Photo: Mahindra Racing

Felix Rosenqvist captures first Formula E win in Berlin race one

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Mahindra Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist has won in a lot of disciplines and the super, speedy Swede added another win to his resume on Saturday at the Tempelhofring Circuit in Berlin, Germany, his first victory in the FIA Formula E Championship, in what is also the first for the Indian team in the series.

In Round 7 of the 2016/17 championship, this is only the second race points leader Sebastien Buemi has not won. Lucas di Grassi won in Mexico City, Round 4, but otherwise Buemi went five for six prior to today’s race.

Rosenqvist led the opening portion of qualifying before falling to third in the Super Pole session, but quickly got into second off the line behind ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport driver di Grassi, who took pole. Jose Maria Lopez of DS Virgin Racing got a horrendous start from second and slipped back to fourth.

He hounded di Grassi for the first stint of the 44-lap race around the airport circuit before di Grassi gave up the position into the sweeping Turn 1 just before the pit stop to swap cars. Rosenqvist darted around the outside and would thus have the lead going into the pit stop sequence.

The only concern for him from there was whether he’d be able to follow through with the lead after the car exchange, but he did just that, and controlled the pace for the remainder of the race.

Di Grassi was second, 2.232 seconds behind, while Nick Heidfeld completed Mahindra Racing’s banner day with another third place. It’s the German’s third straight third-place finish and fourth overall this season, for the fourth place driver in points heading into the race.

Lopez finished fourth, while Jean-Eric Vergne was fifth on the road before a time penalty assessed that dropped him to ninth, and Buemi took a pivotal fifth to make something of his day, as we’ll note below.

The Swiss driver qualified only 14th but improved to sixth on the road, a gain of eight positions. That became fifth with a five-second time penalty assessed to Techeetah’s Vergne for an unsafe release in his pit stop, and dropped the Frenchman down the order.

All told, di Grassi cut a bit into the 43-point lead Buemi of Renault e.dams had going into the race, but not near as much as he could have with Buemi doing an excellent job of damage limitations.

It was only a net 11-point swing with di Grassi picking up 21 points (18 for second, three for pole) and Buemi 10 (for fifth), and so Buemi holds a 32-point lead going into Sunday’s action. Theoretically, with di Grassi on pole and Buemi only 14th on the grid, the Brazilian had a chance to score a maximum 25 points for the race win and cut the lead to the teens, but it didn’t happen.

Beyond the top five, Nico Prost was sixth in the second Renault ahead of Sam Bird, Daniel Abt, Vergne and Maro Engel.

Elsewhere, Stephane Sarrazin was 13th in his first drive for Techeetah, neither Faraday Future Dragon Racing car made the points, and neither did either MS Amlin Andretti car, which ran longer in the first stint in hopes of leapfrogging the field on pit strategy, but it didn’t work out.

Graham Rahal’s ‘Weighty Issue’

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MONTEREY, California – Graham Rahal admits that he can’t wait until the day he doesn’t have to worry about his weight. Being a 6-foot-2, big-boned individual can have its advantages, but not when it comes to fitting into an IndyCar.

That is why the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time CART IndyCar champion Bobby Rahal has begun a body shaping therapy known as “Sculpting” that uses lasers to trim away body fat.

“Honestly, it is no secret, I’m not shy about this, that I’ve struggled with my weight,” the 201-pound Rahal told a group of reporters during INDYCAR’s Open Test at Laguna Seca on Thursday. “I can guarantee you that from a strength perspective and a stamina perspective, there’s very few guys out here that can keep up with me. I’m just not a super skinny build. It’s never been my thing.

“I’ve tried. We’ve kind of looked around. There was some mutual interest from them to look into trying this, see if it works. I’ll be honest. I was always very skeptical of the stuff. Where I’m at, I’ve done one treatment. I can’t even tell you today if it’s something that really works or not.”

