Formula E: di Grassi, da Costa still with something to prove in Miami

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MIAMI – Heading into the fifth round of the FIA Formula E Championship season, one driver seeks a bounceback after a suspension failure damaged his win chances. The other seeks to prove his victory in the most recent race wasn’t a fluke.

For Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT) and Antonio Felix da Costa (Amlin Aguri), the Miami ePrix is a big opportunity to either make amends on the last round in Buenos Aires, Argentina or continue their pursuit of the leading entries this season.

Di Grassi, the series points leader, was both fast and consistent in the opening three rounds. With three podium finishes including a win in the series-opening Beijing ePrix in September, di Grassi leapt out to an impressive score of 58 points from three races.

But the suspension failure in Buenos Aires brought the field closer. Three drivers – Virgin’s Sam Bird and the e.dams pair of Sebastien Buemi and Nicolas Prost – are within 15 points, and thus in striking range to take over the championship lead this weekend.

“Yes, there was a suspension failure, and we don’t know what caused it,” di Grassi said during Friday’s FIA Formula E Championship press conference in Miami. “We need to have a stronger suspension for the car, which is essential.

“The teams are catching us up. It’s very challenging and we have to drive more on the limit.”

Da Costa, who emerged victorious in Buenos Aires, said the kerbs were likely to cause a wealth of suspension issues.

“We knew from day one in preseason, the suspensions are very fragile,” da Costa told MotorSportsTalk. “Even putting a wheel off, they can bend straightaway, let alone if you hit the high kerbs. I understand they’re fragile so the batteries don’t have to bring weight. I was lucky though, in the right spot, right time.”

The Portuguese driver is playing catchup this season after missing the season-opening round in Beijing due to his DTM commitments. He also acknowledged the team has made strides since the season opener.

“To be perfectly honest, we started as backmarkers,” da Costa admitted. “We put the team together very late. We have been playing a little bit of a catchup game. I missed first race due to DTM so this didn’t help.

“Every weekend we’re doing more to help us improve. We’re finally getting close to the top teams. We should be closer more towards the end of season.”

Amlin Aguri, which began the year with Takuma Sato and Katherine Legge, now has da Costa and Salvador Duran in the cars this weekend. Legge, who’s here this weekend, may return alongside da Costa later this season.

Alas it’s di Grassi’s Audi Sport Abt team that Amlin Aguri – and others – are seeking to catch in terms of outright pace this weekend.

Di Grassi has downplayed the performance thus far and notes the improved presence of the other nine teams on the grid.

“We’re just trying to keep it up,” the Brazilian said. “There’s still seven races to go, so we’re not even close to being through half of it. We try to make the best of what we can get.

“The championship is picking up more and more. The driver who gets faster into the track, and a little bit of edge can have a good result. It’s absolutely open to see who will win.”

Given the first four races of the championship thus far, it is indeed.

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
McLaren Racing
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Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.