Di Grassi ends win drought as Wehrlein is disqualified in Puebla

Formula E

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Lucas di Grassi has taken his and Audi’s first win for two years at Formula E’s first Puebla race, following Pascal Wehrlein’s disqualification.

Wehrlein had taken pole in confident style, having set the fastest group qualifying and super pole time. He was joined on the front row by Oliver Rowland, followed by Jake Dennis and Jean-Eric Vergne on row two.

Rowland had radio problems on the grid, which his Nissan e.Dams team were unable to repair, meaning he was left with no communication during the race. Whether that contributed to his poor start or not, he seemed unable to get away as the lights went out and slipped down to 14th within the first few corners of the race.

The racing was neutralised before the end of the first lap, as Nick Cassidy’s day ended early, his car in the wall and a Safety Car period necessary to retrieve it. Alex Lynn was forced to pit behind the Safety Car, having sustained a puncture on debris from Cassidy’s car but had only lost two places by the time racing restarted with 37 minutes remaining.

Wehrlein took Attack Mode on the restart and was able to rejoin just ahead of Vergne, behind the BMWi Andretti cars of Maximilian Günther and Jake Dennis. Attack Mode allowed Wehrlein to pass Dennis easily and he retook the lead when Günther went for the zone.

Di Grassi, who started eighth after one of his better qualifying performances this season, was up to fifth with 30 minutes remaining on the clock. Also on the move, the Jaguar duo of Sam Bird and Mitch Evans – who who severely compromised in a messy group one qualifying stage – had moved up to seventh and eighth from starting positions of 12th and 18th.

It looked set to be a great recovery for Jaguar, with title rivals Mercedes – also caught in the group one fiasco – outside the points. However, two strange incidents involving the Mahindra drivers changed the course of the race. First Vergne, making his way out of the Attack Mode zone, collided with Alexander Sims, wrecking his front wing and breaking the front suspension on his DS Techeetah on the side of Sims’ car.

Then Alex Lynn and Sam Bird collided in almost the same place, just out of turn eight. Bird was taken out of the race and a Safety Car was called, with disastrous timing for Jaguar’s other driver. Dennis and Evans both had their second Attack Mode period still to take, which cannot be done under caution.

The Safety Car came in with 13 minutes remaining in the race, at which point the BMW drivers began to struggle for pace. Both Günther and Dennis slipped backwards severely, as the Audi pair of di Grassi and René Rast made a charge to the front.

Wehrlein continued to exhibit excellent racecraf, confidently holding the lead to the chequered flag. However, with nine minutes to go both Porsche and Nissan e.Dams’ cars were revealed to be under investigation for technical infringements. Wehrlein was disqualified as he crossed the finish line, as it transpired his team had failed to declare which tyres had been used by their cars during the race.

Di Grassi, who has languished at the bottom of the championship this year, was promoted to the win and Rast completed a one-two finish for Audi, with Mortara taking Venturi’s second podium of the year in third.

Stoffel Vandoorne finished ahead of Evans and both Mercedes drivers finishing in the points, to narrowly extend their championship lead in both the constructors and drivers’ titles. The series remains in Mexico for a second race on Sunday.

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Race result

1Lucas di GrassiAudi
2René RastAudi
3Edoardo MortaraVenturi
4Alexander SimsMahindra
5Jake DennisBMW Andretti
6Antonio Felix da CostaDS Techeetah
7Stoffel VandoorneMercedes
8Mitch EvansJaguar
9Nyck de VriesMercedes
10Alex LynnMahindra
11Oliver TurveyNIO 333
12Maximilian GüntherBMW Andretti
13Tom BlomqvistNIO 333
14Norman NatoVenturi
15Sergio Sette CamaraDragon Penske
16Robin FrijnsVirgin
17Joel ErikssonDragon Penske
DNFSam BirdJaguar
DNFJean-Eric VergneDS Techeetah
DNFNick CassidyVirgin
DSQPascal WehrleinPorsche
DSQAndré LottererPorsche
DSQOliver RowlandNissan e.Dams
DSQSebastien BuemiNissan e.Dams

