Three interesting stories from the Mexico City ePrix

Lucas Di Grassi went from last to first
Lucas di Grassi took an amazing victory in Mexico thanks to an unusual strategy and some brilliant tactical driving. Di Grassi dropped to last place after sustaining damage on lap 1 so his team took a risk that required Lucas to use roughly 20% less electrical energy than his rivals. They took a ‘free’ pitstop when the safety car bunched the field before half distance, and although this gifted Di Grassi the lead when everyone else stopped later in the race, it meant he had to make his battery last 28 laps (when it was only expected to last 23-24 laps). It was a seemingly impossible task, but he saved plenty under yellow flags, changed his racing lines and coasted off the throttle wherever possible. It was a masterful performance of economical driving whilst the field nipped at his heels.

Di Grassi was lucky that Jerome d’Ambrosio was acting as a buffer in 2nd place holding up cars behind him. That was a huge assistance but it also helped illustrate how brilliant Di Grassi’s drive was. D’Ambrosio was on the same strategy and was lapping around the same pace, but started falling down the order with three laps to go and ran out of juice completely on the last lap. Lucas di Grassi had enough battery life remaining for burnouts on his way to the podium.

Abt Audi Sport failed scrutineering yet again
Daniel Abt had pole position stripped from him in Mexico after his car was found with tyre pressures too low for the regulations. It was likely an innocent mistake, but it is the third time the Abt Audi Sport team has been penalised for failing scrutineering. Lucas di Grassi lost a win in season 1 when his team illegally modified the front wing and he lost another win in Season 2 when the car was underweight. Those disqualifications cost the team two championships so you would expect they’d now be extra vigilant about complying with the regulations, but surprisingly that wasn’t the case.

Sebastien Buemi made another costly mistake.
Sebastien Buemi has dominated the current Formula E season but had a difficult weekend in Mexico with a scrappy qualifying session and a costly spin during the race. It threw some light on the suggestion that, whilst Buemi is very quick, he makes a lot of mistakes. Depending how you count them (and how harsh you want to be in judgement) Sebastien Buemi has made 15 mistakes in 25 races which is a very high number for the category’s most successful driver. Some of those errors have had no consequence – he ran off the road twice during the first Punta del Este ePrix which he still won – whilst some of those arguably cost him the first championship.

Buemi’s Formula E stats are way ahead of any other driver, but the number of mistakes against his name remains an ongoing weakness.

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A massive rivalry is growing between Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies

Jonathan Rea is dominating the 2017 World Superbike Championship but his results don’t tell the full story. There have been 8 races this year and in 5 of them Rea has fought wheel-to-wheel against Chaz Davies in the final laps. The entertaining rivalry between the two riders is starting to get nasty and tensions boiled over at Assen last weekend.

2017 TITLE FIGHT
As per the summary below, the large 84 point gap between Rea and Davies in the championship doesn’t reflect how close their battle has really been. The winning margin in the first two races of 2017 was just a few hundredths of a second!

  • Race 1 : Rea wins. Davies 2nd place by just 0.04 seconds.
  • Race 2 : Rea wins. Davies 2nd place by just 0.02 seconds.
  • Race 3 : Rea wins. Davies 2nd place by 6 seconds.
  • Race 4 : Rea wins. Davies crashes whilst fighting for the lead.
  • Race 5 : Rea wins. Davies crashes from the lead near the finish.
  • Race 6 : Davies wins. Rea 2nd place by just 0.4 seconds.
  • Race 7 : Rea wins. Davies breaks down whilst fighting for the lead at the finish.
  • Race 8 : Rea wins. Davies 3rd place.

Davies has only taken one victory but has been in contention for six. He sits third in the championship right now but will seemingly be Rea’s closest challenger for the 2017 title. Chaz will be well aware that it’s gradually slipping out of reach.

BAD BLOOD AT ASSEN
An incident during qualifying at Assen has added plenty of heat into the rivalry. Davies was held up by Rea on his hot lap and proceeded to physically remonstrate on the track. That was very surprising. The two continued the argument in parc-ferme afterwards and both moments are captured in the videos below.

In a 1400 word statement published after the weekend (and not in the heat of the moment) Davies made his feelings very clear. He suggested that Rea had been waiting for the opportunity to baulk him and “took it way too far”. Davies, who never referred to Rea by name, said “#65 was looking over his shoulder with intent from early in his in lap … it was clear for all of us to see. #65 knew I was coming and endangered both of us with his underhand games. Of course he will deny this, but the facts, video and Race Direction penalty prove otherwise.”

