Di Grassi rolls the dice, strikes lucky for Mexico Formula E victory

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Despite sustaining damage on the first lap, taking an extra pit stop and almost falling a lap down on the field, Lucas di Grassi struck gold in Mexico City to win one of the most memorable races in Formula E’s short history.

Di Grassi arrived in Mexico some 29 points behind championship leader Sebastien Buemi, who won all three of the opening rounds and, even after a red-eye flight, was in the mix for a fourth straight victory on Saturday.

Both title protagonists struggled in qualifying, with di Grassi starting down in 17th. The Brazilian was hit on the opening lap, suffering rear wing damage that left the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport team with no choice but to bring di Grassi in under the safety car early on. Di Grassi squeezed back out still on the lead lap, ensuring he still had a chance of points; anything more seemed unrealistic.

Pole-sitter Oliver Turvey saw his hopes of a maiden victory end early when his NextEV car lost power, handing the lead to DS Virgin Racing’s Jose Maria Lopez. Despite having Nick Heidfeld and Jean-Eric Vergne for close company, Lopez was able to sustain his lead through to the first round of pit stops.

A safety car called in reaction to Turvey’s stoppage prompted di Grassi and Dragon’s Jerome d’Ambrosio to both pit early, with both drivers favoring track position over an energy advantage. The pair ran first and second respectively when the leaders pitted, but with significantly more energy, it seemed a matter of time until they were passed.

A spin for Lopez while in pursuit of d’Ambrosio gave third to Vergne, who had leap-frogged Heidfeld in the pits. Buemi also had an off-track excursion that ended his hopes of points, prompting Renault e.dams to push for the fastest lap instead, something the Swiss driver successfully captured.

When a third safety car period was called, di Grassi’s lead was slashed, appearing to scupper his hopes of hanging on for victory. However, with d’Ambrosio putting up a mighty defence to keep Vergne back, the Brazilian was slowly able to peel away. By the time Vergne made it up to second, di Grassi had already set off into the distance, allowing him to take a remarkable win by two seconds.

Vergne came home frustrated in second place, while Bird rounded out the podium. Mitch Evans took Jaguar’s first Formula E points in fourth, rising up the order after a late crash involving both Mahindra drivers. Teammate Adam Carroll also boosted Jaguar’s points haul in eighth.

Nicolas Prost also recovered from an early pit stop to finish fifth for Renault, with Lopez recovering to sixth. Daniel Abt finished the race seventh, having lost pole earlier in the day due to a tire infringement, with Carroll and Nelson Piquet Jr. following close behind.

Esteban Gutierrez got his Formula E career off to a good start by finishing 10th, meaning he now has as many top-10 results in Formula E as in Formula 1, where he made 59 starts.

The next round of the Formula E championship takes place in Monaco on May 13.

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

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing

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.”