BERLIN – Felix Rosenqvist handed Mahindra Racing an emotional first win in Formula E competition on Saturday, taking down glory in front of a full house of fans at the revised Tempelhofring circuit.
Following the closest qualifying session in the history of the FIA Formula E Championship, Rosenqvist started from third. He moved up to second when Jose Maria Lopez made a slow start, before gradually reeling in early leader Lucas di Grassi.
Earlier in the day, di Grassi had taken the Julius Baer pole position by the closest possible margin, outpacing Lopez by just .001 of a second, while Rosenqvist in third was only .083 of a second off pole.
The ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport driver was struggling to manage the temperature of the battery during the race, which as a result was making braking and regen harder and harder. Eventually Rosenqvist was close enough to pull off a move, driving around the Brazilian through the long Turn 1.
Rosenqvist almost lost the position when he made a small error into Turn 9 on his in-lap before the mandatory car swap, but rejoined in front of the field and pulled away to a comfortable lead, taking a win that delighted the team after a wait of 28 races.
“It feels incredible,” Rosenqvist said. “From the start of the day the car felt good, quick and consistent. I made a small error in Super Pole qualifying, otherwise we could have been on pole. We came here much more prepared [than when I was on pole in Marrakesh] and it’s a great compliment to the team. We have some fantastic people – I was waiting for this and finally it came.”
After failing to score last time out in Paris, di Grassi needed a big score this weekend. After the morning practice sessions he wasn’t too optimistic about his chances, but a stunning effort in qualifying not only earned him pole by the slimmest of possible margins, but three additional bonus points as well.
Once Rosenqvist had established his lead over di Grassi, he knew the game was up, and shifted his focus to ensuring he stayed ahead of Nick Heidfeld in third to gave the German fans who packed the grandstands plenty to cheer about.
With the post-race disqualification of championship leader Sebastien Buemi, due to his tires being under pressure, di Grassi has now reduced the deficit in the title fight to just 22 points.
“Our car was not very good, we started the morning completely lost and then tried to make small set-up changes and I luckily did a very, very good lap in qualifying,” said di Grassi. “If you look at the pure pace from the morning – this was not the best race for us, so I tried to hang on as much as I could. At the end of the first stint I started to lose the regen because of the battery temperature being too high and the same in the second stint too.”
For the third race in a row, Nick Heidfeld stood on the bottom step of the podium in the sister Mahindra. Once again, he made a great start to move up the order, but in his first car he was struggling for pace, and rather than challenge the cars ahead, he was fighting to keep away from the pack behind.
Following the car swap, Heidfeld’s pace improved, and in the closing stages he reduced the gap to di Grassi to just over a second, but at no point was he ever close enough to attempt a move.
“This is a really outstanding result for the team considering where we have come from,” said Heidfeld. “In the first car, I was struggling but in the second car I started to catch Lucas a little bit. For a while I thought it might be possible [to catch him] but in the end it wasn’t.”
Lopez ran a relatively lonely race in fourth, but was pleased to continue his recent strong form and add to his points tally.
Following his team-mate’s disqualification and Jean-Eric Vergne picking up a five-second time penalty for an unsafe release, Nico Prost maintained his record of scoring points in every race this season by taking fifth.
CREDIT: Formula E