2016 Mexico ePrix Reflection

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LWOS takes a look back at the latest Formula E race as the electric championship headed to the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez circuit in Mexico City for the first time in its short history for the 2016 Mexico ePrix.

The 18-car field raced around a revised version of the Formula One circuit, which included 18 turns creating a 2.092km track. The series used the same F1 start-finish straight before the drivers took a short detour to go through the first very fast chicane and out onto a long right-hander. The layout then became more familiar to that of the street circuits FE fans are used too as turns four and five saw a U-shaped configuration, followed by a left hand kink.

From turns seven to 13, we were greeted by the infamous stadium section, which erupted with noise every time Team Aguri’s Mexican driver Salvador Duran worked his way through. The final part of the track proved dusty and bumpy with a long right-hander once again, then a short sharp chicane, which led the cars back onto the main straight.

The teams started from zero here because as well as Mexico being a new addition to the calendar; it is also technically not a street circuit. This meant the bumps and irregular track surfaces the cars are used to, were met by smoother asphalt.

Race Review:

Early morning qualifying saw plenty of action with Brazilians Bruno Senna and Nelson Piquet Jr crashing, Piquet in spectacular style as he careered into the Tec-Pro barriers. Antonio Felix da Costa also had a torrid time of it, having to change his gearbox after qualifying seventh, resulting in a 10 place grid penalty.

Dragon’s Jerome d’Ambrosio secured pole in front on Renault e.Dams’ Nico Prost, Abt Schaeffler Audi’s Lucas di Grassi, his teammate Daniel Abt and championship leader Sebastien Buemi who lined up in fifth after locking up and going wide on his super pole lap. Jean-Eric Vergne, Loic Duval, Nick Heidfeld, Stephanne Sarrazin and Sam Bird completed the top 10.

As the race got underway, the cars tyres smoked as the drivers desperately tried to get heat into them with the temperature in Mexico City being in the mid 20’s. d’Ambrosio kept his lead heading into the first chicane. A troublesome first two corners for the drivers and subsequently a couple of drivers including Mike Conway and Buemi had to get their elbows out and headed slightly wide. Nevertheless, they all made it through. Further round, Bruno Senna after starting at the back almost ended his race early as he slammed into the back of da Costa’s Team Aguri car but came away with only aesthetic damage.

Lap two saw Prost come under heavy pressure for di Grassi and with the first five laps always crucial in terms of overtaking, di Grassi was plotting his route past meticulously. As d’Ambrosio managed to pull away from the top four, again further back, Vergne after suffering an issue was now fighting hard with Senna for 16th while further up, the rest of the drivers were stuck behind Senna’s Mahindra teammate Nick Heidfeld.

The next few laps played out line-a-stern with Abt suffering a slight lapse of concentration as he went straight on at the penultimate corner as Buemi pulled off a daring move around the outside of turn one to climb up one place.

Antonio Felix da Costa’s race day went from bad to worse as he received a further 10-second place pit stop time penalty due to his team working on the car under parc fermé regulations. Andretti teammates Simona de Silvestro and Robin Frijns were looking racy, enjoying a nice battle between them and swapping positions. Back at the front, di Grassi was the next to fall foul of cutting the first chicane, however no action was taken.

In the middle of the pack, Venturi’s Conway and home favourite Salvador Duran battled it out for 12th on the road with da Costa not far behind. However, the Portuguese racer’s day went from worse to terrible (if that’s the right progression) as his front wing was severely damaged and hung onto his car by a thread. He was later black and orange flagged and forced to pit for repairs.

As the FanBoost votes were announced with Vergne, di Grassi and Duran winning the coveted power boost, Vergne blasted his way past Oliver Turvey’s NEXTEV car for 15th followed quickly by Senna. Back to da Costa and of course to further compound his days misery, if that were possible, he received a drive through penalty for leaving the track repeatedly and gaining an advantage.

