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Mexico City ePrix Lucas di Grassi Abt Audi
Photo: Andrew Ferraro/LAT/FE

2016 Mexico City ePrix: Di Grassi Excluded after Masterful Drive

An assertive victory from Lucas di Grassi was eliminated from the history books after his Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport car was excluded from the race results for being underweight, handing a second Formula E victory to Dragon Racing’s Jerome D’Ambrosio.

Overview

Race Winner: Jerome D’Ambrosio (Dragon Racing)

Pole Position: Jerome D’Ambrosio (Dragon Racing) – 1:03.705

Fastest Lap: Nicolas Prost (Renault e.Dams) – 1:04.569 (L29)

Main drama: The exclusion of di Grassi from the race results, handing the championship lead back to Buemi.

Overtake of the race: Lucas di Grassi’s mugging of Nico Prost for second place prior to the pit stops (T4, L22).

Lap Leaders: Jerome D’Ambrosio (L1-22), Oliver Turvey (L23), Lucas di Grassi (L24-44)

Report

Only five months have passed since Formula One’s glorious return to the Autodromo Hermanes Rodriguez circuit in Mexico City, and the fan’s infectious love of motor racing meant that Formula E’s decision to add the venue to the calendar was met with widespread approval. Aided by the recent re-employment of Mexican driver Salvador ‘Chava’ Duran at Team Aguri, the fans didn’t disappoint; the stadium section was close to full capacity and the atmosphere at the podium ceremony was electrifying.

Qualifying:

The qualifying demons for Sebastien Buemi appeared once again. After the Renault e.Dams drivers progressed to the Super Pole Shootout in first and second, the team were favourites to secure pole position. However, a big lock-up meant Buemi was forced to settle for fifth behind both Abt Audi Sport cars. Jerome D’Ambrosio proved to be the man capable of holding his nerve as he was the only driver to better his time from earlier on in the session. It turned out that even equalling his previous time would’ve been sufficient for pole position, given that no other driver broke into the 1:03’s.

Antonio Felix da Costa completed a fine qualifying lap for seventh place despite having limited track running in practice, but was handed a ten-place grid drop for a gearbox change. Buenos Aires ePrix race winner Sam Bird qualified eleventh but was unable to explain why he was unable to match the pace of the leaders. Nelson Piquet caused a red flag deployment when he smashed through the barriers at the first chicane and local driver Salvador Duran finished the qualifying hour in fifteenth.

Grid:
  1. Jerome D’Ambrosio Dragon Racing 1:03.992 / 1:03.705
  2. Nico Prost Renault e.Dams 1:03.887 / 1:04.013
  3. Lucas di Grassi Audi Sport Abt 1:03.990 / 1:04.023
  4. Daniel Abt Audi Sport Abt 1:04.077 / 1:04.335
  5. Sebastien Buemi Renault e.Dams 1:03.667 / 1:05.183
  6. Jean-Eric Vergne DS Virgin Racing 1:04.268
  7. Antonio Felix da Costa Team Aguri 1:04.371 (handed a ten-place grid penalty for a gearbox change)
  8. Loic Duval Dragon Racing 1:04.492
  9. Nick Heidfeld Mahindra Racing 1:04.523
  10. Stephane Sarrazin Venturi 1:04.583
  11. Sam Bird DS Virgin Racing 1:04.594
  12. Simona de Silvestro Andretti 1:04.606
  13. Robin Frijns Andretti 1:04.959
  14. Mike Conway Venturi 1:05.108
  15. Salvador Duran Team Aguri 1:05.452
  16. Oliver Turvey NEXTEV TCR 1:06.166
  17. Bruno Senna Mahindra Racing 1:07.724
  18. Nelson Piquet NEXTEV TCR No time
Race:

The preconceptions of a chaotic first corner incident proved to be incorrect after the majority of the field negotiated the first chicane unscathed; the positions remained unchanged at the sharp-end of the field and those at the back who feared a loss of front wing sheepishly took the shorter route across the chicane. There were some bumps in the midfield, but the only casualty from that appeared to be Antonio Felix da Costa, who was instructed to pit with a loose front wing, caused by rear-ending Mike Conway’s Venturi, which was a result of a shove from behind from Bruno Senna.

Any hopes the Abt Audi Sport team had of Daniel Abt becoming a rear gunner for di Grassi were scuppered when the 23-year-old made a mistake at the final chicane early on. Possibly in an effort to ensure no gain was made from cutting the corner, Abt somehow lost momentum and presented Buemi with a chance make early progress. The Swiss pilot was made to work for it, but was able to brake later and pass the Abt car on the inside of turn one.

The front five then became locked in motor racing’s nearest equivalent to chess. All were nose-to-tail and running at a similar pace, but desperate overtaking lunges were not forthcoming, particularly from the two main championship contenders – di Grassi (3rd) and Buemi (4th) – who were well aware of how costly a failed overtaking manoeuvre could be.

