Formula E history made as Gunther snatches win in Santiago

Last year, Max Günther’s days in Formula E looked numbered. Despite an impressive start with Dragon, the German looked set to lose his seat to ex-F1 driver Felipe Nasr. Indeed, he was forced to sit out three rounds before he was reinstated in Rome, repaying the team’s trust one race later by finishing in an impressive P5. When BMW lost António Félix da Costa to current champions Techeetah, Günther’s ability to fill the gap left by the Portuguese driver was questioned. But Günther silenced the critics with a hard-fought win in Santiago last weekend, taking his first career win and becoming the youngest driver ever to win a race in the series. In doing so, he solidified BMW’s stronghold at the top of the constructor’s championship.

Mitch Evans started the race in the top spot, claiming his and Jaguar’s second pole position, beating out Günther by a mere two tenths of a second. Pascal Wehrlein posted a half decent laptime to start in P3, with Felipe Massa matching the Mahindra’s time to the exact second. The biggest surprise was that of Oliver Turvey who managed to make his first superpole appearance in over a year, slotting his NIO into a respectable P5, whilst Sébastien Buemi failed to hook it up and had to settle for a disappointing P6. Mercedes again looked strong in qualifying with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries both slotting into the top ten whilst Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara used the Mercedes powertrain to great effect and merely missed out in a spot in the superpole shootout. The Swiss driver managed to pull out a superb time after an amazing recovery to avoid Robin Frijns who lost control of his Virgin on the approach to turn one. Other casualties included Jérôme d’Ambrosio who suffered powertrain failure, leaving him to nurse his Mahindra to the finish line whilst Oliver Rowland, who was fastest in practise, made contact with the wall at turn 5, ruling him out of contention.

Credit: Formula E

Evans maintained his lead at the start of the race, as Wehrlein took advantage of Günther’s scrappy start to snatch away P2, whilst further down the field, championship leader Alexander Sims began his climb up the order, by forcing his way past the Porsches of André Lotterer and Neel Jani. However, the BMW picked up damage during the confusion and came to a stop on the track. It was to be a disappointing end to the weekend for Sims, after such a successful start to the opening campaign in Riyadh. Sam Bird also suffered more bad luck as he was spun around after an incident between Oliver Rowland and Daniel Abt into turn 11, dropping out of points contention and down to a lowly 19th place. Rowland was the next casualty as he lost part of his front wing, forcing him into the pits as Mortara passed Turvey and upped the pressure on the leading pair of Günther and Evans.

Santiago soon turned into the battle of the teammates as Felipe Massa joined his teammate at the front battle, and soon sparks were flying as the pair jostled for the top spot. Massa was forced to yield at turn 7 after being forced wide, opening the door for Techeetah pair Da Costa and reigning champion Jean-Éric Vergne to slip through. With just over twenty minutes left on the clock, Günther used his last few remaining seconds of attack mode to snatch the lead away from Evans. Vergne disposed of Wehrlein to secure P3 before disaster struck as the Techeetah’s front left tyre began to rub against the bodywork. Vergne tried to hold off his advancing teammate, but was forced to give up the position and pull into the pits, another unfortunate end to a poor opening campaign.

Credit: Formula E

Da Costa on the other hand, began to chase down the leaders. He managed to pass Evans with just over five minutes remaining, before he hunted down Günther. As the two cars approached turn 10, Da Costa forced the German wide, passing the BMW on the inside with more force than was necessary. As the time ticked down, with both drivers struggling with battery temperature, Günther sensed an opportunity and in the dying moments of the race, retook the lead into turn 9 and ultimately, the victory – his first career win and BMW’s second win of the campaign. He was joined by Da Costa in his first podium appearance for reigning champions Techeetah and poleman Evans, who was forced to settle for P3.

Formula E will return in Mexico City on 15th February.

2019 Austrian Grand Prix Review: The Future of F1

Formula 1 returned to the Austrian hills of Spielberg for round nine of the season, the Austrian Grand Prix. Definitely the best race of the season so far, the Austrian GP delivered what fans desperately needed after the French GP.

Qualifying saw Charles Leclerc taking pole for the second time this season, although he won’t have fond memories of the first time he got pole position. In Bahrain with just ten laps to go his engine went wrong, but he still managed to take third place. Lewis Hamilton took second place, although a three place grid penalty for impeding Kimi Räikkönen during qualifying saw him start from fourth. This was due to another penalty, for Kevin Magnussen who qualified P5 but he had a five place grid penalty, thus starting from tenth. ‘Local boy’ Max Verstappen, thanks to the packed orange grandstands, starts from second place with Valtteri Bottas behind. Norris in fifth showed the progression McLaren has made this season. Drama for Vettel meant he starts the race from ninth, after not being able to set a time in Q3 due to problems with the floor.

