Jean Eric-Vergne scored a scintillating lights-to-flag win at the Punta Del Este ePrix, fending off intense pressure from Lucas Di Grassi for the entire race.
Techeetah driver Vergne led Audi’s Di Grassi away from pole, with DS Virgin’s Alex Lynn challenging the pair from third place in the opening laps. Vergne was suffering from radio issues in the first half of the race, and seemed unclear on the amount of usable energy he had remaining as the front two pitted on lap 19.
Di Grassi saw his moment to attack following their pitstop, sizing up Vergne before attempting a pass a lap later. The pair briefly touched, and Di Grassi saved a half spin and narrowly avoiding the wall.
The final ten laps was a fascinating game of chess between the leading pair, with Di Grassi filling Vergne’s mirrors at every opportunity. As the front two squabbled, Bird was quietly gaining on them and joined the fight for the lead with a few laps remaining.
Bird had closed to within a second of Vergne as the lead three ran nose to tail, but was unable to force a mistake. Di Grassi made a last gap move with two laps to go, nudging Vergne’s rear approaching the final corner, but it wasn’t enough as Vergne kept his cool to take the flag for his second win of the season and extend his championship lead to 30 points.
“I think I need a glass of vodka right now,” said Vergne on his cool down lap. “I couldn’t be happier for the team to win the race.”
After being in contention for the win late on, Bird made a small mistake on the final lap and had to settle for third place. Jaguar’s Mitch Evans snatched fourth from sixteenth on the grid after a stunning late pass on DS Virgin’s Alex Lynn. Lynn looked in contention for a podium early on, but a slow stop cost him as teammate Bird was able to squeeze past exiting the pitlane.
Felix Rosenqvist claimed fifth after starting from 13th on the grid. The Mahindra driver kept his nose clean and gradually made progress into the points, passing Lynn late on to snatch another place.
NIO’s Oliver Turvey was seventh, after running fourth in the opening stages, finishing narrowly ahead of Dragon’s Jose Maria Lopez who came alive in the second half of the race and set the fastest lap of the race.
Jerome d’Ambrosio finished ninth to make it a first double points finish of the season for Dragon, with Maro Engel rounding out the top ten for Venturi.
Di Grassi’s teammate Daniel Abt lost the chance of a podium after being forced to stop to have his seatbelts fastened at two-thirds distance. The Audi driver was running in third at the time.
It was a bad day for champion team Renault as Nico Prost could manage no higher than fifteenth, while Buemi was several laps down with a suspension failure.
Santiago podium finisher Andre Lotterer had a miserable day in the second Techeetah, finishing outside the points in twelfth place.
Heidfeld retired after contact on lap one, and Piquet was forced out of contention on lap 25 with a driveshaft failure.
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