Formula E: Di Grassi defeats Mortara to win first Berlin race

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Following a troublesome London E-Prix, Audi driver Lucas di Grassi bounced back to win the first race of the Berlin showdown with championship leader Nyck de Vries failing to score any points in the penultimate round of the 2020/2021 Formula E season. F1Technical's Balázs Szabó is reporting from the Berlin FE paddock.

While the qualifying session indicated that DS Techeetah had the upper hand over its rivals in Berlin Tempelhof, the Shanghai-based outfit’s duo of Jean-Eric Vergne and Antonio Felix da Costa seemed to struggle with race pace this afternoon.

After claiming the pole position, Vergne got away well, holding on to the lead in front of his team mate da Costa and di Grassi. The first ten minutes of the race went by in a calm fashion with drivers managing tyres, battery and temperatures in the hot and sunny weather.

Lap 8 saw Jaguar driver Sam Bird slow down due to a technical problem. The race direction led by Scot Elkins seemed to wait for the British driver to get his car going again. However, Bird was unable to restart his Jaguar, which prompted the race direction to deploy the safety car.

The MINI Electric Pacesetter rolled out on to the Tempelhof circuit to give marshals the chance to clear the Jaguar, with the race going green at just under half an hour remaining.

There was only a single ATTACK MODE activation in the first Berlin race instead of the more usual pair of four-minute doses of the 35kW power boost. However, it made things not easier, in fact engineers and drivers had to work diligently to find out the right strategy to get the best out of the power boost.

Rene Rast made the best of his attack mode, jumping a raft of his rivals including Andre Lotterer, Maximilian Guenther, Jake Dennis, Mitch Evans, Norman Nato, Edoardo Mortara and Vergne within a few laps.

In the meantime, the lead switched on Lap 18 at the hairpin with Da Costa moving beyond his teammate at the hairpin. The Audi drivers seemed to have eye-catching pace with both di Grassi and Rast managing to make it beyond da Costa for the lead, sweeping by at Turn 1 on Lap 20.

However, Edoardo Moratara used his attack mode to get behind the leading duo, using his attack mode. The Swiss-Italian then managed to bypass both Audis with 17 minutes plus one lap to run, and his Venturi stablemate Nato followed.

The race was, however, not done and dusted with several drivers activating their attack mode a bit later. One of those drivers was di Grassi, who used his 35kW boost a bit later than the Venturis, and carved by the cars of the Monaco-based outfit for the lead on Lap 27.

In the meantime, Rast started to slip down the order as his rivals used the additional power boost a bit later than the Audi racer.

When the race headed into the last ten minutes, the order was di Grassi, Mortara and Nato. Using his 35kW boost, Evans closed in on Nato to snatch away the final spot on the podium.

Grassi was expected to hold on comfortably to his lead, but the Brazilian started to struggle with oversteering in the closing stages of the race, which enabled Mortara to get close to the Audi driver. In the end, di Grassi managed to hold off the Swiss-Italian racer, but Mortara got within a tenth of a second when the pair crossed the finish line.

Although Audi racer Rast ended up only in P9 despite his promising early pace, his speed with attack mode enabled him to set the fastest race lap, securing the additional point for the quickest lap.

Despite scoring no points in Round 14 of the season, de Vries stayed atop the Drivers’ Championship, ahead of Mortara by three points. Jake Dennis is four points adrift of the Dutchman, followed by Mitch Evans, Robin Frijns, di Grassi and da Costa, who are all within ten points of de Vries.

Evans' podium was enough to see his team Jaguar rise to the top of the Teams' table, ahead of DS TECHEETAH by five points. Envision Virgin is now third, followed by Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler while Mercedes, which led the Standings ahead of the Berlin round, slipped down the order to fifth place.