The latest round of the ABB FIA Formula E 2017/2018 season will see three drivers starting ten places back because of grid penalties.
Inevitably, one of the those affected is the chronically unfortunate Lucas di Grassi. The reigning series champion is yet to score a single point so far this season.
He failed to finish the last two races in Marrakesh and Santiago due to reliability issues.
The Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team has now been forced to make a further change to the inverter on di Grassi’s car. That means he’ll serve another ten-place grid penalty in Saturday’s Mexico City ePrix – a race he won last year.
“We’re going through a tough time,” admitted team principal Allan McNish. “But we are as determined as ever and will continue to push to the maximum.
“We all know how unpredictable a race day can be in Formula E,” he added. “Lucas’ spectacular victory last year showed that well.”
The team believes that it has got to the root cause of di Grassi’s woes. However, FIA rules mean that the change can’t be implemented until later this month at Punta del Este.
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Di Grassi is not alone in coming into this weekend’s racing on the back foot. Both of DS Virgin’s drivers have also incurred ten-place penalties.
British drivers Sam Bird and Alex Lynn have replace gearboxes in their cars. The team says that a “deviation” in quality of the materials used in making the gearbox was responsible.
Corrected gearboxes have now been rolled out to both cars used by the two drivers.
Teams get one ‘joker’ for component changes: Bird used his in Marrakesh, and Lynn took his in Santiago. This week’s changes complete the roll-out.
“All four gearboxes have been changed in the garage,” technical director Thomas Chevaucher told Motorsport.com
“We had the wrong batch of materials used to produce that part,” he explained. “[That] was the origin of the problem we’ve had from the beginning of the season.”
“We’re now hoping we won’t have that problem again. We should be fine.”
There have been five grid penalties handed out in the preceding first four races of the season – including earlier hits for Bird and di Grassi.
Neel Jani had a 10-place hit at the first race of the season for a change of battery pack in his Dragon car. Jaguar Racing’s Mitch Evans was similarly penalised in Chile for a change of inverter.
And Nicolas Prost (Renault e.Dams) had a two-place penalty in the same race for exceeding the permitted number of laps in qualifying.
Dragon Racing, Renault e.dams, Jaguar and Venturi teams have also been fined €5,000 (with €3,500 suspended until the end of the season) for illegal WiFi use. The four teams were deemed to have used a frequency that could interfere with FIA data systems.
Today’s race at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is scheduled for 22:00 GMT/23:00 CET. There will be practice and qualifying sessions held earlier in the day.
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