It was a dream start to life at Mahindra Racing for Lucas Di Grassi and newly-appointed CEO Frederic Bertrand, with the Brazilian having put in a stellar performance at the season-opening round of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.
The former Mexico City E-Prix winner was seemingly a man on a mission at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, with Di Grassi having claimed the first pole position of the Gen3 era of the all-electric series. To say his pole position was a shock would be an understatement, with no one having predicted that a Mahindra-powered car would make it into the duels, let alone all the way to the Final. This was due to Mahindra’s four M9Electro’s having shown poor pace during the bulk of pre-season testing and during Free Practice in Mexico City.
Di Grassi found some performance at the right time, though, and went on to claim a well-deserved third-place finish in the race, after defending magnificently for two-thirds of the E-Prix. The former Champion used his wealth of experience to keep the likes of rookie Jake Hughes and André Lotterer behind; however, he had no answer to race winner Jake Dennis and Pascal Wehrlein.
Whilst the year started strongly for Di Grassi, the same couldn’t be said for Oliver Rowland or Mahindra’s customer team the ABT CUPRA Formula E Team. Rowland qualified last on the grid whilst the two ABT Cupra drivers qualified eighteenth and nineteenth, meaning three of the last five cars on the grid were powered by the Indian manufacturer. The race wasn’t much better for Rowland, who finished the race outside the points and collided with René Rast, whilst ABT Cupra driver Robin Frijns was sent to hospital for surgery after fracturing his wrist and hand in an opening lap crash.
With all of that in mind, it was certainly a mixed weekend for the powertrain supplier; however, Di Grassi’s surprise performance left Bertrand to hail the season opener as a “dream weekend”.
“I think it’s been the dream weekend you could want as a Team Principal starting with a new team. We managed the weekend well so it’s very satisfying getting pole and being on the podium at the end. Ollie also came back into the game after a difficult qualifying, he had good pace towards the end.
“A mega result for the team but we need to make sure we can do this at the rest of the events. It’s a great achievement for Mahindra Racing but also all the partners who have worked so hard on creating the Gen3 car. ZF has done a great job on the powertrain and Tech Mahindra have supported us in the performance of the car. It’s great to see all our sponsors sharing this result with us.”