Puebla E-Prix: di Grassi inherits victory in Audi 1-2 after Wehrlein disqualified from dominant display


June 19, 2021

by Topher Smith

Lucas di Grassi has taken his first victory of the season after dominant on-track winner Pascal Wehrlein was disqualified for a technical infraction, with Rene Rast making it an Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler 1-2 ahead of Edoardo Mortara.

Wehrlein led away from pole position while fellow front row driver Oliver Rowland got a bad start and feel from second to P14, while the BMW i Andretti rocketed off the line to move up to P2.

In the midfield the Envision Virgin Racing of Nick Cassidy crashed into the barrier after getting off-line and skirting straight on into the concrete. The safety car was deployed as a result, with Wehrlein leading Günther and Jake Dennis.

The safety car came back into the pits with 37 minutes left on the clock, with the top three breaking away off the restart as Vergne failed to keep pace, but the Frenchman soon started to close back in and put pressure on Dennis for P3.

Wehrlein used the opportunity to activate his first attack mode, dropping to third behind the BMW i Andretti duo but then used his additional power to dispatch Dennis for P2, before setting off after Günther.

The other front runners waited longer to go for their first attack modes, the next driver in the order to go for the extra boost of energy being Robin Frijns in P13.

The Mercedes-Benz EQ of Nyck de Vries found himself down the escape road at turn 11, not caught on camera but it soon became apparent that Frijns was involved as the championship leader was soon handed a ten second time penalty. A later replay confirmed that Frijns had a massive lock-up into the side of de Vries, sending his fellow Dutchman into a spin.

Despite being in attack mode, Wehrlein wasn't able to close up enough to the back of Günther and ran out of his extra power usage before making a move back into the lead.

Just after Wehrlein ran out of attack mode, Günther went for his first use of attack mode and dropped to P5 as a result, wasting no time in passing the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler of di Grassi for fourth place.

Günther was then able to close on the back of Vergne and pass for P3, which became P2 after teammate Dennis went to activate his first attack mode, the Englishman coming out behind Mortara in P5.

With everyone battling behind, Wehrlein was able to build up enough of a gap to activate his second attack mode and crucially maintain the lead ahead of Günther. Behind them, Vergne went for his attack mode but rejoined into the path of Alexander Sims and was squeezed into the barrier, ending Vergne's race due to damage.

Running second and third, Günther and Mortara took attack mode in sync from P2 and P3, only losing out to Dennis. Günther soon retook second place from his teammate and set off after race leader Wehrlein.

A second safety car was then deployed as the Jaguar Racing of Sam Bird was fed into the barrier by the Mahindra Racing of Alex Lynn while rejoining the track from his attack mode activation, causing his Jaguar irreparable damage and bringing an end to his race.

The race went back to green with 12 minutes left to run, Wehrlein leading away but with Günther in close company as the BMW i Andretti stayed with the TAG Heuer Porsche across the line.

There was then added drama as Wehrlein came under investigation for a technical infraction, with the BMW i Andrettis behind him swapping position for P2 and P3 as Dennis still needed to take one more attack mode.

Dennis took his final attack mode with five minutes left to run, dropping to P7 behind da Costa while Mortara made a move for P2 past Günther, the German then losing another position to di Grassi as the Brazilian capitalised on Günther's loss of momentum.

The other Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler of Rast then muscled his way past Günther, then conceding position to Dennis who was still in attack mode.

At the front, there was a three-way battle for P2 between Mortara, di Grassi and Rast which had the potential to be the fight for the victory as Wehrlein was still under investigation. di Grassi pulled off a bold dive on Mortara to take P2 into turn one, but Rast had the most energy of the three and also hounded Mortara for position, moving past the ROKiT Venturi Racing on the next lap.

Wehrlein went on to cross the line in P1, still under investigation, while di Grassi and Rast crossed the line in P2 and P3. However, this became P1 and P2 as Wehrlein was disqualified from the race, handing Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler a 1-2 finish ahead of Mortara.

It transpired after the race that Wehrlein's disqualification was due to a clerical error in which his tyres weren't declared properly, resulting in an exclusion that was also applied to TAG Heuer Porsche teammate Andre Lotterer. Nissan e.dams also fell foul of the same infraction and both Rowland and Sebastien Buemi were disqualified.

Sims brought his Mahindra Racing home in P4 after a late surge ahead of Dennis. Reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa rose up the order to finish sixth ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne, Mitch Evans, de Vries and Lynn. Günther fell further down the order at the end to finish 12th having fought for the lead earlier in the race.

Image credit: Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler

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