PUEBLA, Mexico – Lucas di Grassi took the win in the CBMM Niobium Puebla E-Prix Saturday, leading home a one-two for Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, ahead of teammate Rene Rast.
It had looked like a maiden victory was on the cards for TAG Heuer Porsche, with Pascal Wehrlein leading the contest from the off, only for the Porsches to be disqualified for failing to declare their tires. That left di Grassi and Rast one and two, with ROKiT Venturi Racing’s Edo Mortara rounding out the podium.
The result ensured Envision Virgin Racing’s Robin Frijns retained the lead in the Drivers’ World Championship, but reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa moved within two points after a sixth-place finish, as just four points separate the top five.
Rast, meanwhile, leapt into fourth spot, just four points from Frijns.
Wehrlein flew from the line to take the hole shot into turn one, with Oliver Rowland dropping positions after a stunted jump from the line.
Maximilian Guenther shot off the mark, making a great jump from fifth position to dive up the inside of BMW i Andretti Motorsport team-mate Jake Dennis into the first turn, the pair exiting the corner in second and third, respectively.
Nick Cassidy was only able to make it halfway around the lap, the Envison Virgin Racing driver colliding with the wall on the outside of turn eight. The MINI Electric Pacesetter Safety Car was deployed whilst the broken Virgin car was carted off the circuit.
As the safety car peeled into the pits, Wehrlein immediately got the jump on the pack, with Guenther pushing hard and locking up into turn one while trying to stick to the rear diffuser of the leading Porsche.
With attack mode open, on lap four Wehrlein was the first of the leading group to make the jump into Formula E’s edition of the ‘Joker Lane’ with the German dropping back to third and behind the BMWs.
With that extra 35kW, Wehrlein immediately blasted past the BMW of Dennis to take second position on the start/finish straight.
Fighting his way through the field from ninth, Lucas di Grassi confidently passed Alexander Sims for sixth into turn one. After only a handful of corners the Mahindra Racing driver fell prey to another Audi with Rene Rast following his team-mate through.
Lap seven saw Wehrlein retake the lead with Guenther taking his first attack mode of the race, the BMW driver rejoining in fifth but immediately taking advantage of his extra power to out brake Di Grassi into turn 11.
There was drama between the top two in the championship on lap nine, as Robin Frijns lunged into turn 11 collecting Nyck de Vries. It was an ill-timed move that would get the championship leader a 10-second time penalty.
With under 25 minutes on the clock and 11 laps completed, Wehrlein took advantage of his comfortable three-second gap to take his second and final attack mode, maintaining his lead over Guenther.
The exit of the the attack mode activation zone proved troublesome, making it a difficult end to the day for both Jean-Eric Vergne and Sam Bird. The Frenchman was squeezed into the wall by Alexander Sims and then Bird was sandwiched between Alex Lynn and the wall on the outside of turn eight – two racing incidents and the latter saw the release of the safety car.
With the safety car back in on lap 18, Wehrlein backed the field up but Guenther was able to stick with his compatriot as the Porsche driver made his jump.
Dennis moved past team-mate Guenther at the start of lap 20. The German appeared to slow up the pack to gain some breathing room to allow his BMW squad-mate to take his second attack mode.
With the pack bunching up behind Guenther, the German took a defensive line into turn one, with Edoardo Mortara behind getting sideways on the brakes. The Swiss-Italian making a big save in the ROKiT Venturi Racing machine to make the corner.
The plan by BMW seemingly backfired as Mortara made the move on Guenther and sent it up the inside of the German into turn 11, with Di Grassi also capitalising and forcing his way through, dropping Guenther back two positions in just one corner.
With just one minute left on the clock, Di Grassi took Mortara for second, another confident move into turn one with the Audi looking planted in the hands of the Brazilian.
In a shock turn of events, just as Wehrlein took the checkered flag the German and Porsche were penalized for a technical infringement, immediately promoting di Grassi to the race victory.