That led Rahal to try out the sculpting process that was invented by a doctor who found it with swelling in kid’s cheeks. The “Sculpture” process uses a laser that kills the fatty cells.

“It takes a long time, I think,” Rahal said. “It’s going to take multiple I think to get there.”

Watch Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on NBC at 3 p.m.

A race driver needs to be thin, yet very strong to have the physical strength and stamina to compete at a high level in the race car. When it comes to the NTT IndyCar Series, it’s even more important because of the size of the cars and tight cockpit.

Additionally, the extra weight can impact the performance of the race car. The lighter the driver, the less weight inside of the car. In INDYCAR, drivers are weighed and for the lighter drivers, lead weight is added to the car to meet a requirement.

But in Rahal’s case, the lead weight ballast has to be reduced and that sometimes throws off the center of gravity in the car.

“The facts are it’s not going to work if you don’t work out, too, and eat well,” Rahal said. “It doesn’t do anything. But earlier this year, man, I had given up drinking completely for three, four months. I was working out every day, twice a day on most occasions. I went to a nutritionist, doing everything. I literally was not losing an ounce. It was the most frustrating period of time for me.

“I am the biggest guy here. Is it ever going to be equal for me? No matter what these guys talk about with driver ballast, it’s a whole different thing, where my center of gravity is.”

That is what led the 30-year-old driver from Ohio to study the “Sculpting” procedure. He realizes he is never going to have the metabolism of some of the thinner drivers, but he needs to maintain a weight that minimizes his disadvantage.

“It is a challenge,” he admitted. “Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves (on Penske Team Acura in IMSA) weigh 60 pounds less than me or something. There is no ballast there. That’s a big swing, a lot of weight to be carrying around.

“We have to try anything we can. If you’re going to be serious, try to find the performance advantage and the edge, you’ve got to look outside of the box.

“It is something new for me. But the fight I guess against being an ultra-skinny guy.

“I fly home with most of these guys after races, I see most of these guys a lot of times, they’re sitting there eating In-N-Out Burger, whatever else. Literally I cannot do it. If I do it, it immediately reflects for me. These guys you see them the next weekend, they’re like this big.

“It’s like, (crap), it’s not my build.”

Because of Rahal’s height and size, he chose to step away from the endurance races for Team Penske in IMSA at the end of last season. He was replaced at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring by fellow IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi.

Rahal complained that the steering wheel actually hit his legs inside of the Acura, making it difficult for him to drive on the challenging road courses. Since that time, Acura Team Penske has moved the steering column up by a few inches, and it no longer impacts a driver the size of Rahal.

For the IMSA season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 12, Rahal will be back in the Team Penske Acura.

“Back in the (Team Penske) shop three weeks ago, I could actually turn the steering wheel, which I was shocked about,” Rahal said. “My head touched the roof, whatever, I’m used to that. Physically being able to steer, which I now should be able to do better.

“So I’m excited about it. It’s another great opportunity obviously with Penske. But more importantly for me is Acura, Honda. It’s a great thing to be back in.

“But that wasn’t a weight thing. It’s purely size. They just don’t build cars for guys my size. I used to talk to J.W. (Justin Wilson) about that. It’s the facts of life. Even the GT cars. You would think a GT car would be big. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a GT car, I was comfortable in either. They’re built for small guys. That’s the way it goes.”

Rahal is taller than his father, Bobby, who is also his IndyCar team owner along with David Letterman and Michael Lanigan.

“I blame my dad,” Rahal said. “I do. You can tell him I said that. I told him, ‘It’s a genetic thing. I got good genes in some ways.’

“I told my wife this the other day, I’m very excited for someday when my career ends just to have a ‘Dad Bod,’ be able to let go for a minute, see how things turn out, because this is getting a little bit exhausting.

“We’re going to stay committed through the winter. I try my hardest every year, but I never tried harder this year to be thin. I weigh about the same as last year, but it took so much effort to get there, I just have to think outside the box.”