Max Verstappen had a horrible start, not being able to come off the line at all, dropping him back to seventh place. Norris had an impressive start and took third place exiting turn one, but Hamilton charged back and even Räikkönen got past him for fourth. Vettel had to make up some positions which he did, overtaking the McLaren of Norris for fifth place. The Brit now had to defend from the poorly started Dutchman.

That same Verstappen went on to P5 overtaking Räikkönen in the Alfa Romeo in lap nine, with a gap of four seconds to Vettel in front of him.

Magnussen was under investigation for being out of position on the grid. The stewards awarded him a drive-through penalty. A great result in qualifying, a drama in the race for the Danish Haas driver.

A nice surprise to see was George Russell in the Williams battling with Kvyat and Grosjean for seventeenth place. Kubica however was still struggling in last place.

A fight for seventh between Räikkönen and Gasly was the most entertaining one. Pierre struggled to get past the Finn, but every time he tried Räikkönen showed he’s still capable of racing and defending perfectly. Finally, after around twenty laps of battling the Frenchman got past. Throughout the field the gaps were extending fast, very few battles took place. It was all about strategy now.

On lap twenty-two Bottas came into the pits for his first stop, changing from the mediums to the hard tyres. A pretty big gamble, as Leclerc on the softs was still pulling away up front. Vettel immediately came in as well for the same change of tyres, but the stop took longer than expected, leading to frustration at the team. One lap later it was the race leader coming in for his pit stop, also opting for the hard tyres.

These changes meant that Hamilton was now leading the race, in front of Verstappen. Both still had to make their pit stop.

In lap thirty-one Hamilton came in for his stop. However, it was not only tyres they were changing. A few laps earlier he reported a ‘loss of downforce’ to the team. They didn’t want to take any risks and changed the front wing as well. Verstappen reacted to that by immediately coming in as well, re-joining in front of Hamilton in fourth place.

For third place the heat was on between Vettel and Verstappen, the latter one on much newer tyres.

With fifteen laps to go Verstappen overtook Bottas for second place, leading to a massive standing ovation from the orange crowds. He was putting up insanely fast lap times on the board, and with ten laps to go the gap to Leclerc shrunk to four seconds. A nail-biting end of a better race than the previous ones, although still lacking more battles.

Just five laps to go, the gap shrunk to a very tight one second. Reports over the radio that he had a loss of power disappeared when he showed the pace.

The battle of the season was fought out between the future of F1, Leclerc and Verstappen. A hard-fought battle into the third corner, even a bit of contact and the Monegasque got pushed wide in an aggressive, but fair battle. Verstappen took the lead, but it was unsure for how long as the incident got under investigation by the stewards. Some controversial moments happened this year with stewards after the race, but Austria wouldn’t be interfered with. Max Verstappen took another win at Austria, just like 2018 in a dramatic manner.

Charles Leclerc ended up in second, a great result for the Ferrari youngster, who definitely hoped for more and for 90% of the race, it looked like that was possible. Bottas would join them on the podium, although it was very close in the end with Vettel.

Possibly the most exciting race of the season so far, F1 leaves Austria to head to a circuit where the crowds won’t be orange. They will be full of British flags for the British GP at Silverstone in two weeks time.

Jean Eric Bern!: Vergne claims victory in Switzerland

Jean-Eric Vergne cemented his status at the top of the championship yesterday by claiming a dominant third victory on the streets of Switzerland. Starting from pole position, the reigning French champion looked unbothered in the penultimate round of Formula E, managing to hold off an aggressive Mitch Evans to seal the win and extend his lead to 32 points over his nearest rival,  Techeetah teammate Andre Lotterer, with Evans and hometown hero Sebastien Buemi taking the last two podium positions.

Qualifying was again crucial as the drivers had limited track time yesterday in shakedown with the circuit nestled in the streets of Bern still being built. Di Grassi was the first man out on track, hoping to consolidate his second placed position in the Driver’s Championship, but it was Techeetah’s Vergne who impressed to scoop the top spot in the first group, ahead of his teammate Lotterer and Robin Frijns by three tenths. However, Vergne’s lead was soon eroded by Mitch Evans, winner of the previous ePrix held in Switzerland whilst Sebastien Buemi and Daniel Abt slotted into P3 and P4 respectively at the halfway mark. Edo Mortara, another local, on the other hand struggled and could only scrape into P14 in his Venturi whilst Pascal Wehrlein continued his excellent qualifying form by snatching P3, the rookie’s fifth appearance in superpole seemed inevitable. The final group could not challenge Evans’ lightning-quick time, bar Maxi Gunther who took P5, an excellent showing for the rookie hoping to impress ahead of the new season. Evans took the spoils in the initial stages, followed by Vergne, Wehrlein, Buemi, Gunther and Bird.

