Di Grassi dominates in Long Beach to reclaim Formula E championship lead
Lucas di Grassi bounced back from his disqualification from the Mexico City ePrix three weeks ago in perfect fashion by claiming his second Formula E victory of the season around the famous streets of Long Beach.
The only American round on the season two Formula E calendar offered an intriguing race full of drama that saw di Grassi dominate proceedings to reclaim the lead of the championship.
Di Grassi started the race from second place behind DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird, with both benefitting from the exclusion of provisional pole-man Antonio Felix da Costa.
A good start saw di Grassi tail Bird for much of the opening stint of the race before passing for the lead on lap 12, before consolidating the lead through the pit stops.
Bird continued to tail the Brazilian after swapping cars, but he dropped back after locking up with cold brakes at Turn 5 to give di Grassi some breathing room.
A late safety car sparked by a crash for Nelson Piquet Jr. put di Grassi under pressure from Stephane Sarrazin in the final three laps, but he kept cool to cross the line first.
Di Grassi’s victory combined with a disastrous race for Sebastien Buemi that saw him finish three laps down in 16th place after clashing with Robin Frijns in the first half of the race.
Both drivers sustained damage and were forced to pit for repairs by the stewards, leaving Buemi to score just two points for the fastest lap and lose the lead of the championship to di Grassi.
Sarrazin followed in second place ahead of Daniel Abt, who scored his first podium finish of the season for his family team.
Mahindra Racing made a long first stint work well in the closing stages as Nick Heidfeld and Bruno Senna finished fourth and fifth respectively, while Bird recovered to cross the line in sixth place ahead of Dragon Racing drivers Jerome d’Ambrosio and Loic Duval.
Simona de Silvestro finally ended her Formula E points drought by finishing ninth for Andretti, while fellow IndyCar alumni Mike Conway also put his prior knowledge of Long Beach to good use to score his first top 10 finish in Formula E.
A penalty for leaving the pit lane too early caused Nicolas Prost to drop down to 11th at the end of the race, while Oliver Turvey was the sole NEXTEV TCR driver to finish in 12th.
Jean-Eric Vergne had another difficult race en route to 13th, while Salvador Duran was hit with a penalty for using too much energy in the first half of the race to leave him 14th at the flag ahead of Frijns and Buemi.
Having lost pole earlier in the day, da Costa’s afternoon failed to get much better as he retired from the race with seven laps remaining after battling his way back up into the points.
Formula E now heads to Europe for the remainder of the season, with the Paris ePrix scheduled for April 23.