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Drama, action, and a nail-bitting finale: di Grassi wins in Mexico City

From a big crash, to a nail-biting finale, the 2019 edition of the Mexico City E-Prix did not disappoint. The battle between di Grassi and Wehrlein had the Brazilian as the ultimate winner, who is victorious in this exact track after two years. 

For the fourth time in a row, Formula E raced at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. An event that quickly became a fan favourite for the action-packed races it has to offer, the expectations of a race as dramatic and exciting were on again this year. 

Pole sitter Pascal Wehrlein had a clean start. Di Grassi, who had started the race from P2, lost his place to Oliver Rowland. 

Early into the race, Nasr made contact with a NIO car, which caused him to spin close to the area of Attack Mode. 

The first big crash of the race occurred to Nelson Piquet Jr., whose accident led to yellow flags being deployed by Race Control with forty minutes still left of the race. The Brazilian hit Vergne from behind, and the contact sent him flying above the Frenchman’s Techeetah car. 

Alexander Sims also got hit in the front of his car, but was able to take his car back to the pits for it to be fixed, as red flags were deployed to extract Piquet Jr.’s car from the track. Vergne went on going, as his car did not suffer much damage. 

With the red flag being deployed, the drivers took their cars to the pits, as Piquet Jr.’s car was extracted from the track, and the Medical Car assisted the Brazilian to hop off his Jaguar I-Type III. 

Techeetah mechanics worked on Vergne’s car, repairing all damage that could have been sustained on his incident with Piquet Jr. 

This incident, which is the second biggest we have witnessed in Formula E, following the one between Heidfeld and Prost in the inaugural race in Beijing in 2014, could have been worse had it not been for all the safety that was taken into account when designing the Gen2 cars. 

James Barclay, Team Principal of Panasonic Jaguar Racing, told the world feed commentary that Piquet Jr. was out of the car and okay, which was a relief, considering the brutality of the incident. 

As the clock was still running during the Red Flag period, Race Control announced it was likely to be added more time, as the time left at the restart was less than twenty minutes. During this period, Race Control also announced that Mortara, Lotterer, and d’Ambrosio were being investigated for overtaking under the Full Course Yellow period. 

The estimated time for the end of the race was at 5:15 pm Mexico City time, therefore confirming time would be added to the race. 

The restart was done under Safety Car at reduced speed. As 21 cars were on track, most of the drivers activated the Attack Mode. 

Once the Safety Car was out, the clock marked 36 minutes of race remaining. Di Grassi immediately started chasing Rowland, looking to gain back the P2 spot. 

A tight battle between Da Costa and Buemi also took place a couple of positions behind, as the Portuguese was trying to get past the Swiss to climb up to P4. 

The incident between Piquet Jr. and Vergne was investigated by Race Control, as announced on the live timing. Lopez was also investigated for overpowering during regen. 

Behind the Top 10, a close battle between both Envision Virgin cars and Dragon’s Jose Maria Lopez was catching everyone’s eyes, as the Brit and the Dutch were pushing hard to overtake the Argentinian. Bird, particularly, had a disappointing qualifying session, starting from the back as a crash during his qualy lap impeded him to set a time, and scoring him was crucial for him to remain as the championship leader. 

Lopez was finally given the penalty he was being investigated for, which was a drive-through penalty. The time the Argentinian would lose, would be beneficial for the Envision Virgin drivers to gain some places in the standings. A drive through penalty was also given to Vandoorne for using the FanBoost earlier than allowed. 

Di Grassi continued to push hard in order to pass Rowland. The Brazilian, who has not found his winning ways yet this season, is hungry as usual to finish in the first step of the podium. 

Vergne spun with 15 minutes plus a lap remaining, which cost him a number of positions, and saw him reintegrate the race in P17. 

The Mexico City E-Prix turned out to be a nightmare for Lopez, as he was also investigated for his pit entry line crossing during his drive-through penalty. A five-second penalty was ultimately given to him. Teammate Nasr was also being investigated for cutting a chicane. 

Wehrlein continued to comfortably lead the race, as he kept scoring Fastest Laps. Behind him, the Top 10 continued in the same order, with the Venturi’s putting on an impressive performance, and the Envision Virgin cars slowly approaching the point-scoring positions. 

Di Grassi finally overtook Rowland, making contact with the Brit, which almost sees both cars out of the race, but they were immediately running back. 

As di Grassi was fighting for P1 behind Wehrlein, the German used his Attack Mode in order to gain some time and separate from a victory-hungry di Grassi. 

Tension grew as di Grassi became Wehrlein’s shadow, chasing the German’s every movement. The German could gain some distance from di Grassi by using Attack Mode. 

The last minutes of the race brought the drama that characterizes this race and Formula E itself. The gap between Wehrlein and di Grassi was reduced, and in the last metres, the German cut a chicane, which would cost him a five-second penalty, but ultimately, the Brazilian would pass him on track. 

The drama was not reserved for the front spot, as both Nissan’s had an incident, which cost them the possibility of scoring points. With Wehrlein’s penalty, Edoardo Mortara was able to gain a place, and finish in P3, making this his first podium finish since the second round of the 2017 Hong Kong E-Prix, when he was close to clinching his first Formula E victory. 

Bird, who had been struggling to get to the point-scoring positions, finally finished in P9, taking home two points. Ahead of him, Felipe Massa and Mitch Evans had impressive races, with the Brazilian having his best performance so far this season. 

Something similar to Bird’s case, happened to d’Ambrosio, who finished fourth, ahead of Lotterer and a disappointed Pascal Wehrlein. The Top 10, was completed by Daniel Abt. The Belgian was able to grab the championship lead back. 

The Dragons and HWAs showed difficulties throughout the race, in addition to the penalties, some of the drivers were given. Turvey missed the points by two places, finishing behind a hard-fighting Robin Frijns, who aims to repeat the Marrakesh podium. Sims also missed out on points, finishing in P14. 

A race with everything: drama, emotions, crashes; seals another race in Season 5, which was as action-packed as usual. Racing will be resumed next month in Hong Kong, where drivers will go side by side in the narrow streets of the Asian country. 

Andrea Perilli

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