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Lucas di Grassi Long Beach ePrix Formula E Abt Audi Sport
Zak Mauger/LAT/Formula E

2016 Long Beach ePrix: di Grassi reignites championship campaign

Lucas di Grassi fought back from the disappointment of Mexico City with a convincing victory in Long Beach to take the lead of the drivers’ championship by one point.

Overview

Race Winner: Lucas di Grassi (Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport)

Pole Position: Sam Bird (DS Virgin Racing) – 57.261

Fastest Lap: Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.Dams) – 57.938 (L28)

Main drama: Sebastien Buemi’s collision with Robin Frijns, damaging his drivers’ championship ambitions.

Overtake of the race: Sebastien Buemi’s advantageous late-braking pass on Daniel Abt into the final hairpin.

Lap Leaders: Sam Bird (L1-11), Lucas di Grassi (L12-21, L23-41), Nick Heidfeld (L22)

Report

Following the post-race disqualification of Lucas di Grassi at the Mexico City ePrix for an underweight car, the championship battle had swung very much in Sebastien Buemi’s favour. The Swiss pilot was now tasked with shielding a 22-point lead in drivers’ championship, but with inconsistencies becoming a niggling part of him and the e.Dams team over the course of the season. any thoughts of a championship being wrapped up would surely be premature.

Qualifying:

Sebastien Buemi’s qualifying issues continued as the Swiss driver was unable to progress to the top five qualifying shootout. The championship leader was unable to manage a lap worthy of the front of the pack and had to settle for eighth place, just ahead of Renault e.Dams team-mate Nico Prost.

Lucas di Grassi profited from their qualifying efforts and finished the session in third, behind DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird and Antonio Felix da Costa in the Team Aguri car, who took pole position despite being equipped with season one drivetrain technology. Stephane Sarrazin and Nick Heidfeld completed the top five whilst Loic Duval crashed out in group one and was forced to settle for a back-of-the-grid start position.

However, post-qualifying it was revealed that da Costa would be starting the race from the very back of the grid after the stewards found that his car was running with tyre pressures below the minimum limit, promoting Sam Bird to pole position.

Grid:
  1. Sam Bird DS Virgin Racing 56.821 / 57.261
  2. Lucas di Grassi Abt Formula E 57.131 / 57.270
  3. Stephane Sarrazin Venturi 57.136 / 57.412
  4. Nick Heidfeld Mahindra Racing 57.129 / 57.825
  5. Robin Frijns Amlin Andretti 57.145
  6. Daniel Abt Abt Formula E 57.151
  7. Sebastien Buemi Renault eDams 57.189
  8. Nicolas Prost Renault eDams 57.284
  9. Jerome D’Ambrosio Dragon Racing 57.288
  10. Bruno Senna Mahindra Racing 57.383
  11. Jean-Eric Vergne DS Virgin Racing 57.496
  12. Simona de Silvestro Amlin Andretti 57.696
  13. Oliver Turvey NEXTEV TCR 57.952
  14. Nelson Piquet Jr NEXTEV TCR 58.015
  15. Mike Conway Venturi 58.144
  16. Salvador Duran Team Aguri 58.417
  17. Loic Duval Dragon Racing 59.049
  18. Antonio Felix da Costa Team Aguri 57.079 / 57.198 disqualified from qualifying – illegal tyre pressures.
Race:

A clean start for the field resulted in minimal positions changes at the sharp-end of the grid, with Lucas di Grassi leading from Sam Bird, Stephane Sarrazin, Nick Heidfeld, Robin Frijns and Daniel Abt.

An overtaking move from Frijns resulted in Heidfeld getting crossed up on lap three and running wide, allowing both Abt and Buemi through. Meanwhile, the front three of Bird, di Grassi and Sarrazin were breaking away from the rest of the field.

The Abt team’s hopes of keeping the Renault e.Dams team at bay lasted only for eight laps. Buemi made a move on Daniel Abt into the final hairpin to take fifth.

Only a couple of laps later Buemi was attempting a similar move on Frijns. This time, however, the move ended in disaster for both men as Renault e.Dams car thumped into the rear of the Andretti vehicle, temporarily mounting it. The collision put both drivers out of contention for solid points, with Frijns losing a rear wing and Buemi losing a front wing. Both continued.

