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Formula E – First win for Felix Rosenqvist in opening Berlin ePrix


Formula E - 2017 Berlin ePrix - First race

Formula E, Berlin ePrix, motorsport, FIA

Felix Rosenqvist has secured his and his Mahindra team’s first victory in the FIA Formula E Championship today, 10 June, at the historic Berlin Tempelhof Airport. There was double cause for celebration for the squad, as local German racer Nick Heidfeld also took a podium finish in third, just behind pole-sitter Lucas di Grassi.

The ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport driver had come out on top in front of his team’s home crowd in what was an incredibly close qualifying Super Pole, beating DS Virgin Racing’s Jose Maria Lopez by just 0.001s. The two Mahindra drivers lined up alongside one another on the second row of the grid – Rosenqvist just 0.083s off the outright fastest time in third and Heidfeld three tenths back. As the lights went out the pair swept past Lopez who made a slow getaway, while di Grassi held his lead in the opening laps.

The Brazilian driver was able to edge away and had a lead over Rosenqvist of 1.5s after ten laps while Heidfeld came under serious pressure from Lopez and his team-mate Sam Bird, but was able to resist the challenge until the pit stop phase.

Rosenqvist, however, had his sights firmly set on the top step of the podium, and as the cars approached mid-distance, had closed right in on the leader. As the cars flew past the packed grandstands on the run down to Turn One, Rosenqvist made his move around the outside to grab the lead on lap 22. With the advantage to the Swedish former FIA Formula 3 European Champion, he was the first to dive into the pits to make his mandatory car change. Di Grassi shadowed the new race leader, and almost all the drivers quickly followed suit to pit at exactly the mid-point in the race.

Rosenqvist just managed to hold onto the lead as the pair re-joined the track, and for the second half of the contest he edged away to take a popular first win by just over two seconds. The result for the Mahindra squad brings them to within 17 points of ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport in the teams’ standings, who are in turn 56 points from Renault e.dams.

Behind the battle for the podium positions, there were changes aplenty throughout the top ten. Having had a strong first half of the contest, Bird lost places in the pit stop phase and dropped down the order, while Nicolas Prost, Daniel Abt, and Jean-Eric Vergne were fighting hard throughout the race.

Championship leader Sebastien Buemi had a difficult qualifying around the new 2.27km layout at Tempelhof and started from 14th position in the #9 Renault e.dams car. During the race, the Swiss driver took a calculated approach to steadily climb up the order, picking off place after place with his preferred overtaking spot on the brakes at the tight turn nine hairpin. He crossed the line just behind the Techeetah car of Jean-Eric Vergne, who had been holding fifth for much of the race, however a five-second penalty for an unsafe release during the pit stop phase dropped Vergne down the order, provisionally handing Buemi the position.

Having achieved a strong result on the circuit, Buemi was later disqualified from the race, with the tyres on his cars failing to comply with minimum pressure according to the Michelin Formula E tyre working range for the Berlin ePrix. The gap has therefore closed at the top of the drivers’ championship order to 22 points.

These changes to the classification mean that behind the podium finishers it was Lopez and Prost in the top five, with Abt, Bird, Vergne, Maro Engel and Oliver Turvey completing the top ten.

Felix Rosenqvist said: “It feels incredible, 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 Marrakech] and it’s a great compliment to the team. We have some fantastic people. I was waiting for this and it finally it came.”

Lucas di Grassi said: “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. 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.”

Nick Heidfeld said: “This is a really outstanding result for the team considering where we have come from. 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.”

With Round 8 of the 2016/17 FIA Formula E Championship season coming up tomorrow, the German fans have another unpredictable and exciting contest in store.