Photo by Alastair Staley / LAT Images

Bird set the initial pace with a decent time of 1.19.536 in the opening superpole stages, but his time was soon eclipsed by Gunther who found an additional one tenth in his Dragon. The track conditions continued to evolve as Buemi was the next driver to snatch the provisional pole away by two tenths of a second in front of a delighted home crowd. Wehrlein looked set to continue his excellent qualifying run, however, despite a brilliant first sector, the Mahindra driver locked up into turn 9 and had to settle for the provisional front row behind Buemi, beaten by just four thousandths of a second. However, it was Jev that continued his excellent form this weekend with a monster lap of a 1.18.813, three tenths clear of the other leaders. It fell to Evans to prevent Techeetah dominance, but the Kiwi just fell short of the mark, having to settle for P2 as Vergne took his first pole position of the season.

Vergne started strongly from pole, but there was chaos within the opening lap as D’Ambrosio shunted Frijns into the wall, putting the Dutchman out of the race and out of championship contention with driveshaft failure. The race was red flagged whilst Frijns’ car was extracted from the circuit and the race clock was reset. As racing got underway again, Vergne came under pressure from Evans and the Jaguar driver continued to press at the reigning champion for the remainder of the race.

Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images

On the other side of the Virgin garage, Bird fought his car through the order, first dispatching of Gunther for P5 before squeezing Wehrlein for P4 before the German rookie ground at a halt just before the attack mode zone presumably with a battery issue. Bird continued his charge, piling pressure on Buemi for P3 before the Swiss driver snatched it back a few laps later. Bird then fell victim to a hungry Lotterer, after a mistake caused him to lock up and the Techeetah driver was able to dive down the inside of the Virgin car. As the time ticked down, the top four were within seconds of one another but Vergne was able to hold off Evans’ attack to claim his third victory of the season and claim the voestalpine European race trophy. Evans had to settle for P2, with Buemi claiming the final podium position much to the delight of the Swiss crowd.

The final two rounds of the Formula E season takes place in New York on July 13th and 14th.

Another home run!: di Grassi hands Audi their consecutive second home win in Berlin

Lucas di Grassi gave Audi the bragging rights over rivals BMW and HWA by claiming his second win of the season at the team’s home race. Although it was not a mirror of last year’s dominant display with Daniel Abt and di Grassi’s 1-2, the latter swept past polesitter Sebastien Buemi and remained untroubled throughout the race to move up to second in the championship, with Buemi and current reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne claiming the remaining podium positions.

Qualifying was again crucial with group one again struggling to stay in the coveted superpole spots as the track conditions improved. Di Grassi was the quickest man in the first group whilst Andre Lotterer was hampered by the Brazilian Audi driver mistiming his lap, leaving his hopes of superpole increasingly slim. Robin Frijns also suffered with a problem with his Virgin car, coupled with a five-place penalty from the previous race to leave him dead last. HWA on the other hand, enjoyed an excellent qualifying session with Stoffel Vandoorne and Gary Paffett making their way into the top six superpole shootout. Alex Lynn also impressed to take his first appearance in superpole, but it was Nissan’s Buemi who took the spoils in the initial stages, beating out Vandoorne for the provisional top spot.

Photo by Malcolm Griffiths / FE Media

Di Grassi was the first man out on track in superpole and set the initial pace, slotting himself into P1, a position he would continue to occupy as Paffett, Lynn and Alexander Sims failed to topple the Brazilian’s time. However, it was fierce rival Buemi who continued Nissan’s impressive qualifying record to break the deadlock by four-tenths of a second. With again Vandoorne again showcased his impressive qualifying form by disposing of the Audi driver by three-tenths of a second, another excellent result for the Japanese outfit. It fell to Vandoorne and HWA to prevent the fourth Nissan pole of the season and net the coveted top spot for themselves at their home race, but Vandoorne could not match Buemi’s time, trailing the Swiss driver by three-tenths of a second. Buemi took his second pole position of the season with Vandoorne and di Grassi rounding out the top three.

Buemi managed to hold the lead in the opening stages of the race, as Vandoorne was disposed of by di Grassi for P2. Six laps later, di Grassi performed the same manoeuvre heading into turn six to snatch the lead away from the leading Nissan. It was a position that di Grassi upheld for the remainder of the race, relatively untroubled by his racing rival and spurred on by the contingent of Schaeffler and Audi fans in the grandstands. Lotterer made ground in the opening stages, fighting his way up through the order after a poor qualifying, whilst his teammate Vergne followed suit, a podium very much on his mind, carving through the field from P9. BMW’s Antonio Felix da Costa was equally spurred on to claim his second win of the season as after starting from P8, he had managed to force his way through the field to pressure Buemi for P2. Buemi conceded the spot, only to activate his attack mode and claim the position back from the BMW, leaving da Costa in P3.

