Audi fly high as Mahindra hit trouble: Mexico City ePrix Race Report

Mexico City hosted its third ePrix at the famous Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City last weekend.

After the surprises in the inaugural race last year featuring a sublime energy-saving drive from last year’s champion Lucas Di Grassi and a duel between Jérôme D’Ambrosio and Jean-Éric Vergne, it was set to be another thrilling event on the motorsport calendar.

Di Grassi, still without points at this stage, had the misfortune of ending up in group 1 of qualifying. However, this did not deter the current champion as he lit up the timing screens purple, sending his Audi into the top spot, followed by Maro Engel’s Venturi and D’Ambrosio’s Dragon.

Though, this elation did not last long as group 2 – a formidable line up of Felix Rosenqvist, Sébastien Buemi, Sam Bird, Nelson Piquet and championship leader Vergne took to the track.

Rosenqvist wasted no time on his flying lap, snatching away P1 before an insurgent Buemi bit back and took the top spot away from the Swede, with Piquet and Bird slotting themselves into superpole contention.

Within group 3, António Félix Da Costa had a stormer, putting his Andretti into third position, with last year’s polesitter Oliver Turvey also impressing, depriving Vergne of a shot of superpole.

Group 4 also held promise with the likes of dark horses such as Mitch Evans and Daniel Abt and the best track conditions. However, a series of messy laps left everyone in mid-table positions and out of the superpole positions, leaving Buemi, Rosenqvist, Da Costa, Turvey and Alex Lynn to fight for the pole.

Lynn set the bar in superpole initially despite a looming penalty, with a respectable time of a 1.02.014. Turvey followed, slotting in behind Lynn after a scrappy lap. Da Costa had another excellent run, managing to place himself on provisional pole, much to the delight of his Andretti team.

However, two men stood in the way of his first official pole, two men who excel in qualifying and in claiming pole positions. Rosenqvist went first and pulled out a stellar lap, shaving two tenths off Da Costa’s time. Buemi was the last man standing, the only one capable of toppling a dominant Mahindra. However, a lap ridden with mistakes left him adrift in a lowly fifth and Rosenqvist picked up the three points and the bragging rights for starting on pole, followed by Da Costa, Lynn, Turvey and Buemi.

Da Costa’s elation at being on the front row did not last, however. He was given a penalty before the start for a underweight car, dropping him back to fourth, whilst Lynn took his grid penalty from the previous race for mechanical alterations on his car.

The race started with relative calmness as Rosenqvist held P1 and began to pull away from the chasing Turvey. Evans made quick work of André Lotterer’s Techeetah for P8 and Vergne swept past Da Costa, eager to keep his championship lead strong. Struggling Audi looked better in this race – Di Grassi despite his position and a ten second time penalty looming carved his way through the field in the early stages as Abt hunted down Buemi for P3.

However, the curse of Mexico struck once again as Rosenqvist’s car slowed to a stop, putting the leader of the race dead last and allowing Turvey to take the lead. Rosenqvist was able to get his Mahindra going again before it stopped again and he crawled to the pits to take his other car. Mahindra’s bad luck continued as Nick Heidfeld’s car also suffered mechanical problems, stopping mid race.

Audi, however, seemed invigorated. Spurred on by their recent troubles, Abt jumped Turvey in the pits, leading the NIO driver to fight against a charging Vergne and Buemi. Buemi used his fanboost to get past Vergne, eager to capture his first win of this season as he proceeded to hunt down Turvey, but the British driver proved a harder nut to crack.

Evans give way to Piquet in order to utilise the Brazilian’s drive and lower energy consumption. Piquet was able to edge past Vergne as he fought to collect his first podium since the inaugural season in which he became champion.

Di Grassi claimed fastest lap whilst out of the points paying position and set about clawing through the field to capture P10 and capture his first points of the season. As Di Grassi closed in on P10, Buemi and Piquet gave chase to Turvey as Abt continued to pull away.

Piquet forced Turvey to lock up into turn one but failed to get past his ex-teammate. Di Grassi managed to clinch P9, his first points since his disastrous title defence began as Abt finally claimed his first win of Formula E, followed by an impressive Turvey and Buemi.

