Lucas di Grassi took his maiden win for ROKiT Venturi Racing in the SABIC London E-Prix Round 14, after overcoming form-man and Julius Baer Polesitter Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) over a hard-fought, strategic 38-lap battle in the UK capital.
Di Grassi emerged through his last of three mandatory ATTACK MODE activations with enough in-hand to ensure he'd make it by Dennis when the Brit jumped for his last 30kW boost. The Brazilian then stretched his advantage over the final few laps and into TAG Heuer Added Time to take the chequered flag first.
RESULTS: The SABIC London E-Prix Round 14
Nyck de Vries came home third, while his Mercedes-EQ teammate,- standings leader Stoffel Vandoorne - clambered to fourth from 13th on the grid. His closest title rival Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) had made his way as high as fourth himself from 14th at the start of the race but a late technical problem put-paid to his Round 14 and dealt a hammer blow to his title chances with retirement from proceedings and a non-score.
Edoardo Mortara (ROKiT Venturi Racing) did his utmost to get his hands on some points from 17th at lights out but a scrappy, combative performance yielded only 13th position. Jean-Eric Vergne (DS TECHEETAH) retired early on, seemingly in contact, all but ending his championship charge.
Antonio Felix da Costa fought to fifth in the sister DS, with Sebastien Buemi (Nissan e.dams) producing his second-best result of Season 8 in sixth, Robin Frijns (Envision Racing) seventh and Sam Bird eighth for Jaguar TCS Racing on home soil. Sergio Sette Camara got his hands on his and DRAGON / PENSKE AUTOSPORT's first points of the campaign after he ran out of usable energy at the death in Round 13 having hassled the top four throughout. Pascal Wehrlein rounded out the top 10 for the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team.
In all reality, it now looks to be a head-to-head between Evans and Vandoorne for the title with 58 points on offer in a fortnight's time over the inaugural Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix double-header weekend - the Belgian now holding a commanding 36-point margin over the Jaguar driver in the points table.
ROKiT Venturi Racing jumps DS TECHEETAH to go second in the Teams' World Championship, though Mercedes-EQ extends its lead to 35 points.
As it happened...
The pack emerged from the darkness indoors to the light of the Docklands with Dennis ahead of di Grassi and Giovinazzi clear of da Costa in third. Some contact between Mahindra’s Oliver Rowland and Oliver Askew in the Avalanche Andretti left the former damaged and out while Vandoorne clipped Wehrlein’s Porsche into the complex on the way to taking 12th. The top nine stood as you were on the grid.
Five minutes in and Jean-Eric Vergne’s title challenge looked to have all but ended after contact – the DS TECHEETAH coming to a sorry halt out on-track, meaning an appearance for the Porsche Taycan Safety Car.
The five-minute neutralisation came to an end on Lap 5 and de Vries took the opportunity to dive for ATTACK MODE – the first driver to do so. Three four-minute doses of ATTACK MODE were on the menu for race two.
Giovinazzi had the elbows out on Lap 7 to fend of da Costa at Turn 2 – the DRAGON driver holding on for everything he’s worth to that third place, with da Costa losing out to de Vries in the melee.
Through the first round of ATTACK MODE saw Giovinazzi shuffled to fifth before the Italian was slapped with a drive-through penalty for overpower – gutting for driver and team. The net beneficiary looked to be Evans, who’d clambered through the field as high as fifth from 13th. Frustratingly for him, Vandoorne had also made ground to seventh.
On Lap 14, Dennis led di Grassi with da Costa able to slip beyond de Vries for third with Evans fifth, Buemi sixth, Vandoorne seventh, Wehrlein eighth, Bird ninth and Mortara rounding out the points-paying positions in 10th.
The race leader made the jump for his second 30kW boost, ceding the lead to di Grassi in the process but the Brit clung on to the back of the Venturi Silver Arrow 02. The lead pair had pulled a two-second gap on de Vries who’d retaken third from da Costa in the interim.
Lap 20 saw Evans by da Costa and into fourth, though again, Vandoorne wasn’t far behind in his shadow – the Mercedes driver now sixth. Meanwhile, di Grassi went for his final jump through the ATTACK MODE loop with Dennis holding one in hand. A fascinating tactical battle ahead…
The Brazilian tried to pile on the pressure with that extra power in his pocket but Dennis defended hard and held the Venturi driver at bay and di Grassi wasn’t quite able to get within range of a move.
An overambitious move from Mortara sent his title chances spinning as he tried to make it by Bird for ninth. Vandoorne, meanwhile, was busy consolidating his advantage with a move on da Costa for fifth. Evans now being just a position ahead ensured he wouldn’t eat into the Belgian’s standings margin too significantly.
With eight minutes plus one lap to go, di Grassi had done enough to keep in touch with and make it by Dennis’ Andretti when the Brit made his final run through the ATTACK MODE activation loop. That would mean the home favourite would have to pass the wily Brazilian on-track. No easy task.
He’d have to get there first though, as the Venturi man put the hammer down to drive to a 1.5-second lead with FANBOOST employed perfectly.
Into TAG Heuer Added time, and Evans’ title hopes took a huge dent – the Kiwi lost himself down the escape road at Customs House with a technical problem and into retirement. What a boon to Vandoorne’s championship challenge but could that be that for Evans with the Belgian into a 36-point lead.
Di Grassi’s late-race pace saw him take the chequered flag with Dennis unable to live with him as the time ticked away. De Vries came home third, ahead of Vandoorne, da Costa and Buemi. Frijns, Bird, Sette Camara and Wehrlein rounded out the top 10.