Photo by Sam Bloxham / LAT Images

As the time ticked down, Vergne began to pressure da Costa for the final podium position, with Abt and Vandoorne battling behind. Vergne eventually got the job done into turn 10, snatching P3 away as Lynn’s Jaguar forced the racing to neutralise when his car stopped on the start-finish straight with what appeared to be a hydraulics issue. It was a shame for the Jaguar driver who had been running in the points when his car stopped, bringing out the full course yellow. Another driver to be hit with bad luck was Lotterer who after storming up the standings, was forced to retire his Techeetah due to an overheating battery issue, ending his home race moments before the end.

Buemi held off a hungry Vergne in the closing stages of the race to keep hold of P2, his first podium since last season’s Marrakesh ePrix, whilst di Grassi held firm under pressure and sailed to victory, sealing a home win for Audi for the second consecutive year. The win also catapulted the Brazilian up the standings, but it was not enough to disturb current championship leader Vergne whose P3 finish allowed him to extend his lead at the top of the standings.

Formula E will return for the inaugural Bern ePrix on May 23rd.

First for Frijns! Dutchman scoops maiden win in rainy Paris

Robin Frijns scored his first ever win in Formula E, becoming the eighth different winner this season and keeping the winning streak intact as he triumphed in adverse weather conditions at the Paris ePrix this weekend. Frijns, the first Dutchman to win a race in the series, started from P3 but took advantage of the failures of both Nissans and fought off an attacking Lotterer and damage to his front wing from contact with Sebastien Buemi to claim his first well-deserved win of the series and subsequently took the championship lead.

Qualifying proved critical due to the significantly narrowed streets that make up the Paris circuit. The first group again struggled to extract performance on track with previous race winner Mitch Evans languishing at the bottom of the timing screens due to a scrappy lap. The second group did not fare much better with hometown hero Jean-Eric Vergne only managing to grasp P5 and Sam Bird scrapping into P8. BMW’s heartache continued as Antonio Felix da Costa could only manage P9. However, it was Envision Racing’s Frijns who managed to snatch the top spot with a super-aggressive lap that left him as the man to beat.

Group three benefited from improving track conditions as Oliver Rowland soon claimed the top spot by one-tenth of a second with teammate Buemi, Pascal Wehrlein and Felipe Massa all slotting themselves into superpole contention. The final group failed to threaten the top six drivers, with Dragon’s Jose Maria Lopez the only promise only to run wide at turn 3, ruining his lap, leaving Rowland, Wehrlein, Buemi, Frijns, D’Ambrosio, and Massa to snatch the pole away.

Credit: LAT/Formula E

Massa took to the track first in superpole, earning himself an impressive time of 1.01.217. D’Ambrosio followed, but struggled and had to settle behind the Brazilian after a scrappy lap left him adrift by a hundredth of a second. Frijns continued his impressive run of form with another aggressive lap, slotting himself into P1 before he was disposed by Buemi on his run.

However, as the time ticked down, it once again became a battle of the rookies as Wehrlein again showed his impressive form, moving into the coveted top spot by a margin of four tenths. Only Rowland could challenge the Mahindra man, but fell short and had to settle for another front row start, leaving Wehrlein to claim his second pole of the season. However, celebrations were short-lived as both Wehrlein and D’Ambrosio were demoted to the back of the grid after failing scrutineering due to tyre pressures, leaving Rowland to inherit the top spot.

Due to rain showers just before the start, the race began under safety car due to the adverse track conditions causing unfair disadvantages. Rowland held the lead as racing commenced and Lotterer began to pile pressure on Maxi Gunther for P5, eager to move up the standings. However, Rowland’s luck soon ran out as the Nissan rookie locked up, sending him flying into the barriers at turn 10 as his teammate Buemi moved into the lead.

With Frijns moving into P2, he began to pressure Buemi for the lead of the race, forcing the two to make contact as Buemi attempted to activate his attack mode. Frijns expressed concern over his front wing which had become dislodged during the incident but was told to continue as Lotterer soon disposed of Gunther for P4, as the German rookie too armed himself with attack mode and immediately began to chase after Massa.

Credit: LAT/Formula E

Like his teammate before him, Buemi locked up two laps later on turn 8 allowing Frijns to force his way past and into the lead of the race as the heavens opened over the circuit. Rain battered the course as Lotterer forced his way past Massa and began hunting down Frijns for the lead. However, he was hindered by a series of full course yellows as the drivers struggled in the difficult conditions including a nasty shunt for BMW’s Alex Sims and Jaguar’s Alex Lynn, who was taken out by Edo Mortara in the dying stages of the race. Massa held P3 for much of the race, only to spin out losing his podium spot with Daniel Abt able to capitalise on the Brazilian’s mistake. As the rain continued, Frijns held firm from Lotterer’s attack and claimed victory at the first wet race in Formula E history.

