Having lost victory due to a technical infringement at the season-opening Hong Kong ePrix, Daniel Abt has finally scored his first Formula E win by claiming the Mexico City ePrix.
Pole-sitter Felix Rosenqvist led away from the start, and after one brief pressure from Oliver Turvey in second place, began to build a lead. Heading through the Peraltada corner on Lap 15, however, a battery failure struck the Swede’s Mahindra, bringing his car to a stop.
While Turvey led the chasing pack through to the lead, Rosenqvist managed to get his car restarted, only to experience the same issue two laps later and a third time a lap after that. It was enough to force an early switch to Rosenqvist’s second car, and with it an early retirement after 34 laps. It was a double disaster for the Mahindra Racing team, as their other driver Nick Heidfeld suffered a similar problem, the German retiring with 27 laps completed.
Following Rosenqvist’s dramas, Abt sat in third, pressuring Sébastien Buemi for second place. The German’s opportunity came at Turn 1 on Lap 21, with Buemi running wide and allowing Abt to through to begin chasing down Turvey.
The gap closed over the three laps before the teams took their pit stops, and it was here where Abt made his move. Taking advantage of the removal of the minimum stop time requirements as of the last round in Santiago, Abt’s stop was noticeably faster than Turvey’s which put the Audi Sport driver into the lead.
Once in the lead Abt didn’t look back, clearing out to take his long-awaited maiden victory by a comfortable 6.398 seconds. With the 2017/18 season having been very difficult so far for not only Abt but the entire Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team, Abt was both overjoyed and relieved to convert their car speed into a victory.
“We came here knowing that we had a super-fast car and 12 points overall in the team. In Formula E, anything can happen – you have to focus on every lap,” he reflected after the race.
“The mechanics were very, very fast today – I don’t know how they were able to do that but it was key for the victory and I’m very thankful for them. We didn’t give up, we kept believing in it and today was just a fantastic day.
But we’ve seen Formula E is unpredictable – we saw that with Felix – and we just need to keep doing our best. For now, I’m just very proud of the team and it’s been a great day.”
The pit stop cycle also benefited championship leader Jean-Éric Vergne, with the Techeetah driver jumping to third with his own slick stop. The potential podium was not to last for the Frenchman however, as Buemi successfully used FanBoost to regain the place at Turn 1 on Lap 28.
Buemi spent the remainder of the race pushing Turvey for second, however the Briton did not crack, holding on to the position to claim his highest finish in Formula E.
After suffering a technical failure whilst leading in Mexico last season, this result went some way to easing that pain for Turvey.
“Last year was really tough – we had pole position and then we had the issue when I was in the lead,” he said.
“Today, I knew that we had the pace if we had a smooth weekend to be challenging at the front. I was feeling pretty comfortable at the beginning and I was able to pull away from Sébastien. I felt confident to try and defend and I saw him coming down the inside, so I just braked as late as I could. It was a close race but I’m so pleased to get the first podium for the team.”
For a third fraught race, Buemi found himself on the podium. Whilst not yet at the same level of outright speed and dominance that has been seen from Buemi and his Renault e.Dams team in previous seasons, the Swiss driver has recovered from a poor start to the season in Hong Kong slowly building a consistent bank of points – although he does not yet consider himself among the championship challengers.
“The first part of the race was the most difficult for me, but then in the second part of the race I was much quicker,” he explained.
“I knew Daniel was too far ahead, so I was taking my time to try to pass Oliver and trying to wait until he was really struggling with the energy because it’s really difficult to pass here. I don’t consider myself in contention for the championship because I’m not quick enough, but I’m still quite happy because that’s my 20th podium in Formula E and at the same time we scored points.”
Behind the podium finishers, Nelson Piquet Jr managed to pass Vergne for fourth place. It’s the third time this season the Jaguar driver has finished one place off the podium; his first top-three finish for his new team remains elusive.
While Vergne couldn’t replicate the speed that saw him take victory in Santiago, it was not an unsuccessful day. With Rosenqvist’s retirement and Sam Bird failing to score points, Vergne has extended his points lead over his two nearest rivals.
Mitch Evans in the second Jaguar finished the race in sixth place, ahead of Andretti’s António Félix da Costa, who fell back through the field after starting the race in fourth. Edoardo Mortara moved up from 18th on the grid to eighth at the flag.
Defending champion Lucas di Grassi also managed to score his first points of the season with a ninth place finish, and added a bonus point for the race’s fastest lap (for a top ten finisher) to his haul.
Alex Lynn rounded out the top ten for DS Virgin Racing. Although he set the third-fastest time in Super Pole, Lynn was forced to start 13th on the grid due to a gearbox change penalty. Despite his earlier pace in qualifying, the Briton could only make up three positions in the race.
Vergne (81 points) now leads the Drivers’ Championship by 12 points over Rosenqvist, with Bird a further eight points behind. Buemi has further closed in on the leading trio and now sits on 52 points, with Piquet (45 points) in fifth.
Techeetah also sit atop of the Teams’ Championship table with 99 points, ahead of Mahindra (90 points). With their double-top ten result in Mexico City, Jaguar (74) now sit in third position – the team’s heights ever ranking. DS Virgin Racing (70) and three-time reigning champions Renault e.Dams (59) fill positions four and five.
The next event in the 2017/18 ABB FIA Formula E Championship is the Puta del Este ePrix – returning to the series after not being held last season – will be held on Saturday, March 17.
|2018 ABB Formula E Mexico City ePrix – Final Classification (47 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Daniel Abt||Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler||47||50:45.164||25|
|2.||Oliver Turvey||NIO Formula E Team||47||+ 6.398||18|
|3.||Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.Dams||47||+ 6.615||15|
|4.||Nelson Piquet Jr||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||47||+ 7.015||12|
|5.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Techeetah Renault||47||+ 7.546||10|
|6.||Mitch Evans||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||47||+ 9.050||8|
|7.||António Félix da Costa||MS&AD Andretti Formula E||47||+ 17.157||6|
|8.||Edoardo Mortara||Venturi Formula E Team||47||+ 26.511||4|
|9.||Lucas di Grassi||Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler||47||+ 29.208||3|
|10.||Alex Lynn||DS Virgin Racing Citroën||47||+ 29.515||1|
|11.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Dragon Racing Penske||47||+ 30.418|
|12.||José María López||Dragon Racing Penske||47||+ 31.859||8|
|13.||André Lotterer||Techeetah Renault||47||+ 36.206|
|14.||Luca Filippi||NIO Formula E Team||47||+ 38.336|
|15.||Tom Blomqvist||MS&AD Andretti Formula E||47||+ 38.592||4|
|16.||Maro Engel||Venturi Formula E Team||47||+ 44.689|
|17.||Sam Bird||DS Virgin Racing Citroën||47||+ 44.982|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Nicolas Prost||Renault e.Dams||36||+ 53.099|
|DNF.||Felix Rosenqvist||Mahindra Racing||34||48:04.751||3|
|DNF.||Nick Heidfeld||Mahindra Racing||27||+ 28.381|
Bonus Championship Points:
- Three bonus points awarded to Felix Rosenqvist for claiming pole position
- One bonus point awarded to Lucas di Grassi for posting the fastest race lap by a top-ten finisher.
Images via ABB FIA Formula E Championship