For the second time in two seasons, Lucas di Grassi has been excluded from the results due to a technical infringement after winning a Formula E race – and for the second time it was Dragon Racing’s Jérôme d’Ambrosio who has inherited the victory following the Brazilian’s demise.
In the 2015 Berlin ePrix it was illegal front wing modifications that prompted di Grassi’s penalty, but following today’s Mexico City ePrix his car car was found in post-race inspection to be 1.8kg under the 888kg minimum permitted vehicle weight.
The standard penalty for such an infringement is exclusion, and with the Brazilian’s ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport team deciding against appealing the ruling what should have been a championship lead for di Grassi is now a 22-point deficit to Sébastien Buemi.
With di Grassi removed from the result, the race’s pole-sitter d’Ambrosio takes the victory, with Buemi elevated to second place and teammate Nicolas Prost joining the podium. Prost in fact finished fifth on the road but not only benefited from di Grassi’s disqualification; a 15-second post-race penalty was also handed to Loïc Duval for repeatedly cutting the chicane.
With his penalty Duval instead remains in fourth place, ahead of Robin Frijns, Sam Bird, Daniel Abt, Nick Heidfeld and Stéphane Sarrazin. The top ten is now completed by Bruno Senna, taking the final point for his efforts.
Earlier, d’Ambrosio led away from pole position, with Prost, di Grassi, Abt and Buemi holding their positions behind. Despite fears that the tight Turn 1 chicane would cause chaos, the field passed through cleanly, with only two cars at the rear cutting across the kerbs.
From there, the top six remained as a tight battle pack, with d’Ambrosio unable to build a gap over the chasers. Buemi was the first to make a move, slipping past Abt after the German cut the final chicane. The battle between the top five continued, with di Grassi losing some ground to Prost after a lock up at Turn 1, but as the pit stops approached he not only regained that ground but completed a pass on Prost at the Turn 4/5/6 chicane.
The lead group all pitted at once, with the only positional change occurring between the two Renault e.Dams team mates as Buemi exited in third ahead of Prost.
Di Grassi left pit lane right on the tail of d’Ambrosio and along with Salvador Durán and Jean-Éric Vergne also had the benefit of FanBoost. It was to be a vital advantage for the Brazilian, using his FanBoost on the exit of the final corner on the first lap after the stops to pull alongside d’Ambrosio and take the lead from the Belgian at Turn 1.
With the pass complete di Grassi spent the following three laps building as big a lead as possible, aided by an intense battle behind between d’Ambrosio and Buemi – at its peak, the Brazilian was 10 seconds ahead.
The battle for second – and ultimately the race win – was one of the tightest seen in either season of Formula E. Buemi was clearly faster than d’Ambrosio, but unable to complete a pass. At one stage the pair collided nose to tail in the run to Turn 1, luckily with no serious consequences, but it brought Prost in to the battle as well.
Eventually Buemi made it down the inside into Turn 1, however, he cut the corner to take the lead. Realising this was an unacceptable pass the Swiss driver slowed to move back to third, however it happened at a time where both d’Ambrosio and Prost did not expect it to take place.
In the confusion, d’Ambrosio made it back to second while Prost made contact with his teammate. The brief skirmish ended with all three maintaining their original positions, although Prost was soon removed from the fight by receiving a drive-through penalty for an unsafe pit release. The penalty dropped the Frenchman behind Loïc Duval on the road, however the position was re-gained with Duval’s post-race time penalty.
The battle for second resumed with Buemi increasingly venting his frustration over the radio, particularly about d’Ambrosio’s defensive race lines. Ultimately his charge was to no avail, with d’Ambrosio resisting the pressure and holding on for second with the cars side-by-side over the line.
Further back in the top ten another entertaining battle unfolded between Mahindra’s Nick Heidfeld and DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird, with Bird eventually completing a pass after several aborted attempts.
Daniel Abt, having dropped off the top-five battle pack, nosed in to the wall late in the race and limped home eighth on the road between Bird and Heidfeld.
It was a disastrous day for Team Aguri’s António Félix da Costa, who initially receiving a 10-second pit stop penalty for having his car worked on in parc ferme. This was followed by a damaged front wing which led to a mechanical black flag forcing his pit stop. Things did not improve with his second car: a drive through penalty was handed down for failing to respect the track limits, followed by spinning backwards into the barriers at Turn 7.
Speaking after the race, but before news of di Grassi’s penalty broke, d’Ambrosio reflected on the battle for second place with Buemi, in particular the contact and unsatisfactory pass by the Swiss driver.
“It was really a close call with Séb. We just spoke about it on the podium but I need to see a replay to see what really happened there. One moment we had contact in the first corner and everything went fine. Then he overtook me but cut the first chicane. When he let me by he always lifted in a place I was not going to try to overtake him. Therefore, it created a big mess all around. I think in the end everything played out correctly.”
Buemi, meanwhile, was left to rue not having the race pace to back up the speed he had shown earlier in the day, where he would have claimed provisional pole were it not for another error in the final one-lap shootout.
“I think today we weren’t quick enough to be honest,” he said. “It’s a very strange track here. The altitude, the asphalt was very warm and we didn’t have much grip. Looking forward to going back to a normal type of circuit. Clearly what happened in qualifying is a bit annoying because it is hard to understand what happened, I kind of didn’t really understand. So at the moment we won’t try to analyse it because the car is good enough but in the race it was not really there.”
With all the post-race penalties taken in to account, Buemi (98 points) now has a healthy 22-point lead over di Grassi in the Drivers’ Championship standings. Sam Bird maintains third place on 60 points, while his victory in Mexico has moved d’Ambrosio into fourth, two points further back.
Renault e.Dams (136 points) remain on top of the Teams’ Championship, while Dragon Racing (102) has been promoted in to second place, two points ahead of ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport.
The sixth round of the 2015-16 FIA Formula E Championship will be held on the streets of Long Beach, USA on Saturday April 2, 2016.
|2015-16 Formula E Mexico City ePrix – Final Classification (43 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Dragon Racing||43||48:28.409|
|2.||Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.DAMS||43||+ 0.106|
|3.||Nicolas Prost||Renault e.DAMS||43||+ 25.537|
|4.||Loïc Duval*||Dragon Racing||43||+ 26.358|
|5.||Robin Frijns||Amlin Andretti Formula E Team||43||+ 28.477|
|6.||Sam Bird||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||43||+ 28.928|
|7.||Daniel Abt||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||43||+ 30.051|
|8.||Nick Heidfeld||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||43||+ 36.373|
|9.||Stéphane Sarrazin||Venturi Formula E Team||43||+ 37.291|
|10.||Bruno Senna||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||43||+ 37.603|
|11.||Oliver Turvey||NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team||43||+ 38.598|
|12.||Mike Conway||Venturi Formula E Team||43||+ 38.790|
|13.||Nelson Piquet Jr||NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team||43||+ 42.351|
|14.||Simona de Silvestro||Amlin Andretti Formula E Team||43||+ 43.971|
|15.||Salvador Durán||Team Aguri||43||+ 1:03.082|
|16.||Jean-Éric Vergne||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||42||+ 1 lap|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||António Félix da Costa||Team Aguri||32||Mechanical|
|EXC.||Lucas di Grassi||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||Underweight|
|Fastest Lap||Team / Entry||Lap||Time|
|Nicolas Prost||Renault e.DAMS||29||1:04.569|
# Denotes a 15-second post-race time penalty
Image via FIA Formula E Championship