Before the race began there were even more changes to the grid. Antonio Felix da would start from fourth after his front-row starting position for this afternoon’s Mexico City E-Prix after his Andretti was found to be underweight following Super Pole.
By virtue of his relatively poor qualifying performance, Lucas Di Grassi would receive a five-second penalty (taken during the pit-stop) in addition to his grid penalty which saw him start dead last.
At race start there was plenty of movement in the mid-pack with Daniel Abt making a move on Antonio Felix Da Costa for fourth and team mate Lucas Di Grassi making-up three positions on the first lap and hounding Edoardo Mortara.
Up front, Felix Rosenqvist had already pulled an eight-tenth gap on Oliver Turvey and Sebastien Buemi whilst Mitch Evans stole eighth from Andre Lotterer – keen to make amends after his glitch in qualifying. Da Costa was also caught napping by Vergne and Piquet, losing fifth to the pair.
Di Grassi meanwhile was still looking for passage past Mortara, the Brazilian desperate to repeat his performance last year where he went from last to first to revive his championship campaign.
On lap nine most driver’s energy levels were sitting around the 65% mark, with no discernible advantage from anyone other than the two second gap held by Rosenqvist. The Swede however would receive a bonus after winning the FanBoost vote along with Buemi and Di Grassi.
Turvey meanwhile was holding a similar gap back to Buemi when disaster struck Rosenqvist with his Mahindra grinding to a halt. The Swede would reboot the Mahindra but was already mired down in nineteenth. This left Turvey out in front with a three-second lead.
The problem for Roesenqvist looked terminal, but not before he pitted early for his replacement car. Up front, a mistake from Sebastien Buemi allowed Daniel Abt up into second and some much needed tonic for Audi ABT Schaeffler as he reeled in Turvey. Team mate Di Grassi also appeared to be running two laps longer than the majority of the field which had already began to pit.
“Everything was going well… Maybe too well” said Rosenqvist after the race. “I came out of the last corner and it died. I did power cycle after power cycle but it happened again. We’re suspecting it could be a battery problem. The message on the dash we’ve never had before”.
Nelson Piquet opted to stay out another lap to take the lead, but a brilliant stop from Abt saw him jump Turvey in the pits once Piquet pitted – the Brazilian re-emerging in sixth behind Jaguar team mate, Mitch Evans. Turvey meanwhile was under attack from the Techeetah of Jean-Eric Verge, giving Abt space to breathe at the front.
Positions were changing thick and fat with Buemi now seizing third from Vergne and looking to regain second from Turvey. The Brit however was starting to claw time back from Abt.
Nick Heidfeld was now suffering similar issues to Rosenqvist and was called into the pits by his team to undergo a diagnostic check for his Mahindra. Sam Bird was also enduring a tough race back in fourteenth. Piquet meanwhile was now up to fourth and hunting down Buemi which the extra energy at his disposal.
Daniel Abt now enjoyed a 4.6-second lead over Turvey and with his luck rabbit’s foot in check, would make amends for his stripped victory in Hong Kong. A slow exit out of the final chicane from Turvey gave Buemi a chance to make a run on the Brit, but was also mindful of a fast-closing Piquet.
The scrap behind allowed Abt to stretch another second to his lead and Jean-Eric Vergne to close on the pack fighting for the podium. Aby would eventually take victory with Turvey holding out Buemi to take out the final podium position. Lucas Di Grassi would take his first points of the season in ninth.
“I hope we can keep this one!” joked Abt after the race. “The car was fantastic and the pit-stop was incredible”. They [the team] were even quicker than they were in practice”.
“Daniel was stunning today” said Audi Sport boss Allan McNish. “It’s been a tough year as we always eemed to trip up over one another. I’ve got a lump in my throat and we’ll be savoring this one”.
Images: Audi Sport and Michelin
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