• Rhonan Colquhoun

Formula E: Di Grassi returns to the top step after Puebela victory

Season 3 Champion Lucas di Grassi led home an Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler one-two ahead of Rene Rast as Polesitter as long-time race leader Porsche's Pascal Wehrlein was disqualified.


19/06/21


In Formula E's maiden visit to Puebela, the Autodromo Miguel E. Abed hosted the first of two races to take place over the weekend with the new circuit making it uncharted territory 24 drivers.


The 15 turn 2.98KM circuit featured for the first time in Formula E history a sloped banking which ended the lap but and it provided a tricky challenge for the drivers as they tried and tested ways to find the optimum racing line.

BANKING ON GRIP: Over the practice sessions, the drivers got used to Puebela's unique final corner which is more commonly seen in oval racing such as IndyCar


Heading into qualifying, the championship contenders, consisting of Envision Virgin Racing's Robin Frijns, Mercedes-Benz EQ Stoffel Vandoorne and Jaguar Racing's Mitch Evans struggled in the first group as they faced the worst track conditions. As the Qualifying groups went out to set their lap times, the conditions improved and it was Tag Heuer Porsche's Pascal Wehrlein who claimed the coveted Pole Position.


From Pole Position, Wehrlein got the perfect start he needed to lead into the tight left-hand Turn 1. Oliver Rowland, who placed his Nissan on the front-row, suffered one of the worst starts a driver has had in the championship with the Brit struggling to get going from his grid slot. He was also having to contend with no radio communications with his team after his mechanics found a fault minutes before the start of the race.


As Rowland struggled, BMW i Andretti Motorsport's Maximillan Gunther got an electric start from fifth and was challenging his team-mate Jake Dennis as they went side-by-side through the opening corner.


The drivers were also having to face an extremely challenging way of activating their "Attack Mode". Positoned at Turn 8, the drivers would have to take a wide curving line to run though the sensors to activate their boost and then re-join the track. Re-joining the track has it's own challenges as the drivers would be travelling at different speeds.


Comfortable at the front, Wehrlein led through the first Safety Car period which was caused by Envision Virgin Racing's Nick Cassidy as the New Zealander crashed.


As the race entered it's final few minutes, a message from the FIA popped up and it was concerning the race leader. Wehrlein and his team were under investigation following a technical infringement but this did not trouble the German as his lead continued to build.


Now knowing that Wehrlein was under investigation and likely to recieve a penalty, the Audi's started their charge. Di Grassi was up first and with more usable energy, he made his way past Mortara with Rast finding a gap past the Venturi driver not long after.

TEAM WORK: Di Grassi and Rast worked brilliantly together as a team to give Audi their first podium finish of the year in an attempt to end the season well as the German manufacturer departs


If it stayed as it were, this still would have been a great result for the German manufacturer who have had their fair share of bad luck this season but as Wehrlein comfortbably crossed the line to win, his name from the timing sheet dissappeared to Audi's delight.


Informed over team radio after he'd crossed the line, Di Grassi was estatic to have taken his first win since 2019 some 22 races ago which is a long time in Formula E. As for Wehrlein, the German returned to the pits having being disqualified as his team were lost for words after a near perfect race.

BACK ON TOP: As one of the most experienced drivers on the grid, Di Grassi showed why he should remain on the grid next season as the Brazilian won for the first time since 2019


As for the championship, Di Grassi moved up into the top ten while second place plays dividends for Rast as he was already sitting in the bottom half of the top ten already. His 18 points moved him to within four points of the lead in fourth.


Mortara hung on to secure third and to mark his second podium appearance of the season while it a great drive by Alexander Sims who secured fourth for Mahindra. The Brit had an under radar race as it only marked his third race this season that he'd scored points.


Dennis rescued BMW's tail-off to finish fifth just ahead of Techeetah's Antonio Felix da Costa in sixth.


The only surviving Jaguar, Evans, claimed eighth ahead of second Mercedes of Nyck de Vries and the second Mahindra of Alex Lynn to round out the points.