Having been stripped of the race win and with it the championship lead following the last round of the FIA Formula championship in Mexico City, Lucas di Grassi has responded by claiming victory on the streets of Long Beach.
Completing his redemption, the win also returned the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport to the top of the Drivers’ Championship standings, as rival Sébastien Buemi suffered a torrid race.
Pole-sitter Sam Bird led away from the start, but came under increasing pressure from di Grassi, who took the lead with a dive down the inside on Lap 13.
The paired remained close through the next portion of the race, including through the pit stops, but a mistake with cold brakes in his second car saw Bird run down the Turn 5 escape road and lightly nudge the tyres. No significant damage was done, however the Briton fell to seventh place as he recovered and only gained one more position during the race when Nicolas Prost was handed a drive-through penalty for being a scant 0.1 seconds under the minimum pit stop time.
With the threat from Bird neutralised, di Grassi ran relatively unhindered to the end of the race, save for a late race Safety Car caused when reigning champion Nelson Piquet Jr clattered over the kerbs at Turn 1 and hit the wall.
The caution period brought Venturi’s Stéphane Sarrazin on to di Grassi’s tail, but the Brazilian managed the restart and subsequent three-lap sprint perfectly to officially take his second victory of the season.
Speaking post-race, di Grassi shared his pleasure in putting the Mexico City disqualification behind him.
“I’m very happy to show that if you keep your focus, keep up your work, good results come,” he said.
“From the outside races always look comfortable, this is a tricky track, it’s very easy to do mistakes, it was an extremely difficult race. Stéphane was quick and was putting pressure on me. It’s an extremely difficult car to drive on the edge so we had no comfort in winning the race, we just had to focus on making no mistakes.”
Sarrazin finished in second place, in the process claiming his maiden Formula E podium: “It’s amazing that since last year we have been quick but never on the podium. It was a very good race and we’ve improved a lot. The team has come from zero – it was completely new – so we are very happy with the car and the total package, and it was a good result.”
Third place was claimed by the sister ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport car of Daniel Abt, giving the team its first official double-podium result (a disqualification during Season 1 at the Berlin ePrix had previously taken one away from the team).
To celebrate, the team members joined the drivers on the podium, and Abt was happy to get the result by simply staying out of trouble.
“I love California and I knew that coming here we would be strong. I set the overall fastest lap today in FP2, but it didn’t quite work in qualifying, so I was a bit disappointed coming into the race. In the race I tried to stay cool while others around were making a lot of mistakes, and that helped me a lot. This result was so important for the team and our first double podium is for them,” he said.
ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport weren’t the only team celebrating. With fourth place for Nick Heidfeld and fifth for Bruno Senna, Mahindra Racing also scored their biggest ever team points score.
Bird followed in sixth ahead of Dragon Racing’s Jérôme d’Ambrosio, who along with di Grassi and Heidfeld received the FanBoost votes.
With ninth place, Simona de Silvestro claimed history by becoming the first female driver to score points in Formula E, with the second Venturi of Mike Conway taking the last point in tenth place.
The dramas for the Renault.eDams team weren’t limited to Prost’s mid-race penalty. Starting seventh after a cautious qualifying run, Buemi moved to sixth with a pass at the Turn 7 hairpin on Abt, but made a mistake a few laps later trying a similar move on Robin Frijns and hit the back of the Andretti driver. Both drivers continued with obvious damage to their cars, only to be forced to put for repairs after mechanical flags were displayed.
There was, however, a small silver lining for Buemi. The Swiss driver managed to set the fastest lap of the race, and with it claim two points. These may be vital in his championship battle with di Grassi, who now holds a one-point lead over Buemi. Sam Bird sits third in the standings, a further 29 points behind.
Despite their difficult race, Renault e.Dams remain at the top of the teams championship on 138 points, however the gap back to ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport has been reduced to just six points.
The 2015-16 FIA Formula E Championship now moves to Europe, with the inaugural Paris ePrix to be staged in Saturday April 23.
|2015-16 Formula E Long Beach ePrix – Final Classification (41 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Lucas di Grassi||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||41||45:11.582|
|2.||Daniel Abt||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||41||+ 0.787|
|3.||Stéphane Sarrazin||Venturi Formula E Team||41||+ 1.685|
|4.||Nick Heidfeld||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||41||+ 2.343|
|5.||Bruno Senna||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||41||+ 4.968|
|6.||Sam Bird||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||41||+ 5.229|
|7.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Dragon Racing||41||+ 6.735|
|8.||Loïc Duval||Dragon Racing||41||+ 8.057|
|9.||Simona de Silvestro||Amlin Andretti Formula E Team||41||+ 10.505|
|10.||Mike Conway||Venturi Formula E Team||41||+ 10.900|
|11.||Nicolas Prost||Renault e.DAMS||41||+ 11.205|
|12.||Oliver Turvey||NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team||41||+ 17.417|
|13.||Jean-Éric Vergne||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||40||+ 1 lap|
|14.||Salvador Durán||Team Aguri||40||+ 1 lap|
|15.||Robin Frijns||Amlin Andretti Formula E Team||40||+ 1 lap|
|16.||Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.DAMS||38||+ 3 laps|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||António Félix da Costa||Team Aguri||33||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Nelson Piquet Jr||NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team||32||Accident|
|Fastest Lap||Team / Entry||Lap||Time|
|Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.DAMS||28||57.938|
Images via FIA Formula E Championship / LAT
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