By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
Ahead of each ABB Formula E Series race weekend, Motorsports Tribune offers an in-depth look at the details and storylines going into the weekend’s event(s).
Race(s): Mexico City E-Prix (45 laps, 58.5 miles)
Circuit: Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez (Mexico)
Track Details: Clockwise – 17 turns, 1.30 miles
Track Record: 1:02.867 (Oliver Turvey, 2017)
What Happened Last Year: Lucas di Grassi avenged a disqualified win from the previous season with a legal victory in Formula E’s second trip to Mexico. The result came as a surprise, with the eventual champion triumphing as a result of a strategy play initiated by poor qualifying (15th) and an early run-in with Maro Engel.
Saturday, March 3
Free Practice 1: 8:55-9:55 a.m. ET (FOX Sports Go)
Free Practice 2: 11:25 a.m.-12:10 p.m. ET (FOX Sports Go)
Qualifying: 3:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 2)
2018 Mexico City E-Prix: 4:30 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 2)
Storylines to Watch
Di Grassi’s Continued Woes
The torrid tale of defending champion Lucas di Grassi’s championship defense continues on to Round 5.
Things couldn’t be much worse for the Brazilian. When he failed to tally a single point in the season-opening doubleheader at Hong Kong it seemed to just be possible to overcome. It was just a bad weekend, after all. Everyone in the field is prone to them.
But that initial lack of worry turned to full-on panic rapidly over the coming weeks as do Grassi continued to struggle. The third E-Prix of the year in Marrakesh didn’t yield any points, nor did the fourth round in Santiago.
One third of the way into his title defense, di Grassi is the lone full-time driver that has failed to score points. He sits 71 markers behind leader Jean-Eric Vergne – a deficit that would take at least three perfect races to close.
Di Grassi will have a tall task ahead of him in his search for points in Mexico. His Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team is struggling with reliability woes that have been the chief source of di Grassi’s woes. The 33-year-old will also have to come from deep in the pack after sustaining a 10-place grid penalty.
Scoring points won’t be easy. But if he is to have any hope of salvaging this season, di Grassi and Abt Schaeffler must find a way to deliver in Mexico City.
The Top Trio
Four rounds into Season Four of ABB Formula E, the battle for the driver’s title appears to be a three-person affair.
Vergne, Felix Rosenqvist and Sam Bird have risen a step above the rest of the paddock through the early stages of the season, scoring nearly double the point total of fourth-place Sebastien Buemi (37). Vergne leads the way with 71 markers, while Rosenqvist and Bird follow with point totals of 66 and 61, respectively.
Each driver comes from previous experience in the all-electric series, but the entire trio are searching for their first championship on the tour. The highest points finish for any in the group goes to Rosenqvist, who claimed third behind di Grassi and Buemi last season.
The field still has two-thirds of the championship to contest, but if any of the top trio can find a way to succeed again in Mexico City, they should start to elevate themselves into point totals that will place them out of reach for the majority of the paddock.
If the third edition of the Mexico City E-Prix plays out in similar fashion to the race’s second running, then the key to scoring points may lie in survival.
Last season’s E-Prix played out in chaotic fashion, with a host of contenders falling by the wayside in an event that was ultimately won by the 15th-place starter (di Grassi) on a strategy that was born due to early damage.
Polesitter Oliver Turvey led 12 laps in the event, positioning himself to compete for the victory. But he would ultimately be classified last on the grid. Loic Duval would end the day 19th with battery woes, while gearbox and power issues took out Antonio Felix da Costa and Maro Engel.
Rosenqvist crashed out in the race, and while they managed to make it to the finish, neither Buemi nor typical contender Nick Heidfeld managed to tally a finish in the points. Just 14 machines out of the 20 entered finished on the lead-lap.
That level of attrition turns races into a battle for survival. Should Saturday’s run play out in similar fashion, then one or more drivers in the field may unknowingly be poised for season-altering issues.