A frustrating sign

Weather and unforeseen obstacles to overcome, but top 10 finishes in both races.

It was not the sign Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler was looking for in Valencia – a difficult weekend of racing, but plenty of championship points for the team nonetheless.

26 April, 2021

The number of safety cars meant that the race was extended and that created major issues for energy management strategies

The fourth and fifth races of the 2021 Formula E season offered up plenty by way of challenges for all of the teams in Valencia, Spain over the weekend. Terrible weather was the major stumbling block in Saturday’s race, creating incident after incident out on the track that led to a string of safety cars.

Even the drivers who managed to avoid incidents on the track were impacted by the number of safety cars, the resultant delays meaning that the race itself was stretched from its standard 45 minute duration and ended up playing havoc with the carefully planned race and energy strategies.

The race ultimately ended up being one lap too long for most of the drivers, meaning that the carefully planned energy management strategies went out the window and drivers had to try and conserve energy just to ensure they finished the race. For the two Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler drivers, René Rast and Lucas di Grassi, already dealing with other challenges in the race, it was just another factor to consider. Rast had earlier run wide through the gravel bed and lost time, while di Grassi was hit with a 10 second stop-and-go penalty that moved him back in the field. 

Even with these challenges though the pair managed to finish inside the top 10 and in the points, with Rast securing fifth and Lucas in tenth.

On Sunday the weather was significantly better and both drivers were out to improve on the previous day’s racing. All seemed to be on track with Rast moving from 14th position up into third, when one of those of things you simply can’t prepare for saw his podium finish evaporate. 

It was a sign – literally – that stopped the German’s drive through the field. An advertising sign that became wrapped around the front of Rast’s Audi e-tron FE07 and created enough interference to aerodynamics and airflow to almost end his race completely. 

“The podium would definitely have been possible today,” said the German after the thrilling race. “But then, André Lotterer kicked up an advertising banner directly in front of me, which got stuck on my car. From that moment on, I had no more pace. That was extremely unlucky.” 

Rast struggled on and managed to finish in sixth position and once again in the points for the race, the result moving him up to sixth in the drivers’ standings of the world championship and just 18 points behind the leader.

Lucas di Grassi had another start from well back in the field after a mistake in qualifying, but the Brazilian seems to relish his come from behind drives and fought his way through the field yet again to wrap up tenth position for the second time in the weekend. 

“René and Lucas both drove strong races,” said Team Principal Allan McNish. “Today, we again saw that our package is strong after another good recovery drive with both of our cars finishing in the points.” 

The team now has another fortnight to prepare for the Monaco E-Prix – Lucas’s home race – on May 8th.

The Brazilian fought his way through the field yet again to wrap up tenth position for the second time in the weekend