Dutchman Robin Frijns held off Andre Lotterer and Daniel Abt to win a chaotic Paris e-Prix as a hailstorm and torrential rain created one of the wackiest of electric races yet seen.
As cars slithered and slided into the barriers and one another with alarming regularity to bring about four yellow flags, it was Frijns who kept his head above all others to record an impressive victory.
“It was the hardest race of my life, hardest race. Wow!” said Frijns after crossing the line, Dutch flag held aloft in the damp Parisian air. “It was a good battle with Sebastien (Buemi) and good to bring it home. Think he had an issue but nevertheless thanks to all the boys and the team who did a hard job after the crash and then P1. Good to come back like this.”
— Envision Virgin Racing Formula E (@EnvisionVirgin) April 27, 2019
The race started behind the safety car on safety grounds because of damp patches in the shaded areas of the track, Oliver Rowland inheriting pole position after a tyre pressure infringement for Pascal Wehrlein relegated him to the back of the grid.
Yet it didn’t help the Englishman much, his Nissan bizarrely running straight on into Turn 10 and into the wall putting him out of the race. It left teammate Sebastien Buemi leading the race ahead of Frijns and Felipe Massa, Lotterer piling the pressure on countryman Maximilian Guenther behind them.
— ABB Formula E (@FIAFormulaE) April 27, 2019
The Paris circuit that runs around Les Invalides is the shortest on the Formula E calendar and it took until the first series of Attack Mode for the real action to happen, Lotterer passing Guenther for fourth then Massa for third as he set about yet another podium finish.
Next it was the turn of Frijns, diving down the inside of Buemi as Lotterer followed suit, a problem seeing the Swiss Nissan driver into the pits. Behind the leading scraps for places, there was also drama behind, Oliver Turvey passing NIO teammate Tom Dillmann as the cars made contact.
As if there wasn’t enough drama on the circuit, the addition of rain with half an hour remaining added extra spice to proceedings, the first time it has happened during a race this season.
— ABB Formula E (@FIAFormulaE) April 27, 2019
The rain quickly turned into a hail storm, Frijns suffering a damaged front wing after clipping the rear of Buemi’s car to add to his problems before a full course yellow flag slowed the field and allowed him to regroup.
When racing resumed, Jean-Eric Vergne made his move stick on Turvey before the second NIO of Dillmann slammed into the wall, Rome winner Mitch Evans also suffering problems, pitting for a new front wing.
Then came more carnage behind as Rowland punted Alex Sims backwards into the wall, Sam Bird also spinning out in a frantic couple of seconds to bring about another full course yellow. It was quickly becoming like an episode of the Wacky Races, Edoardo Mortara ploughing straight on into the wall upon the restart at exactly the same place and Rowland losing a second front wing after further contact.
Next it was Lynn and Mortara again, the nose of the Venturi planted beneath the Jaguar at Turn 13 as Turvey punted Massa’s car around. Another yellow flag followed but there was no let-up in the carnage upon resumption, d’Ambrosio going into the wall with Lopez unable to stop behind him.
Frijns and Lotterer were still doing a good job of keeping their cars on the tarmac and it became a straight fight between the pair, but it was the Dutchman who cruised to victory without Lotterer having the opportunity of mounting a final attack on the final lap.
Lucas di Grassi drove a clean race to finish fourth ahead of Guenther, Vergne and da Costa. Gary Paffett, Massa and Wehrlein rounded off the points scoring finishers.
The result means that the championship takes another interesting twist, Frijns now leading the championship by a point from Lotterer by virtue of setting the fastest lap of the race by two hundredths of a second!
“That was the most difficult race of my career, really,” added Frijns after exiting his car. “If you are leading, the last thing you want is rain and everything is unpredictable and you just try to not make any mistakes. Andre was behind me, quite close so it was really tricky conditions and I’m just so happy to bring it home and win this race.”
For Lotterer, it is back-to-back second places and he will have to wait until Monaco in two weeks’ time for the hunt for that elusive maiden victory.
“It was a good operation today, starting sixth and finishing second,” said Lotterer afterward. “I used some opportunities to pass at the beginning when it was possible and under Attack Mode as well so that was good and got a bit lucky with a few errors at the front and a puncture for Buemi. So, all in all, a good operation for the championship.”
— ABB Formula E (@FIAFormulaE) April 28, 2019
Before the success of Acronis partner team DS TECHEETAH in the showpiece Formula E event, there was also plenty to cheer for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team as Bryan Sellers became the series’ first multiple winner.
In a less chaotic, but still frantic race that also included a hail shower, red flag and two safety car periods, Sellers held off TWR TECHEETAH’s Stefan Rzadzinski and Jaguar Brazil Racing’s Sergio Jimenez.
It had looked as if it would be a grandstand finish between pole-sitter Sellers and fellow front row rival Caca Bueno. But with only minutes of racing remaining, Bueno crashed into the barriers at Turn 3 to bring about a late red flag.
With victory, Sellers takes the lead in the drivers’ championship by five points from Jimenez with fourth-placed Simon Evans third in the standings.
— Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (@RLLracing) April 27, 2019