Vergne victorious in Sanya: Reigning champion kickstarts claim to reclaim his title

Jean-Eric Vergne finally ended his pointless run and the miserable start to his championship defence by claiming victory in a dominant display in the inaugural Sanya ePrix this weekend. Starting from the front row, the reigning champion pounced on Nissan’s Oliver Rowland on lap 19 and held firm against the rookie’s attack to clinch his first win since last season. The race also saw another change in the standings at the top of the table as championship leader Sam Bird was forced out of the race in the early stages, allowing Antonio Felix da Costa to clinch the coveted position as we approach the halfway point in the season.

BMW’s da Costa continued his dominant form in qualifying, initially claiming the top spot whilst his championship competitors struggled with Bird slowest in the first group, seventh tenths off the pace and di Grassi also half a second down on da Costa’s time. Jaguar’s headache continued with Evans tagged the wall and collected part of the sponsorship on his 200kw lap, leaving him at the lower end of the table whilst teammate Nelson Piquet Jr also struggled. Vergne finally managed to slot himself into the coveted superpole positions just behind da Costa and Audi’s Daniel Abt but it was Nissan that impressed in the initial session with both Sebastien Buemi and Rowland both managing to get into superpole, with Buemi snatching the top spot from da Costa by two tenths of a second. The Nissan drivers were joined in superpole by da Costa, Sims, Vergne and Abt.

Andrew Ferraro/LAT Images

Nissan’s dominance continued into superpole with Rowland taking his maiden pole position for the team, edging just ahead of Vergne by just over a second with the reigning champion having to settle for the front row. Da Costa looked promising but a messy mistake in the final corner proved costly and the Portuguese driver had to settle for third. Abt snatched P4 ahead of Sims and Buemi, with the former failing to set a lap time after suspected gear issues, whilst the latter made a mistake into turn 3, forcing him to abort his lap 25 seconds off the pace.

Rowland started well, managing to keep Vergne at bay in the opening stages as Abt began to pressure da Costa for P3 almost immediately. Bird’s misery continued after a clash with HWA’s Stoffel Vandoorne ruled him out of the race in the early stages, whilst Dragon also suffered with a double retirement as Felipe Nasr and Jose Maria Lopez found themselves out of contention after issues with their cars. Vergne continued to pressure Rowland, finally forcing the Nissan rookie into a mistake on lap 19 to take the lead. With his thoughts surely on his last victory in New York last season, Vergne began to put away from Rowland and the chasing pack.

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Vergne continued to lead as a red flag forced a suspension of the race after Sims crashed out with just ten minutes left on the clock. His mood was dampened as the race resumed with the news that he was under investigation for incorrect full course yellow procedures but continued to keep Rowland behind as the clock ticked down. Drama continued in the closing stages as Buemi collided with Envision Virgin’s Robin Frijns, sending the Dutchman into the back of di Grassi, sending both drivers out of the points and saddling Buemi with a late penalty for causing a collision. Despite this, Vergne continued to hold the lead from Rowland and was informed that he had received a reprimand. Vergne’s victory was his first since last season and the first for the DS-Techeetah partnership, made even more special by the fact that it is the team’s home ePrix. Rowland claimed a respectable P2 ahead of Antonio Felix da Costa in P3, who claimed the championship leader position.

Formula E will return on 13th April in Rome.

Hysteria in Hong Kong!: Mortara triumphant as Bird hit with penalty

Edoardo Mortara scooped Venturi’s first ever win in the team’s history at the Hong Kong ePrix this weekend. The Swiss driver benefited from a late post-race penalty imposed on Envision Racing’s Sam Bird who won the race, but was given a five second time penalty after contact with Andre Lotterer which forced the Techeetah driver out of the race.

Qualifying was blighted by the everchanging conditions of the Hong Kong climate, with Mahindra miscalculating the correct window in which to set a lap which left both Jerome D’Ambrosio and Pascal languishing at the bottom of the timing screens. Audi’s Lucas di Grassi was the first driver to make an impact, snatching P1 from under Sam Bird and Antonio Felix da Costa’s noses in the worsening weather.

Mortara showcased his experience on street circuits by claiming P1, followed closely by Lotterer who made a mistake in his final sector. Jean Eric Vergne’s misery continued as he repeated history by sliding over the final line backwards, but could only manage P6 and suffered cosmetic damage to his Techeetah. His lap was later cancelled due to the incident.

Times soon began to tumble as the session approached the halfway stage with Oliver Rowland and Felipe Massa slotting themselves into the top six. However, it was HWA that impressed in the storm with Stoffel Vandoorne taking provisional pole by over half a second from teammate Gary Paffett who managed to snatch his debut in superpole. They were joined in superpole by Rowland, Mortara, Lotterer and di Grassi.

