Formula E spools down in London double-header [spoilers]
A number of new drivers lined up for their final chance to take part in the first global electric racing series ahead of this weekend, but it was former F1 driver Sébastien Buemi who took pole position in preparation for the first of the two races in London's Battersea Park. Jerome d'Ambrosio lined up beside him, followed by Lucas di Grassi, with Nelson Piquet Jr – the points leader and championship favorite – starting fourth. Jean-Eric Vergne, Nicolas Prost, newcomer Oliver Turvey, Bruno Senna, Sam Bird, and Salvador Duran rounded out the rest of the top ten on the starting grid, the rest of the drivers filling out the back half.
With an unsettling bump on the track uncovered on the entry to Turn 1, a barrier was erected and the race was started behind the safety car to prevent an unpredictable and potentially devastating pileup charging off the starting line. Buemi had little trouble holding on to his lead in the procession and once the race got underway in earnest, opening up a commanding lead as he pulled away from the rest of the field. Halfway into the race, Daniel Abt of his namesake Audi-sponsored team crashed into the wall exiting the final corner, sending the safety car out again. The lead Buemi had built up over the opening laps was dwindled, but he built it up again in the ensuing laps once the safety car was recalled.
Eager to springboard off the points lead he carried into the weekend and the win he took at the last race in Moscow, Piquet closed in fast on di Grassi. The two battled hard for third until Piquet bounced off his rival and off into the chicane, letting Vergne by in the process. Piquet renewed his assault on di Grassi after the requisite car-swap, but with his fellow Brazilian setting the fastest lap in defense of his position, Piquet never did make it by.
Neither did Vergne manage to get by d'Ambrosio for second, or d'Ambrosio to steal the lead for Buemi. At the end of 29 laps around the park, Buemi took his third win of the season – his second from pole – in a command performance. D'Ambrosio followed in second, Vergne third, di Grassi fourth, Piquet fifth, and Sam Bird seventh. Nicolas Prost finished seventh, helping to cement the teams' championship for the e.dams team – run by Alain Prost and backed by Renault – with another race still to go.
The results from that first race put Buemi within five points of the lead heading into the second and final race. But while he carried that momentum with him through both practice sessions, he managed no better than sixth on the starting grid for the next race. Ahead of him were Stephane Sarrazin (on pole), Jerome d'Ambrosio (once again in second), Loic Duval (third), Sam Bird (fourth), and Bruno Senna (fifth). Things looked far worse, however, for points leader Piquet, who was relegated way down the order to sixteenth – fifth from last, and ten places behind Buemi.
A brilliant performance, however, saw Piquet advance up the order in the opening laps, all the while managing to conserve enough energy to go longer in the first stint than the rest of the field before pulling in to swap to a car with a fully charged battery. He rejoined in tenth place, and with the Crashgate scandal still looming in his mirrors, passed wingman Turvey for ninth place under team orders, before taking Duran around the outside for eighth place.
That was all Piquet needed. That, and a crucial mistake on Buemi's part. The Swiss driver spun in the closing laps, losing a position and failing to regain it from Senna on the last lap. And with it, he lost the championship by a single point.
All the while Sarrazin fought with Sam Bird for the lead. The Brit didn't manage to make it past his French rival, but Sarrazin used up too much energy in his defense, and was penalized by 49 seconds to drop from the top down to 15th in the final order. Bird was thus awarded his second win of the season, following his win in Malaysia earlier in the season. To make the victory even sweeter, Bird clocked the fastest lap of the race as well. Meanwhile Sarrazin, having started from pole, was booted off what would have been his first win, and his first podium finish at that. D'Ambrosio finished second, Duval third, Senna fourth, Buemi fifth, and di Grassi sixth.
Ultimately it was Piquet, however, who had the most to celebrate, vanquishing all rivals to be crowned the first FIA Formula E Champion. The Brazilian driver and son of a three-time F1 champ, Piquet took two wins this season, another three podium finishes, and (one early retirement aside) landed in the points at every race this season.
With his rotating roster of teammates never landing once on the podium (and more often than not out of the points) Team China Racing didn't stand much of a chance of winning the teams' championship though. The Renault-sponsored e.dams team took that by a far more comfortable margin.
And so concludes our coverage of the inaugural FIA Formula E Championship. Next season's calendar has yet to be announced, but if this season was anything to go by, it'll be another few months before the battle picks up again. September is when the very first race was held, and that's likely when Piquet and e.dams will be back to defend their titles.
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