Long Beach ePrix: Di Grassi wins frantic race, title rivals hit trouble

Lucas di Grassi earned his redemption after being stripped of victory last time out by dominating the Long Beach ePrix on Saturday.

The Abt Audi driver, who won in Mexico City but was excluded for his car being underweight, passed Virgin’s Sam Bird to take his second victory of the season.

“That was a great race, very happy after what happened in Mexico,” he said.

Points leader Sebastien Buemi suffered a dramatic crash with Robin Frijns that caused him to pit early. He had to settle for points for setting fastest lap, as he finished two laps down.

It means di Grassi has now overtaken Buemi in the points table by just one solitary point.

Story of the race

Bird made a great start from pole to lead di Grassi, Venturi’s Stephane Sarrazin, Nick Heidfeld, Robin Frijns, Daniel Abt and Sebastien Buemi.

Frijns passed Heidfeld for fourth at Turn 5 on lap three, as Heidfeld locked his rears and lost places to Abt and Buemi, and Nico Prost later too.

Di Grassi didn’t let Bird get away in the early stages, with Sarrazin also staying in touch.

Buemi set fastest lap on the seventh tour as he lined up Abt, passing him for fifth with a superb outbraking move at the hairpin at the end of lap eight.

On lap 11, Bird had to make his first serious defensive move to keep di Grassi at bay but, a lap later, di Grassi passed Bird for the lead at Turn 5.

While that was happening, Buemi drove over the back of Frijns at the hairpin, slicing the rear wing from Frijns’s car – who tumbled down the order – and damaging his own front end. Despite lacking half a front wing, Buemi continued in fifth place.

But both Buemi and Frijns then received the black flag with an orange disc, forcing them to pit while both still had 30 per cent of their usable energy left. This meant they would have no chance of making it to the end of the race at a regular racing pace.

Bird stayed on the tail of di Grassi until the car swaps on lap 21.

Status quo was maintained, as Di Grassi rejoined just ahead of Bird. But Bird locked up and went off at Turn 5 on his outlap, ending up against the tyrewall. He rejoined with only cosmetic damage, dropping to seventh. “Just cold brakes, driver error,” he explained.

Di Grassi was handed a 4s lead over Sarrazin. Abt inherited third, ahead of Prost. The Mahindras of Heidfeld and Senna went a lap longer, with Heidfeld rejoining in fifth from teammate Senna.

Bird caught Senna quickly, who was complaining of rear-locking.

Prost was handed a drive-through penalty with 13 laps remaining, as his time in the pits was below the minimum by one second, dropping him to 14th.

That elevated Heidfeld to fourth, and the battling Senna and Bird.

Late safety car drama

Reigning champion Nelson Piquet Jr crashed out on the exit of Turn 1 after bouncing over the kerbs on lap 34. As he couldn’t move his car out of the way, the safety car was called for.

The race restarted for a three-lap sprint to the finish with di Grassi leading Sarrazin, Abt, Heidfeld, Senna and Bird.

Runner-up Sarrazin survived a lock-up at the hairpin soon after the restart under pressure from Abt, while Senna held off Bird for fifth – but there were no place changes among the top six cars.

Fourth-placed Heidfeld ended the race under investigation for overuse of energy.

Relegated from pole position to the back of the grid for a tyre-pressure infringement in qualifying, Antonio Felix da Costa surged into the top 10 by lap 15.

Da Costa passed Jean-Eric Vergne for ninth on lap 27, but he was a late retirement when placed in the points. 

Long Beach ePrix results

BrazilLucas di Grassi  ABT Schaeffler FE01  45:11.582 
FranceStéphane Sarrazin  Venturi VM200-FE-01  +0.787 
GermanyDaniel Abt  ABT Schaeffler FE01  +1.685 
GermanyNick Heidfeld  Mahindra M2ELECTRO  +2.343 
BrazilBruno Senna  Mahindra M2ELECTRO  +4.968 
United KingdomSam Bird  Virgin DSV-01  +5.229 
BelgiumJérôme d'Ambrosio  Venturi VM200-FE-01  +6.735 
FranceLoic Duval  Venturi VM200-FE-01  +8.057 
SwitzerlandSimona de Silvestro  Spark SRT_01E  +10.505 
10  United KingdomMike Conway  Venturi VM200-FE-01  +10.900 
11  FranceNicolas Prost  Renault Z.E.15  +11.205 
12  United KingdomOliver Turvey  NEXTEV TCR FormulaE 001  +17.417 
13  FranceJean-Eric Vergne  Virgin DSV-01  +1 lap 
14  MexicoSalvador Duran  Spark SRT_01E  +1 lap 
15  NetherlandsRobin Frijns  Spark SRT_01E  +1 lap 
16  SwitzerlandSébastien Buemi  Renault Z.E.15  +3 laps 
R Antonio Felix da Costa  Spark SRT_01E  
R Nelson Piquet Jr.  NEXTEV TCR FormulaE 001  
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About this article
Series Formula E
Event Long Beach ePrix
Track Streets of Long Beach
Drivers Lucas di Grassi
Article type Race report