Rome E-Prix: Vergne wins race, heartbreak for di Grassi

Jean-Eric Vergne won a dramatic Rome E-Prix that ended under safety car conditions as race leader Lucas di Grassi triggered a late shunt that eliminated polesitter Stoffel Vandoorne. 

Rome E-Prix: Vergne wins race, heartbreak for di Grassi
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DS Techeetah driver Vergne bagged a somewhat fortunate 10th championship win over the Jaguar Racing pair of Sam Bird and Mitch Evans who had started way down in 10th and 12th

Mercedes racer Vandoorne led the field away under the safety car as a result of light drizzle between qualifying and the race that had dampened the circuit. 

But when the green flag conditions eventually arrived, second-starting Porsche driver Andre Lotterer made a near-immediate charge for the victory by lunging on the approach to the Turn 7 left-hander. 

As Vandoorne closed the gap, the pair collided with Lotterer able to continue in seventh as the Mercedes was forced down the escape route and rejoined in 13th place. 

That gave Nissan e.dams charger Oliver Rowland an unlikely lead after the Brit’s promising qualifying lap was curtailed by a wall tap that bent the steering. 

Rowland appeared comfortable in first place but his lead was brief as he was handed a drivethrough penalty for exceeding the permitted energy use, which dropped him well out of contention. 

This gave fourth-starting di Grassi his turn in the lead as he traded places with Vergne.

The two champions cycled through their two uses of the four-minute attack mode boost, dropping from first place each time. 

It looked as Vergne had come out on top as he took the net lead of the race when the power advantages finished thanks to more efficient work passing the cars he had fallen behind. 

But di Grassi did not hang back for long, sending his car up the inside of Vergne, who gave his rival room, into Turn 4 and braking well to slow the car and complete a stellar overtake for first. 

Di Grassi looked set for his 11th series win only to dramatically slow across the start line between Turns 6 and 7, which triggered a shunt that ended the race under neutralised conditions. 

As di Grassi slowed, the strong recovery of Vandoorne was wiped out as the Belgian moved off line to avoid the Audi. 

This sent him over the harsh bumps on the outside line and the rear of his car stepped out and he crash heavily into the wall. His unsighted teammate Nyck de Vries had nowhere to go and collided into the sister Mercedes to spell a double retirement. 

A full-course yellow was initially imposed to neutralise the race before a full safety car was deployed. 

With the race not resuming, Bird and Evans finished on the podium, having both consistently delivered incisive overtakes to demote Lotterer and Envision Virgin Racing driver Robin Frijns. 

Their combined result, the best-ever for both Jaguar Racing cars, stretches the team’s lead in the championship as Frijns, struggling to make up a deficit in useable energy, stemmed the loss of places to finish fourth. 

Nissan e.dams racer Sebastien Buemi completed the top five ahead of a sound sixth for Rene Rast, who had started way down in 20th after spinning in qualifying. 

Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein edged Alex Lynn (Mahindra), Maximilian Gunther (BMW Andretti) and Nick Cassidy (Envision Virgin) to round out the top 10.  

Edoardo Mortara was an early retirement alongside Alexander Sims (Mahindra) after the powertrain connector issue that benched the Venturi Racing driver for qualifying materialised again after he had already served a drivethrough penalty. 

Race results:

Cla # Driver Team Time Gap
1 25 France Jean-Eric Vergne China Techeetah 48'47.177  
2 10 United Kingdom Sam Bird United Kingdom Jaguar Racing 48'47.638 0.461
3 20 New Zealand Mitch Evans United Kingdom Jaguar Racing 48'47.933 0.756
4 4 Netherlands Robin Frijns United Kingdom Virgin Racing 48'48.211 1.034
5 23 Switzerland Sébastien Buemi France DAMS 48'50.319 3.142
6 33 Germany René Rast Germany Team Abt 48'50.711 3.534
7 99 Germany Pascal Wehrlein Germany Porsche Team 48'51.095 3.918
8 94 United Kingdom Alex Lynn India Mahindra Racing 48'52.897 5.720
9 28 Germany Maximilian Gunther United States Andretti Autosport 49'05.473 18.296
10 37 New Zealand Nick Cassidy United Kingdom Virgin Racing 49'05.940 18.763
11 88 United Kingdom Tom Blomqvist United Kingdom NIO Formula E Team 49'06.266 19.089
12 71 France Norman Nato Monaco Venturi 49'07.222 20.045
13 22 United Kingdom Oliver Rowland France DAMS 49'07.447 20.270
14 6 Switzerland Nico Müller United States Dragon Racing 49'08.332 21.155
15 7 Brazil Sergio Sette Camara United States Dragon Racing 49'08.592 21.415
16 36 Germany Andre Lotterer Germany Porsche Team 49'10.164 22.987
  17 Netherlands Nyck de Vries Germany Mercedes 39'31.042 3 Laps
  11 Brazil Lucas di Grassi Germany Team Abt 39'33.566 3 Laps
  5 Belgium Stoffel Vandoorne Germany Mercedes 39'33.905 3 Laps
  13 Portugal Antonio Felix da Costa China Techeetah 38'51.061 4 Laps
  27 United Kingdom Jake Dennis United States Andretti Autosport 32'42.715 7 Laps
  48 Switzerland Edoardo Mortara Monaco Venturi 21'22.602 14 Laps
  29 United Kingdom Alexander Sims India Mahindra Racing 5'26.833 22 Laps
  8 United Kingdom Oliver Turvey United Kingdom NIO Formula E Team 0.000  
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