Just Electric

Do we make our own luck?

A common saying is that people make their own luck.

And it’s fair to say the Mexico City ePrix has a mixed history for the Audi ABT squad. A win in 2015-16 was taken away from them when Lucas di Grassi’s car was found to be underweight.

A win in 2016-17 for di Grassi came after an enforced strategy call. The Brazilian had been hit from behind early on in the race and had a damaged rear wing. He then used the safety cars in the race to make his early-stop strategy work. This meant the Season 3 champion came out on top in Mexico.

Meanwhile, in the other Audi ABT car, Daniel Abt had finished seventh in two consecutive races in Mexico City. Abt also had some bad luck earlier this season when his first Formula E was taken away after an issue with the technical passport of his car.

Audi, however, are not the only outfit or driver to have suffered bad luck in Mexico City.

NIO’s Oliver Turvey led for one lap in 2015-16, finishing in 11th place.

In 2016-17, the British driver secured his first pole position in Formula E with a time two tenths quicker than his nearest rival. Turvey would have to retire after 12 laps with a mechanical issue. At that point, he was half a second ahead of Jose Maria Lopez in second.

You could perhaps forgive both Audi and Turvey for being a bit cautious in their excitement throughout the race, given previous history at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

And you could also understand the elation of Abt and Turvey taking their first win and podium in Formula E respectively. And Audi’s day was also made better when di Grassi, who took a 10-place grid drop for a change of inverter, scored his first points of the season with ninth and the fastest lap of the race.

Abt was aware of his previous win being taken away from him, and it was something he made a bit of fun of when commentator Jack Nicholls asked him to do doughnuts in the stadium section to celebrate.

Abt replied: “I’m not going to do anything that may harm my result.”

It was cautious optimism from Abt, but this time he was able to celebrate his first Formula E win without losing it in post-race scrutineering.

But how did Abt claim his maiden win while Turvey took his first Formula E podium?

Mahindra’s Felix Rosenqvist dominated the early stages of the race, leading Turvey by 2.3 seconds on lap 13. But, as happened to Turvey 12 months earlier, Rosenqvist’s car came to a stop coming off the final corner.

Turvey inherited the lead of the race in the same fashion he gave it up the previous Mexico City ePrix.

Abt was now running in second place with the gap between Turvey and Abt reaching a maximum of just under four seconds. As the pit stop phase window drew closer, Abt closed in on the NIO driver.

Both drivers pitted at the end of lap 23, with the gap at the start of the lap down to two seconds.

But it was the car change where Abt took the win from Turvey. With no minimum pit time now, it was a race off the pit lane for – as it turned out – the victory.

Turvey’s time in the pit lane was 45.559s while Abt was around five seconds quicker with 40.871s spent in the pit lane. Abt’s pit stop allowed the German driver to take the lead of the race from Turvey and he would go on to win the race with relative ease, winning by 6.4s.

For Turvey, it was a bit more complicated than overtaking someone in the pits. He originally qualified in fourth place but benefitted from two penalties to cars ahead of him: DS Virgin’s Alex Lynn took a 10-place grid penalty for a gearbox change while Andretti Autosport’s Antonio Felix da Costa was excluded from the results of Super Pole due to an underweight car.

Having taken advantage of Rosenqvist’s misfortune before falling behind Abt in the car change, Turvey now had to contend with more pressure from behind – Renault e.dams’ Sebastien Buemi, Jaguar’s Nelson Piquet and Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne were all closing in on Turvey’s second place.

Turvey was calm under pressure, resisting challenges from the Season 2 champion as he defended his second place. As they crossed the line to take the chequered flag, the gap between Turvey, Buemi, Piquet and Vergne was just over a second.

Despite the faster cars behind him, NIO driver Turvey was able to hold on to his, and NIO’s, maiden podium.

And while Buemi, Turvey and Abt were claiming a podium spot, further down the field there was a separate yet impressive drive from the reigning champion.

Di Grassi qualified 12th for the Mexico City ePrix but started last due to a 10-place grid drop for a change of inverted. And there was a further sting for the Brazilian: as he couldn’t take the full grid drop, he would need to serve a five second time penalty at the pit stop.

The result? Starting from the back and having to work his way through the field twice. Di Grassi was second when he pitted on Lap 25. After the pit stops, he was in 17th place – ahead of Tom Blomqvist, Luca Filippi and the lapped Rosenqvist.

Only one driver had a slower pit stop than di Grassi, showing how costly his five second time penalty was to his comeback drive.

But it was a drive that showed why di Grassi is a Formula E champion and Le Mans podium finisher; fighting through the field twice to claim his first points of the season. It may well only be three points to his tally but it now means the stat about him being the only full-time driver to not score points this season is out the window.

A title challenge from di Grassi may be out of the question at this stage – he is 78 points behind Jean-Eric Vergne – but don’t rule out the Brazilian taking podiums and wins later in the season. Especially if Audi’s fix, that they could not introduce in Mexico City, works as planned.

Making your own luck? Abt, Turvey and di Grassi all deserved a good result after previous incidents either in Mexico City or in Season 4. They certainly did make their own luck.

Jack Amey

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