Formula E kicks off second season in Beijing [w/video]
Former F1 driver Sébastien Buemi was the dominant force leading up to Saturday's race, the Swiss driver posting the fastest time in the first practice session, dominating the qualifying session and topping the charts once again in the Super Pole session as well. But would that strong performance translate into race pace? That's the question that was on the minds of electric racing fans and the pundits heading into the race.
Behind Buemi lined up his Renault e.Dams teammate Nicolas Prost, followed by Nick Heidfeld (Mahindra) and Lucas di Grassi (Abt Audi). Jacques Villeneuve (a former F1 champ and Formula E newcomer) lined up in twelfth position, while female favorite Simona de Silvestro landed in 14th place on the starting grid.
While Buemi made a clean getaway off the line, his wingman Prost stuttered. That allowed Heidfeld to slip into second around Turn 1 before Prost ran wide at Turn 3 to let Lucas di Grassi past as well. Silvestro subsequently buried the nose of her Andretti into Turn 3 that brought out the yellow flag.
By the halfway point, Buemi was solidly in the lead as the drivers headed into the pits to swap into fully charged cars for the second stint. Di Grassi got the jump on Prost and Heidfled coming out of the pits.
Aguri's Antonio Felix da Costa ran into Jacques Villeneuve. The former was taken out of the race, but the latter managed to get back in on the action. After the ensuing yellow flag was swapped back for green, Prost snuck past Heidfeld for third and closed in on di Grassi as well, but a failed rear wing sent Prost back to the pits and ultimately took him out of the race. Loic Duval closed the gap left by Prost and put the pressure on Heidfeld, but wouldn't make it past.
Meanwhile Oliver Turvey pulled off an impressive performance to rise from 15th on the grid to sixth position, with his defending-champion teammate Nelson Piquet similarly working his way up to eighth before technical difficulties left him stranded.
The rest of the race went off without a hitch as Buemi sailed across the finish line a solid 11 seconds ahead of di Grassi to claim the checkered flag and an early lead in the standings. The win follows the three he took last season that placed him second in the inaugural championship, to say nothing of the World Endurance Championship title he took with Toyota last year.
Behind Buemi and di Grassi, Heidfeld held on to third place, followed by Duval, D'ambrosio, Turvey, Sam Bird, Nathanael Berthon, Stephane Sarrazin, and Robin Frijns. Notables Abt, Senna, Villeneuve, and Piquet all finished outside the points. There'll be plenty of time for them to catch up, though, as the championship heads next to Malaysia, followed by Uruguay and Argentina. There's still a slot left vacant by the absence of the Miami round ahead of Long Beach. Then it's off to Paris, Berlin, and Moscow, before the final double-header in London next July.
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