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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15 comments on “Di Grassi ends win drought as Wehrlein is disqualified in Puebla”

  1. I am done.

    See, I really like Formula E. Well, now liked is more apt. I was aboard when the idea was announced back in the early 2010s and I always thought the racing was fun and the street circuits offered something no other venue could on that level. I didn’t even care about the sound, because I am the excessively rare breed of motorsport fan that considers engine noise only a necessary evil to enjoy what I love and could easily do without any of it. I even defended Valencia because that was a logical consequence of a rule book designed with Formula E’s corporate identity in mind and most harm done was self-inflicted by the teams.

    Unfortunately, the electric monopoly, the alternate audiences attracted by the green marketing and the manufacturer interest has made Formula E utterly complacent in terms of having a sportively legitimate product. The following is something every racing series should pay attention to, but it certainly applies to Formula E more than most: nobody cares how open your championship battle is when the way you get there is nonsense and/or pure luck. That’s one of the many reasons why the NHL is the least popular of the American sports (it the most luck-influenced), that’s why NASCAR’s ratings went downhill ever since they had the winner-take-all final race, that’s why boxing isn’t a globally relevant sport anymore, etc.

    This today was nonsense. What do you tell your audience when you disqualify the man who controlled the race and masterfully used your gimmicks as soon as he crosses the line? You tell them that they wasted their time watching your product (regardless of how good the actual race was, but only emphasised by the fact that this one was relatively dull). I am by no means proposing a free-for-all rumble, but the reality is this is an issue any competent series would have figured out before the race even started and have dealt with it in a reasonable manner. Formula E has no tyre stops. The tyres on the car that were there when Wehrlein crossed the line were there at least however-many-minutes-before-the-start-when-they-attach-the-race-tyres minutes before the race started. Tyre mixups have happened before in other series, but they were never punished a) so late and b) so severely.

    Formula E’s stewarding is literally glacial in that it is a) extremely slow and b) extremely large and landscape-altering. There have been ten disqualifications this season (i.e. in 2021). Formula E has disqualified more drivers in one season than Formula One has in a decade (2010s: 9 DSQs). That cannot be justified, not even with that Valencia mess. Even Formula Two, which I hold in very little esteem in terms of driver ability and safety, takes multiple years to get into the double digits. However, there has been no sign about any interest in reform and the FIA and its president Jean “Who cares about racing? I sure don’t.” Todt will certainly not make any moves towards it any time soon.

    This is just a waste. A waste of the elite talent involved (if you asked me, I’d replace at least a third of the current Formula One grid solely with drivers from Formula E), a waste of cool tracks and a waste of the prominent names running teams in the series. Something that could be so great ruined by willful ignorance and arrogance.

    I will probably continue to watch it, just because the amount of free motorsport on German television is so insufficient, but as far as expecting an actual sport, Formula E is dead to me.

    To conclude my rant, I would strongly advise against replying to me with a justification. I do not want you to become subject of the projection of my incredible distaste at today’s event, but that will happen.

  2. it transpired his team had failed to declare which tyres had been used by their cars during the race.

    What? Why would it need to be declared? The tyres are still on the car as it crosses the line after all…

    1. It is protocol and this should be second nature to the team. If anyone is to blame, it is the Porsche team management. It is difficult to believe that teams don’t have a checklist of things to do prior to a race, so this is completely unprofessional on the part of Porsche.

      1. @f1g33k I fully expect this to lead to Porsche leaving Formula E. German manufacturers need the smallest excuse to throw the toys out of the pram and lose their interest in motorsport.

        Yes this is hyperbole, but I’m still unhappy about BMW and Audi. They left DTM and forced that series to become a GT3 series, and are now turning their tails and running the first moment they sense a lack of interest from the board.

