04 Mar 18
For Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler's Daniel Abt, this moment had been a long time coming. No less than three months coming, to be precise.
Lifting the trophy on the top step of the podium, for the very first time on his birthday in Hong Kong just seemed too good to be true. And it was. Following the champagne celebrations, Abt was then stripped of his victory after the FIA - motorsport's governing body - found faults in the team's paperwork. With that, Abt was left disheartened, humiliated but, most importantly, determined to claim it all back. And that's exactly what he did here in Mexico City.
Starting the race in fifth, after Alex Lynn's (DS Virgin Racing) 10-place grid penalty bumped him up a place, the German driver bided his time, ensuring he had a clean first half. Coming into the pits on lap 22, a slick pit stop saw Abt take the top spot from Turvey for the second half of the race. "The mechanics were very, very fast today - I don't know how they were able to do that but it was key for the victory and I'm very thankful for them," said a grateful Abt moments after the race.
With ten laps to go, Daniel Abt held the lead with NIO's Oliver Turvey still holding onto second place and Buemi chasing him down in third. "I actually had a slight moment [of realisation] with five laps to go - just a slight one - it got my heart rate up. But you can never be sure...In Formula E, anything can happen," said Abt.
Crossing the line with time to spare, the 26-year-old driver screamed down the radio "It feels so good, it feels SO, SO good - thank you!" still hardly believing that his moment - his first ever win in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship - had finally come. With Abt's win and fellow Audi driver Lucas di Grassi also managing to (finally) finish a race and score points (albeit just three), Team Principal Alan McNish can sleep a little easier tonight.
But the same can't be said for Mahindra Racing's Team Principal Dilbagh Gill, who after a season of celebration, is left scratching his head, wondering what happened to both his cars after they failed to cross the finish line due to technical failure. "I don't know what happened," said a bewildered Felix Rosenqvist, still wondering how his Julius Baer Pole Position turned into a DNF. "All I know is that it seems very strange for us to have this problem and it got worse and worse as I went on. It seems like some parts somewhere are broken. I think we were unlucky but lucky at the same time that it was only JEV and Buemi in the mix that really scored points. We just have to forget it!"
For Rosenqvist, his standing is largely unaffected as he manages to hold on to second place in the championship - adding his three points earned through his Pole Position - to bring his total to 69. Just 12 points away from Techeetah's Jean-Eric Vergne, who retains the top spot.
But the Mexico City E-Prix wasn't just a first for Daniel Abt. For NIO Formula E Team, Oliver Turvey brought home the team's first silverware since it joined the series. "It feels phenomenal to get our first podium in Formula E," he said clutching his hard-earned trophy after the race. "To get the first podium is always the hardest, especially in a championship like Formula E, the level of the teams and drivers is so high now. I'm just really proud to be racing in Formula E and hopefully we can carry this momentum forward and get a race win." With that in the bag, the team now sit eighth in the championship, having been bottom.
Starting and finishing the race in third was Renault e.dams' Sebastien Buemi, who maintained his position despite attacks from Panasonic Jaguar Racing's Nelson Piquet Jn in fourth. Despite the former champs' experience behind the wheel - having been in the series since it's inception - he was unable to pass Turvey and move into second. "The first part of the race was the most difficult for me but then in the second part of the race, I was much quicker. I knew Daniel was too far ahead, so I was taking my time to try to pass Oliver and I was taking my time and trying to wait until he was really struggling with the energy because it's really difficult to pass here," he said. "I don't consider myself in contention for the championship because I'm not quick enough," he admitted.
While he might think that, the numbers tell a different story. His third-place podium finish here in Mexico City is Buemi's 20th podium in the all-electric racing series. Added to that, after finishing second in Marrakesh, third in Santiago and third here in Mexico City, means Buemi has been on the podium in three of five rounds this season. While the top step may still prove elusive for the Swiss driver this season, there's no denying he's the most successful Formula E driver in the series.
With packed grandstands, including the legendary Foro Sol, no Formula E race is complete without its fans. "I think it's great - I've never seen so many people here, so I think the fans like it and they come back, so I'm really happy to see that because that's what we want to see," said Buemi while Turvey commented on hearing the cheers as he passed through the Foro Sol. For Daniel Abt, the people of Mexico City we simply "amazing. They're always amazing, he said glancing around with a smile.
As the sun sets on the 2018 Mexico City E-Prix, the Formula E championship continues onto Punta del Este in Uruguay. Marking the halfway point in the season, the teams and drivers will be looking to make an impact going into the second half of the season. It's all still to play for.