After a string of strong performances, Audi’s Lucas di Grassi suffered a major setback to his 2019 Formula E campaign in the second last lap of last weekend’s Chinese ePrix.
The weekend was anything but ascendant for di Grassi, who started the race in tenth. Through the race, though, di Grassi had worked his way up into sixth place, on the tail of his teammate Daniel Abt.
The two drivers were stuck behind DS Techeetah’s Andre Lotterer as time ticked down towards the end of the race. Right behind them, though, Nissan’s Sebastien Buemi was trying to get past Enivision Virgin Racing’s Robin Frijns.
Buemi leaped to the inside to get past Frijns, who defended. Buemi crashed hard into Frijns, who went barreling into the hairpin with too much speed and into di Grassi.
“That was extremely frustrating, because today we could have taken the championship lead,” said di Grassi after the race. “Up until that point, it was a great race.”
Not only did the crash impact di Grassi’s race, it’s also a consequential setback for his championship.
After a couple of high points races, di Grassi went from expecting eight points to getting none. Had he earned those points, he would have been in third place in the championship, just one point behind second place and just two points behind the championship leader, Antonio Felix Da Costa.
“Toward the end, some drivers put their elbows out much more than it should be,” said Team Principal Allan McNish. “This put Lucas completely out of the race and Daniel was muscled out of the way. The result is a bit disappointing for us, because we had the performance, the drivers and the strategy for more.”
Di Grassi’s teammate, Daniel Abt, meanwhile, just escaped being caught in the crash and finished his race in fifth, one spot ahead of where he had started.
Despite the strong result, Abt left the race frustrated, too.
The driver felt he had been in the running for a podium position before a red flag stopped the race and ruined his strategy.
Regardless, his ten points mean that he holds on to his seventh place in the championship and shrinks the gap to sixth.
Abt and di Grassi will be able to reset and earn some points when Formula E heads to Rome on April 13.
a version of this article first appeared on Fourtitude.com