Making history with not only his first win of the season but also a win in the first circuit race in Switzerland since 1954, Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi emerged victorious from a chaotic race in Zurich.
“The other victories slipped through my fingers but finally it happened,” said the ecstatic Brazilian driver.
Finishing in second was championship hopeful Sam Bird (DS Virgin Racing). “Bring on New York, we’re chasing him!” Bird said confidently. On the last step of the podium was Dragon’s Jerome d’Ambrosio, clinching his seventh podium in the all-electric series.
Starting the race on pole, Mitch Evans (Panasonic Jaguar Racing) got off to a good start, leading the pack in the inaugural 2018 Julius Baer Zurich E-Prix.
But it wasn’t long until the calm of Zurich’s lakeside turned to chaos. At the tramstop chicane (Turn 8 and 9), Evans’ teammate Nelson Piquet Jr. slammed into the back of Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler’s Daniel Abt on the opening lap, littering the track with debris from Abt’s rear wing. By lap four, both Piquet Jr and Abt were called into the pits to fix their cars, rejoining the race with Piquet at the back of the pack.
In the meantime, Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne, determined to improve his position after starting the race in 17th, embarked on an aggressive campaign, weaving his way through the traffic to climb seven positions in just nine laps. Despite his aggressive drive, Vergne preserved his energy levels, still with 42 percent by lap 13.
With both Audi drivers receiving FANBOOST (the extra 100KJ of energy to use in their second cars), the third boost fell to home race hero Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.dams).
On Turn 10, di Grassi (who started in sixth) broke through Bird’s defenses by passing on the inside corner, climbing up into fourth. Up at the front, Evans led the way while Techeetah’s Andre Lotterer, di Grassi and Bird battled between them, with just inches between them.
On lap 16, di Grassi made his move for third, blasting past Lotterer on Turn 1 in an aggressive maneuver. At the same time, Venturi Formula E’s Edoardo Mortara clipped the curb through the tram stop and retired from the race — a disappointing finish for the Swissman on his home turf.
Still intent on getting to the front, Vergne battled with Mahindra Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist before the Swedish driver, on the outside, collided with the wall. Also on the offensive, di Grassi went for Evans, slipping past him to take the lead.
Colliding with debris from Rosenqvist’s car the following lap, Vergne escaped with little damage to his car before the full-course yellow saw all drivers return to the pits for an early car change.
After a slow car change for Vergne, the Frenchman rejoined the pack in ninth. Frustrated, he cracked on with reclaiming the positions he’d only just gained after he pitted in seventh.
Di Grassi, intent on maintaining his lead, started pulling away on lap 26, putting a two-second lead on Evans in second, with Lotterer lurking in third and Buemi hot on his tail in fourth.
With only a few laps remaining, Evans, Vergne, Andre Lotterer, Dragon’s Jose Maria Lopez and Sebastien Buemi were all forced to serve a drive-through penalty for speeding under the full-course yellow. Only di Grassi and Bird, out of all the front-runners, emerged clear of penalties.
Nico Prost, charging down the back straight, locked the brakes and left the track, retiring from the race.
With all cars having served their penalty, di Grassi continued to lead the way with Bird in second, Dragon’s Jerome d’Ambrosio in third, Lotterer in fourth, Poleman Evans in fifth and Buemi right behind in fifth. With Vergne in 11th, the championship lead he once had (40 points) slipped to half that, after he finished the race in 10th, earning just one point.
Moments from the end, Buemi made use of his FANBOOST, slipping past Evans with only three laps to go, moving up into fifth.
After a landmark — albeit chaotic — race for the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in Zurich, Lucas di Grassi crossed the line in first. “F***ing YEAH!” screamed di Grassi down the radio, unable to control his emotions after what has been a rollercoaster of a season.