PARIS: Lucas di Grassi clinched his third win of the Formula E season at the inaugural Paris street circuit race on Saturday to stretch his lead at the top of the drivers’ standings.
Di Grassi claimed his second straight victory after triumphing at Long Beach earlier this month, albeit in anti-climactic fashion as the safety car was deployed for the final few laps following a crash involving China’s Ma Qing Hua.
The City of Light provided a spectacular backdrop for Saturday’s seventh leg of the 11-race championship with a 1.93-kilometer circuit around Les Invalides, notably the site of Napoleon’s tomb.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who was down on the starting grid ahead of the race, called staging such events “the best response to the threat of terrorism”, with the race coming just five months after the Paris terror attacks that left 130 dead and many more injured.
“Life is the best response to the attacks — never give in to fear, organize events in safety that bring together thousands of fans, here or at football stadiums for Euro 2016,” he said.
“[The race] is a celebration of sport, technology and the environment as well as a festival, so it’s everything to make people happy and proud,” he added.
Pole-sitter Sam Bird suffered a poor start and Di Grassi, also a winner at November’s race in Malaysia, jumped ahead of the Briton almost immediately before seizing control.
A series of fastest laps from the Brazilian increased his lead, but there was a fierce fight behind him for second between Jean-Eric Vergne, Bird and Sebastien Buemi.
While Di Grassi cruised to the chequered flag, Vergne secured his best result of the season in second with Buemi, who started eighth, finishing third after Bird lost three places when he spun five laps from the end.
“It was a very tough race even if it didn’t look like it inside the car,” said Di Grassi, who moved 11 points clear of Buemi in the overall standings with four races to go.
“I saw my opportunity at the beginning when Sam had a bad start. It’s certainly my best start in Formula E, and after I attacked to the maximum to widen the gap but I was a bit scared when it was reduced to nothing by the safety car,” he added.
Di Grassi, whose championship lead could have been far greater had he not been disqualified after winning in Mexico where his car was discovered to be below the legal weight limit, was blown away by the set-up in the French capital.
“It was a great event and great spectacle on a really good circuit and the atmosphere was incredible. It was really special to race here in Paris. That’s what Formula E is all about,” he said.