Di Grassi wins; title fight tightens in Zurich

June 10, 2018

Di Grassi wins; title fight tightens in Zurich

June 10, 2018

Lucas di Grassi has scored an overdue first win in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship season. Sunday’s Zurich E-Prix marked circuit racing’s return to Switzerland for the first time in more than 60 years.

The Brazilian driver kept his cool on a chaotic day, Round 10 of the season.

Overall, the championship battle turned on its head during a full-course caution. Championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne of Techeetah was one of five drivers who served a drive-through penalty as a result of over-speeding under yellow.

Vergne fell to 10th by the checkered flag, to salvage a single point after qualifying 17th.

Closest championship rival Sam Bird finished second for DS Virgin Racing, to cut 17 points out of Vergne’s lead. Vergne has a 23-point gap heading to the two-race New York City E-Prix next month.

For di Grassi, he scored Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler’s third win this season. It also ended his run of four straight runner-up finishes.

Di Grassi grabbed the lead on Lap 18 of 39. Running second behind polesitter Mitch Evans of Panasonic Jaguar Racing, di Grassi made a pass to Evans’ outside on the run to Turn 1 as Evans appeared to need to save energy before pit stops.

A full-course caution for debris flew a lap later. There were various wing parts and other carbon fiber shards strewn around the circuit.

Vergne, who’d made it up to seventh, lost ground with a 46-second pit stop time. He fell down to ninth after his second car wouldn’t engage properly leaving the pit stall.

After that, Formula E Race Control investigated Vergne, Evans, Andre Lotterer, Sebastien Buemi and Jose Maria Lopez, for going too fast under yellow. Race Control issued drive-through penalties to all five drivers.

These penalties took Evans and Lotterer out of likely podium positions, cost Buemi a chance at it and cost Vergne any chance of a top-six finish. Lopez added to his woes on Lap 35 when he overcooked his Dragon Racing car into Turn 1, running eighth.

That at least brought Vergne back into the top-10, but Lotterer didn’t do his teammate any favors by eclipsing Vergne’s fastest race lap. This cost the Frenchman one more point.

Somewhat overlooked behind di Grassi and Bird was Jerome d’Ambrosio, who scored both his and Dragon’s first podium of the season in third.

Lotterer and Buemi recovered to end fourth and fifth. Nick Heidfeld, Evans, Antonio Felix da Costa, Oliver Turvey and Vergne completed the points scorers.

There is no rest for nearly half the Formula E field, who head to the 24 Hours of Le Mans right after this race.

Bird, Vergne, Lotterer, Buemi, Lopez, Turvey, da Costa, Stephane Sarrazin and Alex Lynn will all be in action this weekend. They’re spread among the LMP1 (Lotterer, Buemi, Lopez, Sarrazin, Turvey), LMP2 (Vergne) and GTE-Pro (Bird, da Costa, Lynn) classes.

Formula E has a little over a month off until the New York City E-Prix July 14-15, where the championships will be decided. It will be only the second doubleheader weekend of the year, after the season-opening weekend in Hong Kong.

Vergne and Bird will battle for the driver’s championship. Audi has closed on Techeetah in the team’s championship.

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