Lucas di Grassi was main man to reap the rewards from calculated driving. Just as the race at the front looked to be heading for a battle of the pit-stops, di Grassi caught out Nico Prost by braking later into turn four at the second chicane and gliding past to take second just half a lap before the stops. Prost’s pain was doubled by being overtaken by team-mate Buemi during the pit stop, and tripled by being handed a drive-through penalty for an unsafe pit release.

With the bit between his teeth and a car equipped with FanBoost, di Grassi made a move on race-leader Jerome D’Ambrosio as they began the 25th lap. The Belgian went defensive, but di Grassi out-braked D’Ambrosio – and almost out-braked himself – as the car squirmed to stop sufficiently to make the apexes of the chicane. The overtake arguably becomes one of the most high-profile FanBoost passes in Formula E’s short history.

Di Grassi made a break for it as D’Ambrosio’s mirrors were full of the Renault e.Dams car belonging to Buemi. The pair became involved in a 20-lap duel that would take them to the end of the race and see Buemi become increasingly riled. D’Ambrosio’s defense tightened, with complaints coming from Buemi of unfair changing of lines under braking, complaints which were dismissed.

Buemi muscled his way into second place via a chicane cut on lap 35, but the Swiss driver was forced to – reluctantly – hand the place back. The drop in pace backed D’Ambrosio up to the chasing cars and was forced to take the recovering of second place into his own hands, using the chicane to nip past several drivers – including Buemi – to take back the position.

The ongoing battle for the podium ensured di Grassi took a comfortable second victory of the season and his fifth podium in five races to take the lead in the drivers’ championship. D’Ambrosio held on for second place ahead of Buemi, whilst Daniel Abt made a mistake in the dying moments of the race to crash out and lose fourth place to Loic Duval. Nicolas Prost took fifth ahead of a strong recovery drive from Andretti driver Robin Frijns to take sixth place.

The finishing order was to be shaken up just a couple hours after the chequered flag. It emerged that Lucas di Grassi’s first car was 1.2kg under weight, which left the stewards with an open-and-shut case and no choice but to exclude the driver from the final classification.

This gave Jerome D’Ambrosio a very ironic second Formula E victory; his first one came at the 2015 Berlin ePrix when he was promoted after the exclusion of the race-winner…Lucas di Grassi. The disqualification means that Buemi’s championship lead swells to a hefty 22 points.

Will a 22 point lead give Buemi the incentive to approach the events in a calmer fashion, resulting in fewer mistakes? Or will this only be achieved once he has more than a thirty point advantage (maximum achievable points in a race event) over second place?

Mexico City ePrix – Classification:

  1. Jerome D’Ambrosio Dragon Racing 44 Laps
  2. Sebastien Buemi Renault e.Dams +0.106s
  3. Nicolas Prost Renault e.Dams +25.537s
  4. Loic Duval Dragon Racing +26.358s (handed a 15-second time penalty for repeated corner cutting)
  5. Robin Frijns Andretti +28.477s
  6. Sam Bird DS Virgin Racing +28.928s
  7. Daniel Abt Audi Sport Abt +30.051s
  8. Nick Heidfeld Mahindra Racing +36.373s
  9. Stephane Sarrazin Venturi +37.291s
  10. Bruno Senna Mahindra Racing +37.603s
  11. Oliver Turvey NEXTEV TCR 38.598s
  12. Mike Conway Venturi +38.790s
  13. Nelson Piquet NEXTEV TCR +42.351s
  14. Simona de Silvestro Andretti +43.971s
  15. Salvador Duran Team Aguri +1:03.082s
  16. Jean-Eric Vergne DS Virgin Racing +1 Lap
  17. Antonio Felix da Costa Team Aguri +11 Laps
  18. Lucas di Grassi Audi Sport Abt Excluded

Driver’s Championship:

  1. Sebastien Buemi Renault e.Dams 98 pts
  2. Lucas di Grassi Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport 76 pts
  3. Sam Bird DS Virgin Racing 60 pts
  4. Jerome D’Ambrosio Dragon Racing 58 pts
  5. Loic Duval Dragon Racing 44 pts
  6. Nico Prost Renault e.Dams 38 pts
  7. Robin Frijns Andretti 31 pts
  8. Stephane Sarrazin Venturi 30 pts
  9. Nick Heidfeld Mahindra Racing 27 pts
  10. Antonio Felix da Costa Team Aguri 16 pts

Teams’ Championship:

  1. Renault e.Dams 136 pts
  2. Dragon Racing 102 pts
  3. Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport 92 pts
  4. DS Virgin Racing 66 pts
  5. Mahindra Racing 39 pts
  6. Andretti 31 pts
  7. Venturi 30 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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  • Jamie Huntoon

    Didn’t save enough fuel.