Photo by Sam Bloxham/ LAT Images

The weather continued to wreck havoc on superpole as di Grassi set a time of 1.14.177, only to be displaced by Lotterer a few moments later by a difference of 1.3 seconds. Mortara thrived in the difficult conditions, claiming P1 with a time of 1.12.310, half a second up on Lotterer. However, after the session ended, he was hit with a three place grid penalty for ignoring red flag conditions and dropped out of contention. Times continued to tumble as the track conditions became more favourable with Rowland disposing of Mortara by two tenths of a second. The two HWAs remained and Paffett locked up into turn one, forcing him into P4 behind Lotterer, but Vandoorne impressed once again, claiming his first ever pole position for HWA with a 1.11.580.

Rowland wasted no time at the start of the race, snatching P1 away from Vandoorne in the opening lap who was then passed by Bird, dropping the HWA rookie down to P3. Mahindra’s terrible luck continued as Felipe Nasr tagged the wall into turn two, collecting both Wehrlein and D’Ambrosio along the way, sending both cars out of the race with suspension damage. The race was red flagged in order to collect all three cars stranded in a precarious position with Rowland still leading the race.

Photo by Steven Tee / LAT Images

As the race got underway once more, most of the drivers armed themselves with their first attack mode as Lotterer pounced on Vandoorne immediately for P3. Out of turn one, Rowland slowed and dropped down the order, losing the lead at the expense of Bird. Lotterer began to press Bird for the top spot, finally forcing the Brit into a mistake to snatch the race lead away. However, Bird continued to fight back and kept the pressure on the German who began to struggle with energy consumption in the latter stages trying to keep Bird behind. Whilst one Techeetah dominated, reigning champion Vergne’s bad luck continued as he cut the chicane at turn one, earning a penalty.

Rowland continued to carve his way back through the field muscling his way past Daniel Abt for P9, whilst Alex Sims tagged the wall, forcing him out of the race. Bird continued to press Lotterer, and attempted a move into turn two, passing the German for a moment, before Lotterer reclaimed the lead. The battle at the front as Vandoorne’s car stopped on track, whilst Buemi was forced out of the race with damage.

As the race restarted with over ten minutes left on the clock, Bird continued to pile the pressure on Lotterer for the lead with Mortara holding di Grassi for P3 as Rowland’s hard work on climbing up the order was undone when he made contact with the wall, and stopped on track, bringing out a third safety car. With two minutes remaining, the race was restarted and the battle at the front came to a head as Bird made contact with the back of Lotterer’s car, causing a puncture which subsequently ended the German’s race. A subdued Bird claimed P1 but celebrations were muted after the announcement that there was an investigation of the incident between himself and Lotterer. After the race, Bird was handed a five second time penalty which dropped the Brit down to P6 and Mortara inherited the win, his and Venturi’s first win in the series. Di Grassi moved up to P2 and Envision Racing’s Robin Frijns inherited third.

Formula E will continue in Sanya on March 23rd.

Madness in Mexico! Di Grassi clinches win in last minute thriller

Lucas di Grassi kickstarted Audi’s campaign to reclaim the constructor’s title by snatching victory in an action-packed Mexico City ePrix on Saturday. Despite leading for the majority of the race, there was heartache for Mahindra once more as rookie Pascal Wehrlein was literally pipped at the post after a sprint to the finish line.

Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images

Antonio Felix da Costa took first blood in qualifying as his championship rivals struggled in the unfavourable early track conditions. Championship leader Sam Bird was forced out of qualifying early, stopping at the side of the track with mechanical issues before he had even set a lap. Virgin Racing’s nightmare continued as Robin Frijns was handed a three place grid penalty for blocking Jerome D’Ambrosio in the confusion. Wehrlein showcased his improving form, snatching P1 away from da Costa. The track conditions continued to improve, allowing stalwart di Grassi to join the fight. Massa also put in an impressive lap to claim his debut in superpole. However, it was Nissan rookie Oliver Rowland who took bragging rights, taking the coveted P1 slot from di Grassi and Wehrlein in the last few seconds, cementing his place in superpole alongside Sebastien Buemi, Massa and da Costa.

Superpole certainly showcased the rise of the rookies as Da Costa set the bar with a time of 59.819, a feat that Buemi could not challenge. Continuing on from his superb qualifying form in Santiago, di Grassi put in an impressive lap to snatch the top spot. It fell to the three rookies remaining to oust di Grassi from pole. Massa and Rowland both fell short, slotting into P3 and P4 respectively. Wehrlein, however, managed to continue his electric form and claimed the three points and Mahindra’s second pole at the circuit in the last two years.