Formula E Pre-Season Testing Report: Day Two

The second day of Formula E testing kicked off once more under the sunshine of the Ricardo Tormo circuit. It was another opportunity for drivers and teams to gain valuable information from their cars.

Despite the controversy and problems that the drivers encountered yesterday with the built in chicane on the main straight, an additional chicane has been added just before the start-finish line, which distorted the times to an extent. Techeetah’s Jean-Éric Vergne locked up twice on the exit of the new chicane and many of the drivers seemed uncomfortable with the new addition to the track.

Two new drivers made their debut this morning as Andretti elected to run Alexander Sims, who participated yesterday, and DTM driver Tom Blomqvist in place of António Félix da Costa. Blomqvist had a troubled run, running into problems with his car, but Sims had another consistent session. Venturi’s new development driver Michaël Benyahia was out on track this morning as he fought to impress the Monégasque team.

2017/2018 FIA Formula E Championship.
Official Test – Valencia, Spain
Tuesday 3 October 2017.
Alexander Sims (GBR), Andretti Formula E, Andretti ATEC-03
Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _J6I9478

Renault made their mark early in the day on a cool track as Prost immediately began to turn the timing screens purple. However, Audi Abt Schaeffler found some momentum with Daniel Abt taking the top spot at the end of the first hour.

Audi continued to look strong and consistent on the circuit but Renault e.Dams began to fight back, improving on a warmer track. Buemi and Prost occupied the top two positions as the session ticked over the two hour mark.

Oliver Turvey had another solid run, showcasing the NIO car has been through significant development over the winter period. He took the top spot from Buemi, only for the e.Dams driver to snatch it back moments later with a blistering time of a 1.21.890. It was a position that he would retain for the rest of the session, giving indications of what Renault e.Dams could be capable of in season 4. Felix Rosenqvist had a productive session, finishing in P2 and Sam Bird rounded out the top three.

2017/2018 FIA Formula E Championship.
Official Test – Valencia, Spain
Tuesday 3 October 2017.
Sebastien Buemi (SUI), Renault e.Dams, Renault Z.E 17
Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _W6I0626

Renault continued their dominant form into the afternoon as Prost immediately turned the sectors purple with a 1.23.544. They pushed hard, consistently taking the top spots in a duel with Mahindra’s Rosenqvist and Techeetah’s Vergne.

Rosenqvist had a strong run this afternoon, putting himself into P2 in the early stages of the session before pulling together a monster lap of a 1.22.747.

Venturi’s James Rossiter brought out a red flag an hour from the end of the session after hitting the new temporary chicane installed at the beginning of the straight. The barriers were once more retooled, but many drivers were still unhappy with the set up. Buemi again went down to the site of the crash, documenting the damage.

Audi struggled in the opening stages of the afternoon session but Di Grassi soon found some pace, snatching P1 away when the session restarted following Rossiter’s incident. However, it was Buemi who whitewashed the session, taking the top position back moments later. The race ended with Buemi in P1 with Di Grassi in second and a solid effort from Nelson Piquet Jr placed him in P3.

Formula E Pre-Season Testing: Day One Report

The Ricardo Tormo circuit, situated on the outskirts of Valencia, is hosting the Formula E collective test this week in preparation for Season 4. It provides  the first opportunity for drivers to get to grips with their performance in terms of their competitors.

In the first morning session of the three day test, Mahindra set the initial pace but Jaguar also showed promise from the start. By the end of the first hour, Mitch Evans topped the leaderboard with a 1.19.776, followed by Audi Abt Schaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi who was a mere one tenth behind.

Jaguar showcased that their development throughout the winter has paid off as Evans continued to dominate throughout the session. Nelson Piquet Jr also seemed to settle into his new team, taking P6 by the end of the session. DS Virgin’s Alex Lynn in a new dark testing livery, and Evans fought for the top spoils, however, Sam Bird improved on a warmer track, taking first position with a time of 1.18.669. The Audi’s of Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt followed.

2017/2018 FIA Formula E Championship.
Official Test – Valencia, Spain
Monday 2 October 2017.
Jaguar
Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _W6I9911

DS Virgin and Audi Abt Schaeffler looked strong on this track – however, it is not indicative of the true potential of the cars when they perform on street circuits.

