Lucas Di Grassi returned resurgent from his disqualification in Mexico, with a decisive win that sees him lead the championship by a single point. Di Grassi capitalised on an off-track excursion from pole sitter Sam Bird to take the lead, and made the most of a crash that sent Sebastian Buemi to the back, taking victory and closing the points deficit in one fell swoop. Venturi’s Stephane Sarrazin, and Daniel Abt completed the Long Beach podium.
The race saw a clean getaway, with Bird maintaining lead over Di Grassi, Sarrazin, Heidfeld and Frijns. Relegated to last after his initial pole, due to an under pressure tyre, Da Costa immediately made up a place over Piquet, in P15 by lap 3. A determined Frijns harried Heidfeld for P4; the Mahindra’s defence held until a lock up saw Frijns, Abt, and both Renault pass, demoting him to P8. Da Costa proved his qualifying was no fluke, passing Turvey to take P13, and continued his charge. Sebastian Buemi, meanwhile, sought to make up for a poor qualifying with a fastest lap, and began closing on Daniel Abt, making a textbook pass on the inside of the hairpin, and moving up into P5.
As the pack settled, the action kicked in. Buemi put paid to his race in a clumsy move in the hairpin, running into the back of Robin Frijns, damaging his own front wing, and the rear wing of the Andretti, dropping Frijns from P5 to P9. Lucas Di Grassi soon capitalised on his pace and completed a perfect overtake on race leader Sam Bird, swerving to the inside of the Virgin car, before jumping back out and making a clean pass. Sebastian Buemi’s race took another blow, as he received the black and orange flag, and both he and Robin Frijns pitted for repairs, taking to the track in their second cars, a lap down. Benefiting from misfortune, Da Costa found himself in the points in P10, and began to hassle Vergne for P9.
As the pit stop window approached, Di Grassi led from Bird, Sarrazin, Abt, and Prost. With 10% battery remaining, it was clear that the Mahindra pair were going to stay out, and Heidfeld and Senna temporarily led the race. As the pack pitted, salt was rubbed into Sebastian Buemi’s wound, with a drive-through penalty given for the earlier collision. Di Grassi leapt out of the pits just ahead of Sam Bird, to hold the lead, the top 5 keeping rank, with the Mahindra strategy a success, seeing Heidfeld and Senna into P6 and P7. The day could only get worse for Renault, as Nico Prost, in P4, was given a drive-through penalty for leaving the pits under the minimum time.
Sam Bird’s chance of a podium was lost after a lock-up saw him in the tyre wall at turn 5, dropping him down to P6. The Brit recovered, and immediately began to hassle Bruno Senna for the rest of the race, but could not make the move stick, despite the Mahindra driver struggling with rear braking. Nelson Piquet’s woeful weekend came to an end as he clattered over the kerb after taking too much speed into turn 2, and put the NEXTEV car into the wall, bringing out a safety car in Lap 34. A lap later, Da Costa’s misfortune struck, as the luckless Aguri driver retired from a hard-won P9. With the safety car out, Lucas Di Grassi’s 4.3 second lead was lost, with cars bunched behind him for the restart. However, with three laps left, Di Grassi was able to hold position, and take a confident victory over Sarrazin and Abt. Mahindra’s Heidfeld and Senna took fourth and fifth, followed by Bird, D’Ambrosio, Duval, Silvestro, and Conway. Outside of the points were Prost, Turvey, Vergne, Duran, Frijns, Buemi, and the DNF’s of Da Costa and Piquet.
An elated Di Grassi said: “It was a fantastic race. We knew that Mexico was just a mistake and we’re back in the points. We’re going to keep pushing and try to win races. That’s all we’re here for. It’s a great feeling and well deserved. In the end, things go the right way. Very happy with all the effort from the team.”
The FIA Formula E Championship now moves to the European leg, with the sold out Paris ePrix taking place in the architectural complex of Les Invalides, on April 23rd.