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Formula E

How di Grassi reacted to agonising Formula E win loss

by Sam Smith
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Audi Formula E team boss Allan McNish had to take his pit to car radio headphones off when Lucas di Grassi vehemently expressed his disappointment at losing a potential victory in today’s Rome E-Prix.

Di Grassi was leading with five minutes to go when a suspected driveshaft failure caused him to slow and retire, in turn triggering a multi-car accident that eliminated both of the Mercedes entries driven by Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries.

Di Grassi launched an incredulous expletive ridden diatribe after the breakage, which he notified the team of just before negotiating the same corner – Turn 4 – where he had wrestled the lead from eventual winner Jean-Eric Vergne a few laps earlier.

The Audi driver told his engineer Markus Michelburger that he had “a mechanical problem” before Michelburger instructed him to “release throttle fully”.

Shortly after that di Grassi pulled to the side of the track before swearing profusely and cursing his luck.

“I pulled the radio headset off when he was on the radio shouting because I’ve been there and in those situations many times before,” McNish told The Race.

“You are better on your own for 10 minutes to just collect your thoughts. There’s no point to even go near a driver in the situations for a little bit.

“Just let it take its course because it is understandable.”

The win would have been both di Grassi and the Audi factory team’s first in FE since the May 2019 Berlin race.

Vergne said he felt “sad for him” but suggested he had let the Audi go because he believed he had the superior energy left.

“It’s not like I was forcing him when he passed me, I wanted to save a bit more energy so I was able to attack him again because we were really really tight, everybody, on energy,” said Vergne.

Formula E Rome E Prix 2021

“We were having a lot of lifting in a straight line. So I said I would get him later in the race, but unfortunately he had these problems for himself.”

But McNish is sure that di Grassi would’ve been hard to beat.

“At that point, very frankly, I think we had our eye on the chequered flag,” he said.

“The overtake on Vergne was a great one and it was already out of the attack mode, so it was on pure speed.

“Then he was able to pull away and we had good energy, a bit of a buffer, so we were in a really strong position.

“Now you can never-say-never in this game but the way that he was able to overtake I think showed we could win the thing.

“We are majorly disappointed for his complete car crew because I think they put together a very good qualifying and was then was able to deliver in the race. All very frustrating.”

While Audi lost a potential win through di Grassi’s retirement, his team-mate Rene Rast carved his way through the field to take sixth position despite starting a lowly 20th after a mistake in his qualifying group at Turn 14.

The triple DTM champion made the most progress in the 23-car field and impressed McNish.

“Rene did a great job from where he was on the grid and built a strong and clean race when lots of others fell by the wayside,” said McNish.

“It was an intelligent race which reaped some nice rewards.”

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