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Formula E - Di Grassi wins in Berlin as opening leg of German double-header sets up tentalising title showdown

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Victory for Lucas Di Grassi on Audi’s farewell weekend, a fighting drive by Edoardo Mortara, a non-score for Nyck de Vries and a race of two halves’ for DS Techeetah set the scene for a pulsating final day of the 2020/21 campaign...

Victory for Lucas Di Grassi on Audi’s farewell weekend, a fighting drive by Edoardo Mortara, a non-score for Nyck de Vries and a race of two halves’ for DS Techeetah set the scene for a pulsating final day of the 2020/21 campaign...

Lucas Di Grassi delivered Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler a sublime second victory of the 2020/21 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship in Berlin today (14 August), as he stormed into title contention on the German manufacturer’s home soil.

From third on the grid around the Tempelhof Airport circuit, Di Grassi – a winner in the German capital two years ago – initially held station, closely shadowing fellow former champions Jean-Éric Vergne and António Félix da Costa ahead, with the DS TECHEETAH drivers trading places at mid-distance as the defending title-holder advanced to the front of the field.

No sooner had he conceded the top spot than qualifying pace-setter Vergne found himself under pressure from not just one but two Audis, with René Rast having scythed his way up the order in ATTACK MODE from 12th on the starting grid. The pair wasted little time in making their move as they relegated the Frenchman to fourth, but they were not done yet, and a peerless display of teamwork saw Di Grassi and Rast depose da Costa from the lead in one fell swoop.

Once Rast’s ATTACK MODE had run out, the German began slipping back down the order, but his team-mate was still very much on a mission and after relinquishing the initiative to ROKiT Venturi Racing duo Edoardo Mortara and Norman Nato when he activated his own ATTACK MODE, he swiftly set about reclaiming it.

As the top three pulled away from Rast, Di Grassi relived Nato of second place with 13 minutes remaining, before rapidly zeroing in on Mortara in the lead. It was not long before the 2016/17 champion was through, and despite a late counter-attack from his Swiss rival, he held on to secure his 12th career Formula E win – a result that has vaulted him up the order from 14th in the Drivers’ table to sixth with just one race remaining.

The runner-up spoils for Mortara have elevated the Venturi ace to second in the title standings, only three points adrift of the summit, while Mitch Evans similarly kept his own championship aspirations very much alive with a hard-fought third place for Jaguar Racing.

From seventh on the grid, the New Zealander immediately gained a position at the expense of Nissan e.dams’ Sébastien Buemi before continuing to move forward, pulling off an ultra-committed switchback pass on Nato through Turns Six and Seven to squeeze through to third. Thereafter, he drove a defensive line to keep the Frenchman at bay, as the Venturi rookie narrowly missed out on the rostrum but nonetheless celebrated the best result of his season to-date in fourth.

Jake Dennis was another to launch a late assault on the podium, the BMW i Andretti Motorsport man showcasing his excellent racecraft as he recovered from a slow start to wind up fifth and gain a spot to third in the championship chase. Behind the Briton, Vergne and da Costa ultimately faded to sixth and seventh, around a circuit where they had dominated only 12 months earlier.

Maximilian Günther in the second BMW i Andretti Motorsport entry and Rast were the remaining two drivers in the hunt for silverware in the closing stages – ultimately placing eighth and ninth, as the latter posted the race’s fastest lap – with André Lotterer taking the last point on offer in tenth.

Amongst the big names that failed to score, Sam Bird survived a first lap tag that sent him into a half-spin only for his Jaguar Racing machine to crawl to a halt on the start-finish straight just over ten minutes in, bringing out the safety car and spelling the British driver’s third straight retirement since briefly re-taking the championship lead in New York last month.

Having begun the E-Prix from the back of the grid, Stoffel Vandoorne (Mercedes-EQ) and Robin Frijns (Envision Virgin Racing) could manage no better than 12th and 15th at the chequered flag, while Nyck de Vries in the sister Mercedes lost time due to a collision with Mahindra Racing’s Alex Lynn that necessitated a visit to the pits and left him a lap down.

The Dutchman still leads the championship, albeit now by a reduced margin, with the gloves set to come off tomorrow (Sunday, 15 August) for one final showdown on the streets of Berlin, when the 2020/21 FIA Formula E World Champion will be officially crowned. The 15th round of the season on the circuit’s reversed ‘NILREB’ layout will get underway at 15:34 CET