Formula E Notes: Lucas di Grassi keeps points lead; Nick Heidfeld excluded from Putrajaya ePrix

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With Lucas di Grassi having to start 18th in last night’s FIA Formula E race at Putrajaya, Malaysia after brushing the wall in qualifying, it appeared there would be a new points leader in F-E by the end of the day.

Instead, the Brazilian is still standing atop the standings thanks to a superb drive from the back to finish second behind race winner Sam Bird. In an event filled with multiple recovery drives, di Grassi’s surge may have been the most impressive of them all.

It indisputably left him feeling even better than he did during the September season opener at Beijing, which he won following a last-lap crash involving Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost.

“For sure, this was beyond my expectations,” di Grassi said after the race. “Everyone is here to win, everyone is pushing to the limit as this track has proven once and for all this car is very tricky to drive even if you have done all the testing.

“The tiniest margin can ruin your whole weekend and that’s what happened in qualifying from my side and then to come all the way from the back of the grid on a street track to second is an amazing feeling. I felt I had a much better race than in Beijing where I won.”

di Grassi’s runner-up, as well as a 10th-place finish for teammate Daniel Abt, enabled Audi Sport ABT to assume the team championship lead as well in Putrajaya. They’ll take a one-point lead over Bird’s Virgin Racing team, 45-44, into Round 3 next month in Uruguay.

Abt had a poor start to the race and was forced to try and use strategy to make up ground. An early car swap on Lap 9 allowed him to go to the lead but in the end, a low level of remaining battery power on his second car made him easy pickings for the field and he struggled to nurse his car to the finish.

In the driver’s standings, di Grassi leads Bird by a three-point margin, 43-40.

Venturi driver Nick Heidfeld suffered an additional insult following last night’s ePrix when he was excluded from the race results.

Heidfeld, who was stuffed into a tire barrier during the first half of the race thanks to an aggressive inside move by Franck Montagny, was found to have made his pit stop car change outside of the permitted area in the garage by FIA officials.

He will be credited with a 19th-place finish, but because he was excluded, it cannot count as a dropped result at the end of the season.

Other post-race penalties include a five-thousand Euro fine against TrulliGP for releasing Michela Cerruti from the pits during practice with one of her wheel nuts not properly tightened; and a 10-spot grid penalty in Uruguay for Amlin Aguri’s Katherine Legge after her team had to swap the Rechargeable Energy Storage System in her car.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”