        Japanese manufacturers are hardly different, like Honda and Toyota in F1. Car manufacturers shouldn’t be allowed to buy teams in single seater championships, unless they’ve got a clear long term vision like Ferrari or Mercedes.

        1. @wsrgo wouldn’t the real problem be that, as Berger himself has admitted, the DTM series had vastly overambitious expansion plans that caused major problems with cost inflation? Audi was a long term participant in the series – when a manufacturer that’s been there for decades disappears, then that points more towards the series itself having significant wider problems.

          The Class 1 silhouette car regulations and the tie up with the Super GT championship in Japan meant that the cars went to bespoke racing cars with relatively complex aerodynamics and a major spike in costs.

          Berger had really vast ambitions to turn DTM into a sprawling international series – he wanted an international cup and a North American spin off series, as well as joint races with the Super GT championship – that were far too pricey and ambitious for a national series, let alone the plans he had for the future (remember his plans for 1000bhp electric cars with pit stops being undertaken by autonomous robots?).

          DTM was deliberately intended to be a relatively technologically simple series that had a low cost base to make it affordable for manufacturers to produce cars and independent teams to run those cars at local circuits in Germany. Instead, Berger wanted to turn it into a high tech platform that ran races all around the world, arguably making most of the mistakes that had led to the predecessor series – the International Touring Car Championship – collapsing.

      2. RandomMallard (@)
        20th June 2021, 8:03

        @skipgamer I completely agree with @f1g33k here. Sure it is harsh on Wehrlein after a great drive but the Porshe team missed a crucial step in the pre-race preparation. This would probably be similar to an F1 Team starting a Top 10 car on the tyres other to those they used on Q2, or putting on a mixed set and not changing them quickly enough.

  3. Another formula E race, another pain for a Sam Bird fan

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      20th June 2021, 7:59

      @terrion Yep I feel you. He always starts the season so Well, but just seems to trail off layer on. He’s still in the championship hunt though so here’s hoping

  4. I have watched every formula e race but really struggling to stay interested this year. There are so penalties, infractions and manacles of other rules that end up dictating the result of the race. Also I found it endlessly cruel to disqualify wehrlein on the finish line. Something has to change.

  5. Who designed that attack mode zone? Just unbelievable.
    Also saw Da Costa missing the first white line by half a meter and he didn’t get his attack mode. Then I saw Di Grassi miss the first line even more. And he did get his attack mode. That’s just stupid.

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      20th June 2021, 11:57

      @rvg013 The white line drawn on the broadcast are famously inaccurate of where the sensors actually are.

  6. @hazelsouthwell is it true that, when Audi and BMW pull out at the end of the year, Andretti will remain as a team, just without backing from BMW, while Abt Sport will disappear from the grid?

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      20th June 2021, 12:02

      @f1frog Andretti were already a team before BMW joined, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they carried on without them. Abt on the other hand has always been closely associated with Audi as a tuning brand (although not part of the same group like AMG), so they will probably leave with Audi. Although there is plenty of other manufacturer interest at the moment as well.

    2. @f1frog yep, that’s true – as ABT will stay, in what has been the Audi factory entry.

      Andretti and ABT owned the entries before BMW and Audi came along, so it’s their call to continue.

  7. Although the blame for the disqualification is with the team, it is ridiculous that the organisers allowed the race leader to complete the race before taking action.
    It’s also shocking that a feature called ‘attack mode’ is actually a form of penalty. It costs too much time to trigger, and the extra power that becomes available has to be compensated for during other stages of the race.
    On top of this, the ‘attack mode’ layout placed cars directly into the path of other traffic.
    This series has an important place in the future of motor sport and I want to be a fan. It is clear though that many of the decisions made by the organisers are very poorly thought out.
    In particular, rules that require cars to limp through the final stages of the race is a very bad look for a series that’s supposed to promote electric cars.
    A revised format is needed before the series is dismissed as “Range Anxiety Racing”. It’s no surprise that manufacturers are leaving.

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