate time just 12 (?) seconds before the clock ticked down to zero, and that I may have taken his crew a while to re-adjust their calculations. From then on, the fact that Wehrlein missed the first race and pre-season testing may have played a role, as well as him having di Grassi on his tail, one of the most experienced drivers in Formula E, with a reputation for conserving his energy for late-race charges.
            At the same time, there were more experienced drivers getting caught out on the final lap, e.g. the Nissan drivers, who couldn’t even finish the race.

            (post edited to stop the site from swallowing it again)

        2. “But that’s easy to say from the outside, when you’re not in the middle of a feverish fight for the race win.”
          +1, that was my view, slowing/moving to surrender his position could have caused chaos…

      3. Wehrlein like the ran out of juice like the poor Nissans, albeit less dramatically.

    2. The crowd size and reactions show this series is doing quite well. the spec chassis is making great competition. imagine if F1 could have a finish like that??

    3. Can you please edit the article to reflect the facts?

      Wehrlein’s chance to win the race vanished when he cut a chicane on the final lap to keep Di Grassi behind.

      That should read “to avoid crashing into di Grassi as the latter attempted a divebomb move to take the lead”.

      Thank you in advance.

      1. Just no. That’d be a misrepresentation of the facts.

      2. What? He defended too late, he is lucky a wall wasn’t there

      3. i fully agree, on the replays it shows that Werhlein was hit wheel on wheel and didn’t have any room to make the chicane due to DiGrassi’s position. The brazilian barely made the corner himself, let alone leave space for Wehrlein. The chicane cutting should have not been penalised in this case(and they issued it lightning fast, within 20 seconds of the incident – they couldn’t have seen all the replays and make a complete assesment).

        Such a shame for Wehrlein to lead the WHOLE race except for the final 20m and clasify 6th.

    4. Best race of the season so far & one of the most exciting FE races to date: had it all, a big crash, many overtakes, huge battle for victory.

      Di Grassi deserved the win, Wehrlein was a bit too aggressive in defense, changing lines under braking a few times, also using more energy than his rival.

      Crazy finale, and nearly 50’000 people attended the race!!

      FE is progressive so well, and so fast, exciting years ahead!

    5. i just couldn’t get into it as it felt too chaotic and confusing with many instances where nobody seemed to know the regulations such as during the red flag. still think fanboost and especially this silly action zone thing need to go. the racing was ok but feels too chaotic and forced. cars also lack that spectacularless that other categories have, maybe the fact they look so slow and are racing on terrible circuits are the reason but regardless i just find the cars so dull to watch so just can’t get into it.

      i also saw that the ratings in the uk were super low for the race which the williams documentary that was aired on the bbc at the same time grabbing a significantly larger viewership.

      series just isn’t gaining any traction in the uk for whatever reason despite always been shown on free tv.

      1. “they look so slow”
        That was my view until the ugly Piquet shunt, kinda put things into perspective.
        One thing they need to get sorted is track cleanup, that’s the second race where it took ages to clean up.

      2. The youngsters in the UK don’t watch TV – they watch Youtube. The older generation in the UK ridiculously stubborn and won’t watch Formula E because they are loyal to F1.

        1. * Before people get shouty – that obviously doesn’t apply to everyone in the UK but recent events have shown it to be generally true!

        2. I’ve been a fan of F1 since 1958, so I guess i’m ‘older generation’, but I quite enjoy watching FE, even though the cars are slow, they drive on Mickey Mouse tracks and the drivers are a mixture of F1 wash-ups and F1 wannabe’s.

          F1 and FE aren’t in competition, any more than F1 and BTCC are, they’re two different series, each with their own set of pro’s and con’s.

          I’ll believe they are competing series when an up and coming driver is offered a seat in F1 and FE and chooses the FE seat in preference to the F1 seat

    6. Such shame Wherlein isn’t any good. Wasn’t good enough for Sauber, wasn’t good enough for Mercedes, wasn’t good enough for them to place him at Williams. STR snubbed him too and went with a torpedo. Hell the kid is so bad Mercedes didn’t even allowed him to start the FE season properly.

      Compare the kid to talents like Vandoorne and of course he can’t stand a chance.

      For me ignoring Wherlein is actually worse than Ocon not having a drive this year

      1. @johnmilk as I read ‘compare to… Vandoorne’ I was momentarily convinced that was indeed sarcasm.

