By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
Last season a ninth-place result would have left Lucas di Grassi inconsolable over the points lost.
In Mexico City it was all he could ask for.
Di Grassi overcame a five-second pit stop penalty and drove his way through the field from last on the grid to claim ninth in Saturday’s Mexico City E-Prix. The defending ABB FIA Formula E Championship contender earned his first points of the season in the process.
Afterward the Brazilian and his Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team celebrated two victories – the debut triumph of teammate Daniel Abt, and a salvaged result that felt like a win for the Season Three champion.
“That was an exciting race that was a lot of fun,” di Grassi said. “Congratulations to Daniel: a fantastic job! He had already earned his first victory in Hong Kong. We never give up as a team and our fight back started today.”
No driver in Formula E’s short history has been able to successfully defend a championship the following year, but di Grassi’s title defense had played out a level of misery and woe that made last year’s triumph feel like an afterthought.
Ruined by a combination of crashes and mechanical failures, di Grassi failed to tally a single point in the first four E-Prix of the season. He was the only full-time driver with that distinction leaving Santiago, Chile, having fallen from first to last in an all-too-literal sense.
Things didn’t look promising for the 33-year-old in Mexico City. The inverter on his Audi e-tron FE04 had to be opened between races, meaning he was slated to incur a 10-place grid penalty. When di Grassi failed to qualify 10th or better to suffer that full penalty, a five-second hold was added to his pit stop.
Despite his issues di Grassi persevered. In the end he rose to his first points of the season, tallying an extra marker with the Visa Fastest Lap Award.
Paired with Abt’s win, the veteran’s team was overjoyed with their result in Mexico.
“After the problems that we had in the first races this race tastes particularly sweet,” Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass said. “We didn’t know exactly what to expect here. After qualifying the feelings were still a little mixed. But the race was top from both drivers. Lucas drove fantastically and I’m absolutely delighted for Daniel.”
“The race from Lucas with the fastest race lap and a difficult comeback drive also gives us a huge boost,” Team Principle Allan McNish added. “Not just the race team, but also the people back at base, who have worked very hard between the races.”
Di Grassi’s run wasn’t enough to sufficiently aid his minuscule hopes for a repeat championship. Whether the run will transition to continued success also remains to be seen.
But for the first time this season, di Grassi could rise out of his No. 1 Audi with a smile on his face after an E-Prix.
After the year he’s endured thus far, that was more than enough.