The FIA’s first fully-electric single-seater series visited the Autodromo Hemanos Rodriguez this weekend for the fifth instalment of the 2015/16 campaign, where the Renault e.dams boys were immediately on the pace behind the wheel of the Renault Z.E.15.
Indeed, after topping Saturday’s two free practice sessions both Sebastien and Nico made it through to Superpole having qualified fastest during the group stages. Nico, who went out fourth in the single-lap shootout, posted the second-fastest time behind Dragon Racing’s Jerome D’Ambrosio before Sebastien took to the track. However, a mistake from the Swiss ace meant that he would begin the 43-lap contest fifth.
At lights out both Nico and Sebastien held their positions, despite the tight first chicane of the specially adapted Formula E layout. Only a few laps in, Sebastien made his move on Daniel Abt to claim fourth, while Nico maintained second behind D’Ambrosio and resisting pressure from ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport’s Lucas di Grassi. With this top-5 remaining close throughout the first half of the race, it was during the mandatory car swap that everything would change.
Whilst Sebastien exited the Renault e.dams garage first to claim P3 from his team-mate, an unsafe release for Nico saw him receive a drive-through penalty from Race Control, relegating him to fifth where he would eventually cross the line.
Meanwhile, Sebastien locked horns with D’Ambrosio as the pair battled for second place, which allowed di Grassi to extend his gap at the front. But taking the fight right to the line, Sebastien claimed the third step of the podium only a tenth of a second behind the Belgian D’Ambrosio.
Following post-race investigations by the Stewards, di Grassi was disqualified from the results due to weight restrictions, promoting Sebastien to second place. In addition, a 15-second penalty added to Loic Duval’s result promotes Nico to third, as well as being awarded the fastest lap. Renault e.dams and Sebastien now maintain their lead in both the Teams’ and Drivers’ standings.
#8 Nico : “Apart from Punta del Este, I’ve been fighting for a podium finish at every race, which these decisions from the Stewards have allowed me ! We knew that we had the pace having qualified well at almost every round and now, it was just a case of getting a good result in order to really boost my confidence.”
#9 Sebastien : “Whilst I don’t think we got the set-up quite right at this track, the final result has worked in our favour. The track layout made it very difficult to overtake and, obviously, I had some issues when fighting with Jerome but, this is racing and sometimes it’s frustrating ! But overall, I am pleased that we have maintained the lead in the championship.”
Vincent Gaillardot, Renault Sport Project Leader : “From free practice we saw that we were quick but, Sebastien’s mistake in Superpole obviously made a big difference and, given the nature of the track, overtaking was difficult. That said, we’ve learned just how important it is to have a faultless weekend in order to secure our position on the grid and we can be consistent from there.”
Alain Prost, Senior Team Manager : “Following the Stewards’ decision, our results in Mexico are much better. We have a good team and a good car, which is reflected in the final classification now. As for the event itself, it has been a fantastic for Formula E. The fans here are incredible and, despite the pressure on the championship to follow Formula 1 at this venue, they’ve put on a real show for everyone.”
Jean-Paul Driot, Senior Team Manager : “It seems that a small braking issue cost us the win today, which we will have to look into, but both Sebastien and Nico fought very hard during the race. But second and third, plus a fastest lap for Nico, means we have cemented our position as championship leaders. We will analyse the issues we had and improve to be more motivated than ever for Long Beach.”
Renault e.dams, Sebastien and Nico get back to the action for the sixth round of the 2015/16 FIA Formula E Championship, the Long Beach ePrix, on April 2.