Photo by Zak Mauger / LAT Images

Wehrlein started strongly from pole as Rowland managed to sneak into P2, leapfrogging Brazilian compatriots Massa and di Grassi in the opening stages. However, as the race heated up, Nelson Piquet tangled with Jean-Eric Vergne in a nasty accident which left the Jaguar driver in the wall at turn 13 and subsequently out of the race. BMW’s Alexander Sims suffered a repeat of Marrakesh as he was tagged by a out-of-control Piquet going into the final corner. Due to the damage, the race was immediately red flagged with just nine minutes on the clock. Whilst in the pits, Vergne and Sims were able to repair the damage caused by Piquet’s accident.

As the race got underway once more, everybody armed themselves with their attack mode, forcing di Grassi to pressure Rowland for P2. However, the Brazilian could not find a way past and had to settle for P3. Da Costa picked up damage as a result of his duel with Buemi for P4, forcing the Portuguese driver to back off from his attack. Vandoorne’s bad luck continued as he was given a penalty for using his fanboost too early, whilst Lopez was hit with a double penalty for overuse of energy and pitlane violations. Vergne too had another nightmare of a race as he was tagged by Mitch Evans in the stadium section, leaving the reigning champion in a lowly P17.

Photo by Sam Bloxham / LAT Images

It was in the latter stages that the race came alive as Rowland, despite occupying P2 for the majority of the race, misjudged the corner when under pressure from di Grassi and had to concede the podium spot to the Brazilian. His luck went from bad to worse as he made contact with teammate Buemi, and Nissan’s miscalculations on energy use left both drivers dropping down the order and out of the points. Di Grassi continued to press Wehrlein for the lead, forcing the rookie to fight against the attack instead of saving his energy. Di Grassi scooped victory at the last gasp overtaking a energy-depleted Wehrlein just before the finish line to score Audi’s first win of the season ahead of da Costa and Venturi’s Edo Mortara, both promoted by Nissan’s failure to finish.

Formula E will return in Hong Kong on 10th March.

Bird’s the Word!: Sam succeeds in Santiago

Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird finally got his championship campaign underway by claiming his first win this season in a penalty-prone Santiago ePrix yesterday. Despite the temperatures soaring and making the ePrix the hottest on record, Bird managed to remain cool and claim victory after poleman Sebastien Buemi crashed out on a degrading track, holding off Pascal Wehrlein’s late challenge to send the British team to the top of the constructor’s standings.

Lucas di Grassi was the first driver to make an impact at the top of the qualifying standings, only to be superseded by Buemi moments later. Techeetah and BMW failed to make an impact as the track conditions began to improve, leaving those in the first group out of the coveted superpole positions. However, it was Mahindra’s Wehrlein took first blood in the initial part of qualifying by snatching provisional pole, ahead of Buemi, di Grassi, Bird and Abt. Stoffel Vandoorne too claimed a small victory in the shape of HWA and his first appearance in superpole, slotting in P4.

Abt was the first to take to the track in superpole and his super clean lap enabled him to set the bar at 1.08.958. Vandoorne followed, however, his lap was overshadowed by the fact that HWA failed to get the Belgian out of the pits on time, rendering his lap void. Bird struggled in the climbing temperatures to slot into P3 before di Grassi showcased a master lap around the Santiago circuit to post a time of 1.08.290. Buemi and Wehrlein had no answer to the Brazilian, claiming P2 and P3 respectively. Despite the dominant display in qualifying, di Grassi had his pole revoked after a braking infringement on his cool-down lap which sent him to the back of the grid and promoted racing rival Buemi to pole position.

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Buemi started well, holding the lead ahead of Wehrlein and Abt, who was superseded by Bird moments into the race for P3. However, the soaring temperatures proved difficult for the new Gen 2 cars with Tom Dillmann grinding to a halt a few laps in, presumably due to battery issues. Buemi was the first of the leading pack to deploy his attack mode in an effort to pull away from a charging Bird. The midfield battle too continued to heat up as Oliver Rowland and Felipe Massa duelled for the last points paying position.

Current champion Jean-Eric Vergne had a race to forget. A lowly qualifying session had placed the Frenchman in the middle of the pack and a bizarre incident between himself, his teammate Andre Lotterer and Antonio Felix da Costa left him out of the race. Da Costa’s nightmare also continued after his tangle with teammate Alexander Sims in Marrakesh as his BMW surrendered to the climbing temperatures, forcing him to retire later in the race.