Regardless of this, the test has shown that all the teams have made significant development over the winter. Renault didn’t show their potential in this session as they only occupied P8 and P9 and Sébastien Buemi seemed generally unhappy with the set-up of his car.

Mahindra faded after a strong start, with Felix Rosenqvist only completing 17 laps. Techeetah also seemed to struggle getting to grips with the track, with Jean-Éric Vergne managing P11 and new driver André Lotterer P16.

Formula E has eight new drivers undertaking test duties this week. Alexander Sims made his mark in his attempt to take the second Andretti seat as the IMSA driver outperformed teammate Antonio Felix Da Costa in the morning session and made a solid start.

James Rossiter, previous test driver for Honda and Force India was the best placed of the rookies, having a excellent session which placed him in P12. The other rookies, including newly unveiled Indycar and GP2 NIO driver, Luca Filippi, had solid runs, clocking up over 20 laps a piece, good preparation for the days to come as they become familiar with the car.

2017/2018 FIA Formula E Championship.
Official Test – Valencia, Spain
Monday 2 October 2017.
Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _W6I9571

In the afternoon session, Buemi and Renault showed their hand, leaping to the top of the timing screens. Jaguar once again made a solid start with Piquet and Evans climbing the rankings.

Techeetah had a much better afternoon, with Vergne shaking off the troubles of this morning and slotting himself into P3 at the beginning of the session. However, Bird soon brought out a red flag as he crashed out on the tyre chicane just before turn one, forcing his car to be towed away as he beat a hasty retreat to the pits. Racing resumed soon after with Rosenqvist snatching the top spot with a blistering time of 1.18.779.

However, red flags continued to plague the drivers as they struggled in the rising temperatures. Lotterer stopped at turn 7 with a mechanical issue and had to be towed off the track, only to appear a short while later and climb the order. However, turn 7 seemed to pose a problem for Techeetah as Vergne also fell victim to the corner, hitting the gravel and red flagging the session once more.

As racing resumed, Audi began to gain momentum, as Di Grassi and Abt fought for the top position in the latter stages. Buemi also contested the top spot, snatching the position away from Di Grassi by a margin of only two thousandths of a second. However, it was the NIO car of Oliver Turvey who finished on top. With two minutes to go, he put in a time of 1.18.565, the fastest of the day.

2017/2018 FIA Formula E Championship.
Official Test – Valencia, Spain
Monday 2 October 2017.
Sam Bird (GBR), DS Virgin Racing, DS Virgin DSV-03
Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _J6I9240

We grabbed a few words with DS Virgin Racing’s Alex Lynn and Sam Bird on how the day went and on the upcoming season:

Q:  Congratulations on securing the drive, Alex. Just wanted to know what your thoughts on the session so far today?

Alex Lynn: Yeah, it’s very positive. We had a good day. Many laps, car went round and round so very positive. I think the lads have been working really hard in the workshop to get everything done.

Q: What are your aims for this season? Where do you want to be in terms of Formula E?

AL: I think the plan is to definitely win races and be on the podium, that’s the immediate goal and what we’d like to achieve. As a team, I think we want to learn as much as we can over the next few days and arrive in Hong Kong in a strong position.

Q: How challenging is this circuit in comparison to the street circuits you usually operate on?

Sam Bird: The circuit doesn’t represent what we will be running on but it’s unrepresentative for everybody so everybody’s in the same boat. We were very quick this morning, I think the track got a little bit quicker this evening but we were doing race running so no worries. Compared to Hong Kong, the average speeds are enormous so what we run here is not what everyone will run in Hong Kong.

Q: Do you feel the season 4 car a significant step forward?

SB: I think there are some teams that have made the jump forwards and hopefully, we can see where we come out of it. There’s certainly a lot of teams who have put a lot of effort and resources and obviously their new systems and we will have to see where we are after that.

Q: What are your opinions on the way the series is going?

SB: It’s very exciting. This series is in a very stable situation right now, loads of new manufacturers coming on board and some big names.Amazing driver line up again this season and a great calendar, just need London back on the calendar. I fully expect it to flourish.