This sport just keeps getting more and more exciting as it progresses and the world may have witnessed the most epic battle in Formula E yet in the sixth round of this season around the streets of Punta del Este in Uruguay. Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne went toe-to-toe with defending FE champion Lucas Di Grassi in the Audi FE racer, pretty much from start to finish, all 37 laps.
Street circuits are pretty tight as it is, often with no runoff area and solid concrete walls as track borders, but Punta del Este claimed plenty of cars over the race weekend. It’s a quick circuit which further narrows the margin of error while pushing hard in an open-wheel racer running on street-legal Michellins. Nick Heidfeld, Nelson Piquet Jr and Nico Prost crashed out in qualifying and started at the back of the grid while many others had some really close calls. Felix Rosenqvist’s mistake put him down in 14th on the starting grid while Daniel Abt and Sebastian Buemi just missed out on super pole, qualifying sixth and seventh fastest respectively.
Vergne was quickest in the regular qualifying, just ahead of Di Grassi but the Brazillian outpaced everyone to take superpole while the Frenchman slumped down to fifth on the starting grid. Alex Lynn did a good job for Virgin Racing and qualified second fastest, ahead of Mitch Evans in the Jaguar and Oliver Turvey’s Nio FE racer. Meanwhile, Lotterer qualified eighth fastest, followed by Engle and Bird in that order to wrap up the top ten grid spots. However, there was some post lap drama regarding penalties which changed things up again, especially at the front. Di Grassi, Lynn and Turvey had all clipped a bollard while going around the fast chicane, Turn 14/15, during superpole and thus Vergne started on pole, and the concerned drivers were moved down one position on the grid. Things were much more grim for Evans, who was third fastest but was demoted to 16th on the grid because of a weight distribution issue following a change of battery between practice sessions.
The Techeetah got off the line much better than the Audi as Di Grassi had to hold off Lynn going into the first corner, allowing Vergne to get some breathing space ahead. Not far down the order, Lotterer had a bit of moment on Lap 2 while being pressured by Sam Bird as he somehow managed to keep his Techeetah out of the wall as the tail struck out while exiting the fast chicane. However, it wasn’t long before the German was being overtaken and at the back of the grid, Heidfeld’s Mahindra suffered a technical problem and halted on the tracks which brought out the safety car too, his second DNF in a row.
But nothing could take the viewers away from the nail-biting battle at the front between Vergne and Di Grassi. They both swapped cars on lap 19 but the Frenchman stayed ahead of the Brazillian who made a serious lunge to get past around the outside on lap 21 but had to slow down hard to avoid the wall. Verge got some room to pull away but Di Grassi reigned him back in towards the final laps of the race, making contact on the final corner with three laps to go. The Audi’s nose was right up the diffuser of the Techeetah even as they rounded the last turn of the last lap where Vergne clinched his second victory in the sport by just 0.477 seconds to further increase his lead in the Driver’s Championship. Both drivers shared their love for the battle and showed each other due respect once out of their cockpits, the kind of racing and sportsmanship that really gets a sport some loyal fans.
Meanwhile, not far behind them, Sam Bird took the last podium spot followed by Mitch Evans who had given a great performance, particularly a gutsy overtake down the inside of Turn 13 and held off Rosenqvist who also did well to secure a P5 finish. Lynn and Turvey finished P6 and P7 respectively despite their strong start while Dragon Racing’s Jose Maria Lopez and Jerome D’Ambrosio managed to strategize their way into some points finishing P8 and P9 respectively. Engel rounded out the top 10 while Abt had to make an unexpected second pit stop to fix a problem with his seatbelt and eventually finished 14th. Other DNFs apart from Heidfeld included Buemi and Piquet Jr. both of whom suffered damage and had to make premature car swaps.
Another strong performance from Vergne puts him and Techeetah in a comfortable lead at the top of both the Driver’s and Constructor’s championships while Rosenqvist and Mahindra Racing have been caught up by Sam Bird and DS Virgin Racing. The action will resume in just under a month as Formula E moves to the Euro stretch of the season so stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, you can also subscribe for the latest action from Formula One when the season takes off in Melbourne this weekend on March 25.
Full race standings:
- J. Vergne Techeetah – 50m43.809s
- L. Di Grassi Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler +0.477
- S. Bird DS Virgin Racing +2.611
- M. Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing +4.075
- F. Rosenqvist Mahinda Racing +4.224
- A. Lynn DS Virgin Racing +7.672
- O. Turvey Nio Formula E Team +11.818
- J. Lopez Dragon Racing + 12.612
- J. D’Ambrosio Dragon Racing +22.242
- M. Engel Venturi Formula E Team +26.293
- A. Da Costa MS&AD Andretti Formula E +27.335
- A. Lotterer Techeetah +38.731
- L. Filippi Nio Formula E Team +39.926
- D. Abt Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler +43.139
- N. Prost Renault E.DAMS +47.194
- T. Blomqvist MS&AD Andretti Formula E +59.299
- E. Mortara Venturi Formula E Team +1 Lap
- S. Buemi Renault E.DAMS DNF
- N. Piquet Jr. Panasonic Jaguar Racing DNF
- N. Heidfeld Mahindra Racing DNF