Lucas di Grassi confirmed himself as the man to beat in this year’s FIA Formula E Championship as he strolled to a comfortable victory in the Paris ePrix.
Having started in second he beat pole sitter Sam Bird off the line and from there he wasn’t challenged. There was some concern at the end when the safety car came out for Ma Qing Hua’s crash, but when it became apparent that it wouldn’t be cleared up in time, di Grassi led the field home over the line at a crawling pace.
He was followed across the line by home favourite Jean-Eric Vergne with championship rival Sebastien Buemi managing to come through to third from eighth on the gird.
It was another battling drive from the Swiss driver, where he once again had to make up for a poor showing in qualifying.
He gained a place off the start and then powered passed Oliver Turvey on the main straight on lap ten. He was soon on the tail of his team-mate, and just before the pits stops the DS Virgin Racing cars and Renault e.dams cars were running nose to tail. It led to an intense battle in the pit lane, with all four somehow coming out in the same order they went in.
With cold tyres and brakes the DS Virgin’s managed to pull out a gap, and Buemi also managed to get by Nico Prost, although a series of fastest laps soon had Buemi back on the tail of third placed Sam Bird.
Bird had been having a race-long battle with Vergne having fallen behind him at the start, and he hadn’t been able to find a way past despite a couple of late lunges and complaints to the team over the radio that he was the faster driver.
These complaints fell on deaf ears, and soon Bird had a bigger problem in trying to hold off Buemi. He succeeded for several laps, but after moving to the inside to defend a non-existent move into turn one, Bird locked his tyres and ran straight on. He managed to execute a perfect turn to get back on track, but by then both Renaults had passed him.
Team Aguri debutant Ma Qing Hua brought the action to an abrupt end. He’d had a tumultuous race, making some impressive moves at the start before having an off track excursion and a pitstop that was thirty seconds too long. He then lost control going into turn 13, and despite catching it, slid into the wall, sending carbon fibre across the track.
It led to the safety car being deployed, but with the car embedded in the wall there was no way it was going to be cleared away in time. It meant di Grassi was able to cruise to his fourth win in Formula E, and in doing so extend his championship lead to eleven points.
Prost managed to bring the car home in fourth ahead of his compatriot Stephane Sarrazin with Bird recovering to sixth. Robin Frijns and Antonio Felix da Costa finished a race long battle in seventh and eighth respectively, with Bruno Senna and Daniel Abt rounding off the points.
Nick Heidfeld managed to grab the fastest lap of the race from Buemi just before Ma’s crash, ensuring that no one had the opportunity to try to take it off him.
Speaking after the race di Grassi claimed the race wasn’t as easy as it looked, saying, “It was much more difficult inside the car. It was a tricky track and I was lucky that Sam had too much wheel spin at the start and I managed to make the move and then I was just trying to keep my energy.”
“He (Vergne) was putting pressure on me, especially on the out lap on cold tyres. It was very, very tricky conditions so I’m just glad I was able to bring the car home.”
The win leaves di Grassi on 126 points, eleven ahead of Buemi on 115, and with Sam Bird’s mistake leading to him falling further off the pace on 82 points.
In the teams’ championship Renault extended their lead to secen points thanks to Daniel Abt not being able to finish higher than tenth for ABT Schaeffler Audi.