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Dramatic Moments of 2018-19: Monumental Mexican Magic

Lucas di Grassi’s second win in Mexico City was just as dramatic as his first in 2017…

Photo: Formula E

In terms of sporting theater, this was of the very highest drama.

The final laps of the Mexico City E-Prix had it all: Wheel-to-wheel action between the leaders, critical energy management, the surprise high-profile error of one grandee team and then a breathtaking final act which will stay long in the memory of all those who witnessed it.

That Lucas di Grassi won the thing by leading approximately the last 50 meters of it ensured that Audi claimed a hat-trick of wins amid the rarefied atmosphere.

The race had brewed up to a pot boiler after the tone was set earlier when Nelson Piquet Jr. vaulted over the back of Jean-Eric Vergne and triggered a long red flag, the first of a flurry that would punctuate Formula E races throughout spring.

The energy calculations were done but Nissan e.dams got it badly wrong and on the penultimate lap both Sebastien Buemi and Oliver Rowland ran out of kilowatts.

This ensured a snarling train of Pascal Wehrlein, who had led from pole, Lucas di Grassi, Antonio Felix da Costa and an energy-fat Edoardo Mortara all had realistic chances of victory not only going in to the last lap but also the last few corners.

The fight was relentless and despite several brawny moves di Grassi looked to have lost his chance, albeit after a move which should have stuck into the penultimate chicane until, feeling like he was avoiding contact, Wehrlein overshot it and came back out still leading.

Then the Aztec Gods really started to have their fun.

Exiting the final corner Wehrlein started to derate and his battery lost its spark. In an instant the wolverine-like Di Grassi jinked right and headed for the flag and victory. He could barely believe it.

Photo: Audi Sport

The roar of the crowd in the stadium amphitheatre mingled with the gasps in the media center as Di Grassi shot out from under Pascal Wehrlein’s rear wing, almost glanced the pit wall and then punched the air in delight.

The wild celebrations in the Audi pit were more akin to a last minute winner deep into extra time. They contrasted gratingly to the dejection in the Mahindra pit where quite logically Alejandro Agag had falsely positioned himself for his obligatory TV back slaps.

In a fitting epitaph to the drama, McNish expanded to e-racing365 on the soccer analogy.

“It was like when Manchester United came back in the Champions League [final] in 1999,” McNish quipped, referencing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s last-minute goal to win the European final in perhaps the greatest sporting comeback of all time.

It was a topical soundbite as a few weeks before Solskjaer had returned to his beloved Mancunian club as manager and somehow it seemed apt that McNish, who as a driver was himself involved in some heroics of legendary repute, was there helping to mastermind this remarkable finale.

“The first thing I looked at was the line, so I looked at the line and once that happened, the headset flew off, the radio hit the back of the unit because everybody jumped up and the back of the pit was basically destroyed,” continued McNish.

If the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez pitlane had a grassy area he and his team would have slid along it on their knees. It was that kind of moment where any modesty or sense of decorum goes completely out of the window, and rightly so.

Photo: Audi Sport

Sam Smith is e-racing365's Formula E Editor. A 20-year veteran in motorsports media, including press officer roles in both the FIA Sportscar Championship and at Lola Group, Smith is a well-known face in the Formula E paddock, where he served as series editor for Motorsport.com from 2014-17. Contact Sam

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