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.