Rome E-Prix: Vergne capitalises on Di Grassi woe for victory

Jean-Eric Vergne won a dramatic Rome E-Prix that ended under safety car conditions as race leader Lucas di Grassi triggered a late shunt that eliminated polesitter Stoffel Vandoorne.

Rome E-Prix: Vergne capitalises on Di Grassi woe for victory

DS Techeetah driver Vergne bagged a somewhat fortunate 10th championship win over the Jaguar Racing pair of Sam Bird and Mitch Evans, who had started way down in 10th and 12th.

Mercedes racer Stoffel Vandoorne led the field away under the safety car as a result of light drizzle between qualifying and the race that had dampened the circuit.

But when the green flag conditions eventually arrived, second-starting Porsche driver Andre Lotterer made a near-immediate charge for the victory by lunging on the approach to the Turn 7 left-hander.

As Vandoorne closed the gap, the pair collided. Lotterer managed to continue in seventh, but was later hit with a five-second penalty for the contact, which forced Vandoorne down the escape road before rejoining in 13th place.

That gave Nissan e.dams charger Oliver Rowland an unlikely lead after the Brit’s promising qualifying lap was curtailed by a wall tap that bent the steering.

Rowland appeared comfortable in first place but his lead was brief as he was handed a drivethrough penalty for exceeding the permitted energy use, which dropped him well out of contention.

This gave fourth-starting di Grassi his turn in the lead as he traded places with Vergne.

The two champions cycled through their two uses of the four-minute attack mode boost, dropping from first place each time.

Vandoorne recovers after contact with Lotterer

Vandoorne recovers after contact with Lotterer

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

It looked as Vergne had come out on top as he took the net lead of the race when the power advantages finished thanks to more efficient work passing the cars he had fallen behind.

But di Grassi did not hang back for long, sending his car up the inside of Vergne - who gave his rival room - into Turn 4 and braking well to slow the car and complete a stellar overtake for first.

Di Grassi looked set for his 11th series win only to dramatically slow across the start line between Turns 6 and 7, which triggered a shunt that ended the race under neutralised conditions.

As di Grassi slowed, the strong recovery of Vandoorne was wiped out as the Belgian moved off line to avoid the Audi.

This sent him over the harsh bumps on the outside line, where the rear of his car stepped out and he crashed heavily into the wall. His unsighted team-mate Nyck de Vries had nowhere to go, colliding with the sister Mercedes and slapping the wall to spell a double retirement.

A full-course yellow was initially imposed to neutralise the race before a full safety car was deployed.

With the race not resuming, that allowed Bird and Evans on to an unlikely podium, having both consistently delivered incisive overtakes to demote Lotterer and Envision Virgin Racing driver Robin Frijns.

Their combined result, the best-ever for both Jaguar Racing cars, stretches the team’s lead in the championship as Frijns, struggling to make up a deficit in useable energy, stemmed the loss of places to finish fourth.

Nissan e.dams racer Sebastien Buemi completed the top five ahead of a sound sixth for Rene Rast, who had started way down in 20th after spinning in qualifying.

Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein edged Alex Lynn, Maximilian Guenther and Nick Cassidy to round out the top 10.

Edoardo Mortara was an early retirement alongside Alexander Sims after the powertrain connector issue that benched the Venturi Racing driver for qualifying materialised again after he had already served a drivethrough penalty.

 

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