Heidfeld who had been having a relatively solid and quiet drive suddenly caught the attention of the commentary team with his exceptionally low battery, three percent down on teammate Senna. Subsequently he was the first to pit on lap 22, surprising along with Senna who had enough juice for another lap. However, the early pit stop strategy Mahindra had implemented worked out for them in the end.

The leaders came in one after the other and di Grassi in his rush to change cars almost stumbled and fell! He managed to recover to get out in time but it was the same order, with only the two e.Dams cars swapping positions. After the pit stops filtered through, Senna had jumped from 16th to 12th and then ninth in what was a sterling effort from the Brazilian.

Back at the front, a move for first place was on the cars as di Grassi deployed his fanboost on the main straight and lined up d’Ambrosio to take the lead on the inside of turn one. Buemi then tried to follow through but d’Ambrosio defended well on lap 27.

A couple of laps later saw Buemi get onto the back of d’Ambrosio towards the first turn. As they broke, Buemi darted left and slammed into the back of the Belgium’s rear tyre pod. Both went straight across the runoff area and continued to fight another day.

Action between Heidfeld, Sam Bird and Robin Frijns came courtesy of lap 32 as Bird over took Heidfeld on the inside but couldn’t get his DS Virgin stopped in time. Heidfeld cut back and Bird was forced to carefully re-join the track and avoid hitting Frijns who had now closed right up on the Brit.

In Antonio Felix da Costa news, he was picked up on the TV cameras a couple of inches inside one of the barriers with the rear of his car damaged badly. He managed to get his car unstuck but the former Red Bull F1 reserve driver was well and truly ready to go home.

In the final stages of the race, the action well and truly kicked into another gear. On lap 35, Buemi lunged down the outside of d’Ambrosio in turn one but was forced to cut the chicane. Nevertheless, he gained the position and was now in front of the Dragon racer. In an effort to re-gain his composure, d’Ambrosio then fell foul to an optimistic Prost and although Buemi tried to let d’Ambrosio back through, it was an incredibly awkward and tight affair with d’Ambrosio then being blocked by Buemi as Prost lunged to overtake both with Abt close behind. To resolve the issue, d’Ambrosio simply cut the final chicane and overtook them all to regain his rightful position.

The race seemed to settle down in the final laps with di Grassi out in front with a 10 second lead and then Prost was given a drive through penalty for an unsafe release. Daniel Abt also put all his hard work to waste as he binned his car in the wall of the second chicane and fell from fifth to eighth. However, it was Lucas di Grassi who came across the line to win the inaugural Mexico ePrix, followed by Jerome d’Ambrosio in second and Seb Buemi in third.

Controversy:

Lucas di Grassi was then disqualified after the race, making Jerome d’Ambrosio the winner, harking back to last years Berlin race.

The stewards found that his car was underweight. The team is still not sure what caused the issue but they are afraid the car could stay in Mexico until the hearing so there is the possibility of missing the next race in Long Beach.

Mexico ePrix Results:

Position Driver Team
1 Jerome d’Ambrosio Dragon Racing
2 Sebastien Buemi e.Dams Renault
3 Nicolas Prost e.Dams Renault
4 Loic Duval Dragon Racing
5 Robin Frijns Amlin Andretti
6 Sam Bird DS Virgin Racing
7 Daniel Abt Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler
8 Nick Heidfeld Mahindra
9 Stephane Sarrazin Venturi
10 Bruno Senna Mahindra
11 Oliver Turvey NEXTEV TCR
12 Mike Conway Venturi
13 Nelson Piquet Jr NEXTEV TCR
14 Simona de Silvestro ­Amlin Andretti
15 Salvador Duran Team Aguri
16 Jean-Eric Vergne DS Virgin Racing
RET Antonio Felix da Costa Team Aguri
DSQ Lucas di Grassi Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler

With the disqualification, Buemi is now out in front with 98 points with di Grassi still in second with 76 and Sam Bird in third with 60. Renault e.Dams lead the constructors with 136 points to Dragon Racing’s 102 and Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler lie in third with 92.

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