Di Grassi dominates in Berlin as DS TECHEETAH’s Vergne soars to the podium

Lucas di Grassi restarted Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler’s Season 5 campaign with a dominant victory at the Flughafen Tempelhof Circuit in Berlin, taking his second win of the 2018/19 season to become the ABB FIA Formula E Championship’s second repeat winner in its Gen2 era.

In qualifying, however, it was Nissan e.dams’ Sebastien Buemi who soared to pole position, eclipsing di Grassi’s best efforts in the all-important session while ex-McLaren racer and present HWA Racelab driver Stoffel Vandoorne split the two long-term adversaries – a rivalry that stretches back to Formula E’s inaugural season.

Lining up in third as the first part of the second row, di Grassi secured a strong getaway to maintain his final podium place into Turn 1. Quickly, however, the Brazilian was on the prowl, hunting down Vandoorne with second place in his sights. Within four minutes of running, di Grassi was the man on the move, devouring Vandoorne into Turn 6 to snatch second from the Belgian.

Setting the fastest lap of the race soon after, it was onwards and upwards for di Grassi as Buemi remained as the only obstacle between him and victory. With a proven track record in Formula E, however, and given the relationship between the pair, the fight for who would come out on top in Berlin was poised to be a close affair.

With Audi’s e-Tron FE05 powertrain having a high level of efficiency, however, it was able to outpace Buemi’s IM01 and with 38-minutes + 1 lap of racing still remaining, the Season 3 champion made his move, clearing Buemi into Turn 6 for the lead.

While di Grassi paved his path to a clear road ahead, Jean-Eric Vergne was in the thick of it in Berlin for Acronis technical partner DS TECHEETAH, with the Monaco E-Prix race winner and reigning Formula E champion fighting his way through the field after qualifying in eighth place, making the most of a seemingly bad hand after completing his initial qualifying run in Group One.

Having supreme confidence in his DS TECHEETAH package, Vergne took third at the chequered flag, the Frenchman’s race being hampered by a Full Course Yellow when Jaguar Racing’s Alex Lynn ground to a halt on the pit straight with 16-minutes of racing remaining.

This meant that Vergne was unable to push for a higher position, with Buemi taking second and his first podium of the season while di Grassi reigned at Audi’s home race.

“I’m feeling very happy!” a jubilant Vergne told Motorsport Monday post-race in Berlin. “I had a lot of fun in the race. It was the race that I enjoyed the most this year and I’m very glad with the result. A big thank you to DS TECHEETAH who changed the whole car on Friday to give me a good one in the race so it was a very good result! There are days where your confidence is at the highest and this was one of those days. I felt very happy. The Full Course Yellow ruined everything because the race was flat out after that. It didn’t ruin it but I could have got more.”

Former championship leader Antonio Felix da Costa was one such driver that Vergne beat on his way to third, with the BMW i Andretti Motorsport driver taking fourth at the German marque’s home turf while Vandoorne completed the top five, unable to replicate his pace from qualifying. 2018 race winner Daniel Abt recorded another points finish this season, taking sixth place on home turf while Alexander Sims was seventh, taking his first top 10 finish since the Santiago E-Prix.

Oliver Rowland followed Sims across the line in the second Nissan car to take eighth after starting in fourth while Sam Bird put an end to his point-less streak of four races by taking ninth for Envision Virgin Racing. Pascal Wehrlein meanwhile completed the top 10 for Mahindra Racing, with Edoardo Mortara narrowly missing out on points by finishing in 11th for Acronis technology partner Venturi Formula E.

By winning in Berlin, di Grassi has kick-started his championship challenge, jumping into second place in the Drivers’ Standings while Vergne continues to lead for DS TECHEETAH, sitting on 102 points. 15 points for Vergne also ensured that the Franco-Chinese DS TECHEETAH team maintained the lead in the Teams’ Championship, sitting on 188 points.

The ABB FIA Formula E Championship’s fifth season of competition will continue on June 22 in Bern, Switzerland as the all-electric single seater series’ European leg of 2018/19 comes to a close.

Chris Soulsby

Formula E Editor at MotorsportWeek and MotorsportMonday.

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