Sebastien Buemi Robin Frijns Long Beach ePrix
Formula E Media

Moments later there was an overtake for the lead of the race. Di Grassi’s pressure was finally paying off and the Brazilian made a simple out-braking manoeuvre on the inside of Bird at turn five.

Following the pit stops, Bird’s race came undone when he made a mistake on his pit out-lap. An unforced error resulted in the Briton having to reverse away from the tyre barriers before continuing down in seventh place.

Worse news was to come for the Renault e.Dams team. Nicolas Prost was adjudged to have gone faster than the minimum pit stop time, and was duly penalised via a drive-through penalty. Buemi’s recovery from his early collision resulted in the Swiss driver setting the fastest lap of the race and recovering two points for his championship charge.

On lap 34, Nelson Piquet’s uneventful race turned sour. The reigning Formula E champion made a mistake on the second apex of the first chicane, bounced over the kerbs, and crashed into the pit lane exit wall on the exit of the corner. He was out on the spot and the safety car made a brief appearance.

With the race resuming with just three laps left there was minimal time for positional changes and Lucas di Grassi controlled the final few laps to take victory at the Long Beach ePrix to lead the drivers’ championship by one point. A couple of seconds behind was Stephane Sarrazin, who took a long overdue first Formula E podium for Venturi, and team-mate Daniel Abt, would claimed his first podium of the season.

Long Beach ePrix Daniel Abt Lucas di Grassi Audi Sport
Andrew Ferraro/LAT.

Nick Heidfeld and Bruno Senna finished fourth and fifth for Mahindra Racing to claim their biggest points haul of the season, with a disappointed Sam Bird right behind in sixth for DS Virgin Racing.

Jerome D’Ambrosio took seventh for Dragon Racing ahead of team-mate Loic Duval, who recovered from his disastrous qualifying to take four points for eighth place. Meanwhile, both Simona de Silvestro (Andretti) and Mike Conway (Venturi) took their first points of the season.

Long Beach ePrix – Classification:

  1. Lucas di Grassi Audi Sport Abt 41 Laps
  2. Stéphane Sarrazin Venturi +0.787s
  3. Daniel Abt Audi Sport Abt +1.685s
  4. Nick Heidfeld Mahindra Racing +2.343s
  5. Bruno Senna Mahindra Racing +4.968s
  6. Sam Bird DS Virgin Racing +5.229s
  7. Jerome D’Ambrosio Dragon Racing +6.735s
  8. Loic Duval Dragon Racing +8.057s
  9. Simona de Silvestro Andretti +10.505s
  10. Mike Conway Venturi +10.909s
  11. Nicolas Prost Renault e.Dams +11.205s
  12. Oliver Turvey NEXTEV TCR +17.407s
  13. Jean-Eric Vergne DS Virgin Racing + 1 Lap
  14. Salvador Duran Team Aguri + 1 Lap
  15. Robin Frijns Andretti + 1 Lap
  16. Sebastien Buemi Renault e.Dams + 3 Laps
  17. Antonio Felix da Costa Team Aguri + 8 Laps
  18. Nelson Piquet Jr. NEXTEV TCR + 9 Laps

Driver’s Championship:

  1. Lucas di Grassi Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport 101 pts
  2. Sebastien Buemi Renault e.Dams 100 pts
  3. Sam Bird DS Virgin Racing 71 pts
  4. Jerome D’Ambrosio Dragon Racing 64 pts
  5. Stephane Sarrazin Venturi 48 pts
  6. Loic Duval Dragon Racing 48 pts
  7. Nick Heidfeld Mahindra Racing 39 pts
  8. Nico Prost Renault e.Dams 38 pts
  9. Robin Frijns Andretti 31 pts
  10. Daniel Abt Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport 31 pts

Teams’ Championship:

  1. Renault e.Dams 138 pts
  2. Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport 132 pts
  3. Dragon Racing 112 pts
  4. DS Virgin Racing 77 pts
  5. Mahindra Racing 61 pts
  6. Venturi 49 pts
  7. Andretti 33 pts
  8. Team Aguri 20 pts
  9. NEXTEV TCR 14 pts

To view all of FormulaSpy’s Formula E race reports, click here.

About Luke Murphy

I've been a motor racing fan since the late 90's, enjoying the underdog stories, the history and the technology of the sport. Graduate of Huddersfield University with a BEng Motorsport Engineering Degree and a keen amateur karter.

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