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Lucas di Grassi took victory number three in Mexico, leading Rene Rast for a dramatic Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler 1-2 after a shock penalty saw Pascal Wehrlein and TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team denied a maiden victory in the CBMM Niobium Puebla E-Prix Round 8.
There was drama on the grid before the race with second-placed man on the grid, Oliver Rowland, experiencing an issue with his radio antennae forcing the Nissan e.dams driver to start the race without any communication back to his engineer in pits. The Brit immediately struggled off the line after a stunted start dropped him down the field.
It was a clean start however, for Wehrlein, who dominated the entire race, while the action was non-stop behind the German with the battles throughout the field. But at the end it wasn’t to be after a technical infringement resulted in both Wehrlein and Andre Lotterer from Porsche, and also the Nissan e.dams pair of Oliver Rowland and Sebastien Buemi being disqualified from the race.
That penalty promoted di Grassi to the victory with teammate Rast following the Brazilian across the line for a 1-2 finish for Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler. Edoardo Mortara rounded out the podium for ROKiT Venturi Racing.
As it happened
A steely and determined Wehrlein flew from the line to take the hole shot into Turn 1, with Oliver Rowland dropping positions after a stunted jump from the line.
Maximilian Guenther shot off the mark, making a great jump from fifth position to dive up the inside of BMW i Andretti Motorsport teammate Jake Dennis into the first turn, the pair exiting the corner in second and third respectively.
Nick Cassidy was only able to make it halfway around the lap, the Envison Virgin Racing driver colliding with the wall on the outside of Turn 8. The Mini Safety Car was deployed while the broken Virgin car was carted off the circuit.
As the safety car peeled into the pits, Wehrlein immediately got the jump on the pack with Guenther pushing hard and locking up into Turn 1 while trying to stick to the rear diffuser of the leading Porsche.
With ATTACK MODE open, on lap four Wehrlein was the first of the leading group to make the jump into Formula E’s edition of the ‘Joker lane’ with the German dropping back to third and behind the BMWs.
But with that extra 35kW, Wehrlein immediately blasted past the BMW of Dennis to take second position on the start/finish straight.
Fighting his way through the field from ninth, di Grassi confidently passed Alexander Sims for sixth into Turn 1. After only a handful of corners the Mahindra Racing driver fell prey to another Audi with Rast following his team-mate through.
Lap 7 saw Wehrlein retake the lead with Guenther taking his first ATTACK MODE of the race, the BMW driver rejoining in fifth but immediately taking advantage of his extra power to out brake Di Grassi into Turn 11.
There was drama between the top two in the championship on Lap 9, as Robin Frijns lunged into Turn 11 collecting Nyck de Vries. An ill-timed move that would get the championship leader a 10-second time penalty.
With under 25 minutes on the clock and 11 laps completed, Wehrlein took advantage of his comfortable three-second gap to take his second and final ATTACK MODE, maintaining his lead over Guenther.
The exit of the the ATTACK MODE activation zone proved troublesome, making it a difficult end to the day for both Jean-Eric Vergne and Sam Bird. The Frenchman was squeezed into the wall by Alexander Sims and then Bird was sandwiched between Alex Lynn and the wall on the outside of Turn 8 – two racing incidents and the latter saw the release of the Mini Safety Car.
With the Safety Car back in on lap 18, Wehrlein backed the field up but Guenther was able to stick with his compatriot as the Porsche driver made his jump.
Dennis moved past teammate Guenther at the start of lap 20. The German appearing to slow up the pack to gain some breathing room to allow his BMW squad-mate to take his second ATTACK MODE.
With the pack bunching up behind the Guenther, the German took a defensive line into Turn 1, with Edoardo Mortara behind getting sideways on the brakes. The Swiss-Italian making a big save in the ROKiT Venturi machine to make the corner.
The plan by BMW seemingly backfired as Mortara made the move on Guenther and sent it up the inside of the German into Turn 11, with di Grassi also capitalizing and forcing his way through, dropping Guenther back two positions in just one corner.
With just one minute left on the clock, di Grassi took Mortara for second, another confident move into Turn 1 with the Audi looking planted in the hands of the Brazilian.
In a shock turn of events, just as Wehrlein took the checkered flag the German and Porsche were penalized for a technical infringement, immediately promoting di Grassi to the victory.
The ecstatic Brazilian crossing the line and cheering down the radio as he took his third win in Mexico, leading Rast for an Audi 1-2 with Mortara rounding out the podium.