Vergne holds off Di Grassi in chaotic Punta Del Este ePrix
When Formula E came to Punta Del Este for the first time in 2015, Jean-Eric Vergne took part in his first race and manged to take his first pole as well. This year, he seemed set to continue the trend. However, after he reached Superpole it started to look rather bleak: while his lap had been clean, Vergne lost too much time in the first sector and qualified only in P5.
Meanwhile, Lucas di Grassi caught the attention of the viewers. He managed to reach Superpole despite starting in the first qualifying group and trumped the time-sheet by taking pole with 1:14.032. The joy did not last long since di Grassi alongside with the two Superpole contenders Alex Lynn and Oliver Turvey were under investigation due straying over the track limits. An hour before the race, it was announced that the three drivers' times were DSQ-ed, and Mitch Evans would start in P16 due to discrepancies with weight distribution.
Thus Jean-Eric Vergne took pole in a rather unconventional way.
The chaos continued as only two laps into the race, Heidfeld had to retire due to technical issues and stopped at the side of the track which caused the Saftey Car to be deployed. Buemi used the chance and to overtake Lotterer and Bird. He wasn't asked to give the positions back leaving them in P7 and P8 respectively. Buemi's luck ran out as he made contact with a wall which resulted in a broken rear axle. With the the problem worsening, Buemi decided to go for an early switch but had to retire due to a lack of energy.
At the same time, a heated battle started at the front. Di Grassi had stated, "we have nothing to lose, so we can be as aggressive as we want," in the pre-race press conference. This attitude showed after the pit-stop, when di Grassi was closing in on Vergne. Despite several attempts to overtake, Vergne managed to hold first place and retained it until the very end. Di Grassi crossed the finishing line in second place just + 0,447 seconds behind the Techeetah.
While di Grassi claimed that the track was tricky for over-taking, Mitch Evans seemed to think otherwise gaining an impressive 12 places, finishing on P4.
Audi teammate Daniel Abt did not fare as well as di Grassi: two laps after the pit-stop, Abt noticed that his seatbelt was not closed. Abt was in third place when he came back into the pits. The error cost Abt a chance of the podium and he finished in P14. While this was "a real shame" for Abt the decision had been clear: "but of course in that situation what do you do? You risk your life or you come in – for me it’s no choice."
After his victory in Punta Del Este, Jean-Eric Vergne leads the Driver Standings with 109 points - 30 points ahead of second placed Felix Rosenqvist. In the team standings, Techeetah leads 27 points ahead of Mahindra Racing. Meanwhile, Audi Sport Abt Schäffler is just one point away from taking 4th place from Renault E.Dams.
Round 7 of the Formula E championship marks the return to Europe with its ePrix in Rome on the 14th of April. Afterwards the street race returns to Berlin, and Paris.