Formula E: Disappointed Brazilians di Grassi & Sette Camara struggle with performance gap at Gen3 start
Nine years - 105 races - Lucas di Grassi had to wait for his very first home race in Brazil. Last weekend, the time finally came: Formula E raced on the streets of Sao Paulo, his hometown. While accordingly many fan and media events were on the agenda for the veteran, which made his preparation the "most hectic week" of his life, the sporting successes failed to materialize for the Mahindra driver and also his compatriot Sergio Sette Camara (Nio 333).
Both Brazilians made it into the top ten in only one session of the entire race weekend: in the 1st Free Practice on Friday evening. On Saturday, the actual race day, both came away empty-handed. Di Grassi collided with the track barrier in qualifying after a misjudgement and had to return to the pits with a damaged car. The session was thus over for him - only grid position 22 at the home race. "I made a mistake and I take full responsibility for it," di Grassi said after the race.
It went marginally better for Sette Camara in the Nio 333: he stopped in his group on the side of the track after a technical problem with his car, inadvertently triggering a red flag. For this, his best lap time was cancelled after the session, and he thus only started the race in 16th place instead of seventh.
Sette Camara: "Betting on all or nothing - and getting nothing"
While qualifying went similarly for the two Brazilians, things went in opposite directions in the race: Sette Camara was able to maintain his position, but didn't make a leap forward despite five retirements.
"I was betting on all or nothing and got nothing," the Brazilian told 'Motorsport.com' after the race, also recounting mistakes in power management in the cockpit: "At the start I was too cautious to attack, and then I mismanaged the power in the meantime. So I didn't make up any places, and in the final phase I didn't have enough energy. I was ultimately reliant on a safety car, which didn't come."
Di Grassi: "Even with 10th place on the grid, difficult for us to score points"
Lucas di Grassi also struggled with efficiency in the race. Not in his personal race strategy, however, but with the general performance of his drive. By his own admission, he got everything out of the car. "Getting everything out" in this case was 13th place.
The veteran made up nine positions, but it was not enough for points. "I underestimated the efficiency differences this year. I thought it would be much closer," di Grassi also tells 'Motorsport.com', analyzing, "Porsche and Jaguar are already way ahead, DS Penske and Nissan are still on it." Mahindra and Nio 333, on the other hand, are not.
Where he makes a clear distinction here between qualifying and race pace: "In qualifying we can still achieve something - in Mexico I took pole position. In the race, that's impossible, because you need pace and efficiency there. Even with 10th on the grid, it's difficult for us to finish in the points when you see the energy levels of the others."
Video: Di Grassi freaks out in pit
Focus on London, Rome, Monaco & Season 10
In total, Mahindra has only scored twice this season after six races. In Diriyya, Cape Town and Sao Paulo, the points account stopped. Di Grassi goes on to explain that the track characteristics in Cape Town and Sao Paulo have made efficiency a particular priority. There should be even better races to come for Mahindra.
"The Sao Paulo and Cape Town tracks are perhaps the worst for Mahindra. We should be in a better position in London, Rome and Monaco, but again we don't know for sure yet because the FIA sets the number of laps, and the longer the race, the more efficiency makes a difference."
Team boss Frederic Bertrand also said after the race that the team was not yet where they wanted to be. The gap to the rest of the field was too big, he said. Accordingly, the team has adjusted its objectives for the rest of the season: "Two or three more podium finishes" are more realistic than catching up with the top teams, according to di Grassi. Mahindra has already set its development focus on season 10.