        You do realize said Vandoorne started last, and despite initially slowly climbing up through attrition, and having Fanboost, he ended in the back of the field. (sure, car seems to be lacking and Fanboost screwed him w. badly calculated setup that made it be too powerful and early, but he just could not do much himself either).
        Wherlein&team need to work on energy management (just like Massa), but at least he seems fast.

        1. @bosyber what about the other races? Where was Vandoorne? Still too soon to judge and make a proper conclusion. But so far it is the same Vandoorne that we saw in F1

        2. Wait, @bosyber my comment was sarcasm. Are we agreeing and debating at the same time?

          1. Nowadays it is hard to be sure, on the internet, even on a site like racefans.net, so yes I guess we were agree/arguing @johnmilk, because I gave some comments to show my views, just in case it wasn’t sarcasm!

            1. Ahah @bosyber I had a good laugh about it. Worth it!

    7. Holy… this series is awesome. Was shouting at the TV for the whole last lap.

      Wehrlein for the championship? The competition is so open he could actually do it, despite the slow start.

      1. @graham228221

        Wehrlein for the championship? The competition is so open he could actually do it, despite the slow start.

        Absolutely, if he can keep going like that. He was the virtual leader of the championship around the middle of the race, according to an infografic, despite not having scored any points in the first two races. I think that says it all.

    8. A brilliant race, so good I watched it twice.

      It had everything, close racing through the field, an alarming crash (which all emerged from unharmed, thankfully), overtaking (even though we were told that probably wouldn’t happen), a great crowd and tactical cock-ups by the back-room strategists.

      Formula E’s decision to retain race information from the teams until the last minute (race time remaining, in this case) is proving to shake up the on track action.

      Can’t wait for Hong Kong.

      1. Formula E’s decision to retain race information from the teams until the last minute (race time remaining, in this case) is proving to shake up the on track action.

        why is one of my biggest problems with the series, using artificial means to artificially create fake and artificial ‘racing’ is something i don’t find entertaining at all because it feels as fake, forced, artificial and gimmickey as it is.

        not telling teams how long a race is isn’t racing, it isn’t fun and it is unbefitting of something that wants to be taken seriously as a top tier/world series.

        no wonder there still having to give tickets away for free, i doubt any true/series fan of actual motor racing would pay to watch this artificial non-racing series.

    9. If you want to know why I’ve cancelled my subscription, it’s because you keep posting spoilers on the front page.

      1. It’s a motorsport news site. What did you expect? People come here to know how the race went. If you haven’t seen the race yet and you want to avoid spoilers then browsing a motorsport news site isn’t such a wise thing to do.

      2. To be fair, they waited around 12 hours before posting the result…

    10. Nice to see Vandoorne showing his class in this championship.

      1. Yeah, have to admit that I thought the same, during the race. At least he didn’t crash this time though.

        Still, you probably need to talk about that with @johnmilk

    11. Let’s be honest, the race was pretty boring until the race leader had to save energy like crazy. The cars have very similar performance in this series, which is obviously a good thing for close racing, but the track layouts don’t allow two cars of similar speeds to have chances to overtake each other.

      If the race was one lap shorter we would have very little to talk about now.

      1. track layouts don’t allow two cars of similar speeds to have chances to overtake

        If that’s the case, how come there were so many overtakes? DRS/Attack Mode?

        If the race was one lap shorter we would have very little to talk about now.

        No, Teams miscalculating strategy would still have occurred.

        1. Wow I forgot about all these amazing overtakes inside the top 10. I just checked the race highlights on youtube to refresh my memory, I take all back, sorry.

      2. Boring? If you think this race was boring then maybe Motorsport is not for you!

        This was a brilliant race with drivers on the limit throughout, none of the cruising you get from F1…

    12. @keith, dieter,

      Could you perhaps modify your titles on the homepage to not contain spoilers?

      1. That’s rich. You told us who you would end up to in the first episode and came up with ridiculous stories for us to keep wondering who the mother was. What a way to spoil a series btw

    13. Somewhat related.
      I’ll tell you what’s also awesome ” Fueled by athletes. Powered by nature”…SailGp!
      Just watched (not live) the Aussies doing 34 kt’s in 10 kt’s of wind !

    14. You can say what you want about FE, but it does deliver exciting racing, it does.

    15. You almost made it sound like it was with watching

    16. Ash (@shoeybababooey)
      18th February 2019, 8:33

      It was an amazing race and the penalty was such a shame given that it was decided after the race when Di Grassi had won anyway. We recorded a review directly afterwards! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cpP0Y4ujrE

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