Rosenqvist wins in Marrakesh to take championship lead

Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra) beats Sébastian Buemi (Renault) in the Marrakesh ePrix
© Formula E

Felix Rosenqvist pulled off a late move on long-time race leader Sébastian Buemi to clinch victory in the Marrakesh ePrix, the third race of the 2017/18 ABB FIA Formula E championship.

It's the Mahindra driver's second win in a row. He was also declared the winner of the second Hong Kong race last month, following Daniel Abt's disqualification for a technical infringement.

The win means he takes a four point lead in the driver standings ahead of DS Virgin's Sam Bird. The Briton finished today's race in third place after suffering early gearbox issues.

The race had got underway with a remarkably orderly start, in much warmer and sunnier conditions than practice and qualifying. Pole winner Buemi led the field into the first corner, followed by Bird and Rosenqvist. Running immediately behind them were Dragon's José María López, Audi's Lucas di Grassi, and Jaguar's Nelson Piquet.

DS Virgin's Alex Lynn had started in sixth place. However he lost out to Piquet in the initial run and was spun off on lap 2 after contact with Audi's Daniel Abt. The German driver was handed a drive-thru penalty for the incident.

Lynn himself was able to rejoin, albeit at the back of the field. He was nearly caught out again moments later when Nicolas Prost had a spin in the Renault with help from Renault's André Lotterer.

Di Grassi initially got the better of Lopez. However he suffered a recurrence of the powertrain issue that had blighted his superpole lap, and retired.

Buemi continued to hold a half second lead from Bird. But the Briton suddenly slowed on lap 16 with gearbox issues, allowing Rosenqvist to take second. Crucially, it happened just before the mid-race pit stops and mandatory car change.

A number of cars had already made their stop when a brief full course yellow was announced for Lotterer who has stalled at the hairpin. It was the end of a bad day at the office for the German. He had earlier been excluded from qualifying after failing to stop for the stewards as required.

Buemi retained the lead with a one second advantage over Rosenqvist when racing resumed, with Bird in third. The trio had almost ten seconds in hand over Piquet and the rest of the field.

Despite starting in 13th, Techeetah's Jean-Éric Vergne had charged through the field. After the pit stops he was up to fifth place ahead of Lopez. Maro Engel was seventh in the Venturi, followed by Mahindra's Nick Heidfeld. Engel's team mate Edoardo Mortara had muscled his way up to ninth, with Andretti's Tom Blomqvist rounding out the top ten.

Lynn and Prost had recovered from their earlier mishaps to run 11th and 12th respectively. The pair subsequently reversed their positions when Prost pulled off a brave lunge down the inside into turn 3.

Meanwhile Buemi's lead had been chipped away by Rosenqvist. The Swede had carefully marshalled his energy while Buemi and Bird had been fighting it out early on. The Swede finally swept past on lap 29 to take the lead. Although Buemi should have had the advantage of FanBoost, Rosenqvist quickly pulled out a safe gap and clinched the win.

Suffering from further mechanical issues, Bird could only watch on from third place while defending from Piquet, Vergne and Lopez. Motara attempted a clumsy challenge on Engel and Heidfeld but came off the worst for it. He was forced to park the Venturi behind the barrier three laps from the finish.

Engel and Heidfeld survived the encounter with limited damage to finish in seventh and eighth respectively. However, Engel was handed a post-race time penalty for causing a collision, dropping him to 13th.

They were followed by Blomqvist, Prost and Lynn. Abt ended the day which had started with so much promise in 12th. He was followed by Evans who had lost out badly in the full course caution. António Félix da Costa (Andretti), Jérome d'Ambrosio (Dragon) and Luca Filippi (NextEV NIO) completed the finishers.

Filippi's team mate Oliver Turvey lasted only half the race. His initial race car had failed on the grid, forcing him to jumped into the second car to take the start. The team was unable to fix the problem on his first car, so his race came to an end at the mid-race pit stops.

The Formula E teams remain in Marrakesh for the rest of the weekend for a rookie test. Paul di Resta, Antonio Giovinazzi, Pietro Fittipaldi, Nyck de Vries and Pietro Fittipaldi are among those due to take part.

Round 4 of the ABB FIA Formula E championship is on February 3, when cars line up for the start of the Antofagasta Minerals Santiago ePrix in Chile.

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