"A very, very tough race" - Lucas di Grassi defends his way to the Formula E podium with great skill
Lucas di Grassi and the Mexico City E-Prix - they've gone together for many years. After great performances with ABT/Audi, the veteran driver also had a good day this year at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. In his first race for Mahindra Racing, he defended third place with a lot of skill and experience to the finish line and was then suitably satisfied.
The race Saturday had already started well for Lucas di Grassi. In qualifying, he fought his way into the final and also kept the upper hand there - due to a mistake by Jake Dennis. Surprised, he celebrated the fourth pole position of his Formula E career.
In the race, too, everything initially went according to plan: Di Grassi won the start and led the E-Prix for eleven laps. Then he made a small mistake in turn 1. Dennis seized the opportunity and passed the Brazilian. The M9Electro could not keep up with the Andretti's pace. While Dennis pulled away at the front, di Grassi clearly held off the group behind him.
The champion of the third Formula E season had expended a lot of energy in the early stages of the race and was now taking the toll. On lap 29, Pascal Wehrlein attacked him in the chicane and passed. Di Grassi now had to concentrate fully on his energy management. Because at this point he had a huge deficit of around three percent on the leader Dennis, which is roughly the amount of energy needed for one lap.
Di Grassi: "This podium is like a victory for us"
In the laps that followed, the 38-year-old spread his wings and gave a textbook demonstration of how to defend while conserving energy. Formula E debutant Jake Hughes in the McLaren gritted his teeth behind him. Through clever recuperation, di Grassi made up his energy deficit almost completely by the final laps and thus actually still brought home third place.
"It was a very, very tough race," di Grassi said shortly after the race. "My energy level was pretty low, but I tried to defend myself as best I could. In the end, this podium is like a victory for us. I'm super happy."
He said he had no chance against Dennis and Wehrlein: "We knew that the Porsches would be extremely fast in this race. Just remember last year when they were up and away and celebrated a one-two. It was impossible to keep Jake and Pascal behind me."
Nevertheless, di Grassi is optimistic about the upcoming "double-header" in Saudi Arabia on January 27 and 28: "We only contested three, four days (in Valencia) with this car. There's so much more potential in it!"
His new employer Mahindra should have already convinced di Grassi with his first good performance. Especially when compared to his teammate: Oliver Rowland just made it to 13th place, Nico Müller in ABT's customer Mahindra was 14th, and Robin Frijns dropped out after his consequential accident. Veteran driver di Grassi can still do it.