For his part, Rea said the incident was completely unintentional and Davies had no business “punching” him on track. Rea also explained that he was trying to diffuse the situation afterwards. He could probably try harder next time by being less defensive, but he did offer a hand of apology. In his personal column for Motorcycle News, Rea said “I prefer to keep my opinions about Chaz to myself” so there is clearly bad blood on both sides.

The top two riders in the championship are consistently fighting each other in last-lap thrillers and now there is plenty of personal aggro between them as well. It’s compelling to watch.

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Elfyn Evans missed his first WRC win by just 0.7 seconds

After 3 days and 350km of dusty gravel roads, Thierry Neuville beat Elfyn Evans in Rally Argentina by just 7 tenths of a second! That’s the 3rd closest finish in WRC history. It was especially heartbreaking for Evans (who has never won before) since he led most of the event but spent almost 2 days watching his comfortable lead disappear with engine and brake problems. He still could’ve held on if it wasn’t for a tiny mistake on the final stage. Those 7 tenths will haunt him.

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Charles Leclerc took a stunning Formula 2 victory in Bahrain

Charles Leclerc overtook 13 cars in 9 laps to win in Bahrain after a pitstop for fresh tyres (which is an unusual strategy in the shorter F2 sprint race). He was 26 seconds behind the leaders at that point. This quick highlights video captures Leclerc’s amazing charge through the field.

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The Bathurst 6hr featured a record grid of 64 cars

64 cars started the Bathurst 6 Hour which made it the largest grid ever assembled at Mt Panorama. The massive field created an unusual opportunity for Karl Reindler who gained 57 positions before his first pitstop!

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The Bahrain Grand Prix circuit could have a more exciting layout

Perhaps the Bahrain Grand Prix would be more interesting if organisers used the circuit’s ‘outer layout’ instead of the standard F1 track. It would be an incredibly fast low-downforce lap with the potential for lots of high speed slipstreaming – like a compact version of the old Hockenheim. If nothing else it would be nice to see a modern venue offering something different.

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A summary of the top European F3 contenders in 2017

Formula 3 will be the third different category in which Joey Mawson, Harrison Newey, and Mick Schumacher have raced against each other. Mawson had a clear advantage when they were all teammates in German F4 (and beat Schumacher to the title last year with twice as many victories) but the trio now seem to be a bit closer. Between them they won 14 of 16 races in the recent MRF challenge and Newey narrowly claimed the title after passing Mawson in the final laps of the final race.

Schumacher is with the Prema Powerteam who have won the last seven championships in a row so they will give him the best possible chance of success. Mick is fast but tends to make mistakes so he will need to match speed with consistency to prove he is more than just a surname. His teammates will be Callum Ilott and Maximilian Gunther who are two of the strongest drivers from last year to line up again. Gunther was the 2016 runner up to Lance Stroll whilst Ilott (who was once part of the Red Bull young driver program) took six podiums and a pair of victories. Both are expecting to be title contenders.

Ilott and Gunther were outscored by Joel Eriksson over the final 6 races in 2016. Eriksson was very consistent with 10 podiums and will be a title threat this year if those 2nds and 3rds turn into wins. In the final race of 2016, Eriksson was joined on the podium by Jake Hughes who performed well in a one-off guest appearance. Hughes joins Formula 3 full-time this year after winning multiple races in last year’s faster GP3 championship. In theory this should be quite good preparation against a field of less experienced runners.

If any of the seven drivers above want to win the title in 2017, they will have to beat Lando Norris. The 17 year old is part of McLaren’s young driver program and won three different single-seater championships last year alone. He is one of the best young drivers in the world and, after proving quick in testing, he will be hard to beat.

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F1: Max Verstappen has produced another brilliant onboard video

Max Verstappen’s first lap in China was straight out of a video game. Not only does he make it look easy passing 8 cars, but it’s interesting that he starts the race in 2nd gear and also that he gains at least 100 metres on Dani Kvyat under braking for the final hairpin.

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Johann Zarco made a stunning MotoGP debut

Johann Zarco forced himself into the lead on lap 1 of his first MotoGP race and quickly pulled away from the field. Although Zarco ended up crashing out, he made a real impression and is now the only rider on the current grid to have led his first race in the premier class.

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