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Maxi Gunther stopped on the track, forcing the race’s first full course yellow, whilst Lopez spun after contact with di Grassi. Vandoorne’s hopes of HWA’s first points crumbled as the Belgian slowed on track just after the attack mode area, having made contact with the wall. As the full course yellow period ended, Bird and Wehrlein continued to pressure Buemi and with eleven laps from the end, the Nissan driver made contact with the wall and subsequently lost the lead. He limped back to the pits with suspension damage preventing him from participating further. Bird inherited the lead and held off a chasing Wehrlein for the remainder of the race to claim his eighth career win and the first of the season for Envision Virgin Racing. Wehrlein claimed his first Formula E podium in only his second race, followed by Daniel Abt who was promoted to P3 after Sims was given a penalty for contact with Edo Mortara.

D’Ambrosio flies high whilst Da Costa and Sims tangle: Marrakesh ePrix report

With their two drivers occupying the two spots in the race, BMW i Andretti seemed set for another dominant victory in Marrakesh. Despite not taking pole, Antonio Felix da Costa and Alexander Sims swept through the field, taking advantage of Sam Bird and Jean-Eric Vergne’s opening lap clash. However, seven minutes from the chequered flag, the two BMWs collided into one another, sending Da Costa out of the race and Sims limping out of the podium positions. Mahindra’s Jerome D’Ambrosio took advantage of the clash to claim his third win of Formula E, and his first that did not involve disqualification.

Da Costa took first blood in the first qualifying group with an impressive 1.17.950, narrowly beating out Vergne. Lotterer also looked set to challenge the BMW, but a mistake in turn 7 left him in a lowly P5. As track conditions improved, Nissan’s Sebastien Buemi snatched the top spot away, forcing his way comfortably into superpole. Audi looked competitive initially, but both drivers made crucial mistakes in the final sector, leaving them out of the top six spots.

In contrast, their customer team Virgin Racing continued with their impressive form throughout the weekend as Sam Bird claimed P1 and Robin Frijns edged into P6. However, there was further drama in the pitlane as the NIO of Tom Dillmann ended up clattering into both Virgin cars, causing damage to their diffusers. The final group did little to trouble Bird and Buemi, with the exception of Sims who scored his first superpole appearance to the expense of Pascal Wehrlein on his maiden race with Mahindra.

Vergne managed to post the fastest time of qualifying so far in superpole, his time of 1.17.535 was enough to dispatch Mitch Evans from the top spot. Da Costa ended up less than a tenth of a second behind Vergne, with his teammate Sims performing well to slot in behind the championship leader. However, it was Sam Bird who clinched the all-important top spot and the valuable three points to kickstart his season.

Credit: Alastair Staley / LAT Images

The chaos started early as Vergne collided with Bird at the start as the pair duelled for the lead. The contact sent Vergne’s Techeetah to the back of the grid, forcing the current champion to force his way back through the pack. In the fracas of the opening lap, Buemi dropped from third back to thirteenth, whilst Sims was able to pick up second place, just behind his teammate da Costa who had started sixth after a penalty for energy overuse. Lotterer, who was also suffering from a penalty that relegated him to the back, slowly climbed the ranks as did the Audi of di Grassi, but not before collecting Wehrlein and sending the German out of the race. HWA’s bad luck also continued as Paffett and Vandoorne both collided in the opening lap, sending the former out of the race with a puncture.

Da Costa soon dispatched of Sims before snatching the lead away from a struggling Bird on the tenth lap. Sims followed his teammate through and the pair began to pull away from the chasing Virgin cars and the lone Mahindra of D’Ambrosio who managed to bypass a sleeping di Grassi and Bird shortly afterwards. The Techeetah cars of Vergne and Lotterer too began to gain ground, with the pair occupying P8 and P9 with under twenty minutes left on the clock.

Credit: Sam Bloxham/ LAT Images

The lead that the two leading BMWs built up soon disappeared as many cars began to use up their mandatory attack modes, and on lap 25, Sims decided to attempt to snatch the lead away from his teammate. However, team principal Mark Preston could only look on in horror as the two banged wheels, colliding and sending Da Costa into the barriers, along with the chance of the team’s first ever 1-2. Sims climbed back into P4 as D’Ambrosio inherited the lead ahead of the Virgin cars of Frijns and Bird. Da Costa’s stricken car summoned the only safety car of the entire race. Like in Ad Diriyah, the drivers with one attack mode remaining seemed to be at an advantage, including the two Techeetahs of Vergne and Lotterer, and the lone BMW of Sims sitting behind the podium positions, who all hoped to use their last line of attack to climb the standings.

However, Da Costa’s car remained on the track as the clock ticked down and only one lap remained when the safety car period ended. Despite most of the cars running out of their attack mode whilst following the safety car, D’Ambrosio and Frijns engaged in a thrilling duel until the finish line with the Dutchman finishing only 0.143s behind D’Ambrosio, who continued in his excellent form, propelling him to the top of the championship. Bird finished in the final podium position, followed by Sims who managed to hold off the dual attack of Vergne and Lotterer.

Formula E returns to Santiago on January 26th.