Formula E: Di Grassi wins in Putrajaya

Brazil's Lucas Di Grassi (ABT Audi Sport FE01) celebrates on the podium with Sam Bird (DS Virgin Racing DSV-01) and Robin Frijns (Andretti - Spark SRT_01E). Photo: Zak Mauger/LAT

Brazil’s Lucas Di Grassi (ABT Audi Sport FE01) celebrates on the podium with Sam Bird (DS Virgin Racing DSV-01) and Robin Frijns (Andretti – Spark SRT_01E). Photo: Zak Mauger/LAT

 

Lucas di Grassi claimed his second FIA Formula E Championship win in a race at Putrajaya in Malaysia that was packed with incident from start to finish.

Even before the race had started Stephane Sarrazin was in trouble as his Venturi cut out on the dummy grid. With the Frenchman unable to take up his place on the front row alongside the Julius Baer Pole Position winner Sebastien Buemi, the start had to be delayed as he was pushed to the back of the field.

With no one directly alongside him, Buemi had a clear run into the first corner, and as was the case in the season-opener in Beijing, the Renault e.dams driver pulled away into a comfortable lead. But this would be no back-to-back win for the Swiss, as his car ground to a halt as the race neared its mid-way point.

With Buemi’s car stopped on track, the team opted to pit his team mate Nicolas Prost as this point, as he had also been suffering with his car cutting out. The early pitstop ensured the Frenchman took over the lead after the mid-race car swaps took place, but as he had to make his energy last for longer than his rivals, combined with his car troubles he was unable to prevent the trailing pack from passing him.

Di Grassi took over in second following the pitstop phase, but only because Dragon Racing’s Loic Duval suffered an over-long stop. The Frenchman had briefly held the lead following Buemi’s troubles, but was now behind not only di Grassi but the Team Aguri car of Antonio Felix da Costa too.

As Prost struggled with his car cutting out, di Grassi made his move for the lead. Behind them Da Costa and Duval entertainingly disputed third. Eventually both found a way by the Renault e.dams and Duval started to close in on the leader. But when a damper broke in the suspension of his car, his great run was ended and di Grassi was left unpressured at the front and duly collected the win.

“You can see how difficult the conditions were with the amount of sand I have in my eye, the amount of sand I have in the car,” he admitted. “It was an extremely tough race, mainly determined by battery temperature. But gladly we managed it better than the others, we did a fantastic job. The team in the background did a perfect job with the strategy and we managed to claim the victory and I’m now the leader in the championship.”

After a mistake in qualifying and a brush with the wall, DS Virgin’s Sam Bird started back in 14th. But the 2014 Putrajaya ePrix winner has an affinity with the circuit, and while those around him were having troubles he was able to concentrate on driving his own race, staying out of trouble and when Jerome D’Ambrosio crashed out of second place for Dragon on the final lap, the Brit inherited the runner-up spot.

“I’m absolutely chuffed,” he beamed. “This one is for the boys at Virgin – I don’t think that too many people know that before the race we were down in the dumps because I didn’t think we were going to finish the race because we only had one battery in the car. The Virgin boys fixed the car so quick, this is for the Virgin boys! If people don’t say Formula E is exciting, then I think they didn’t watch that race. It was carnage, but cool carnage. It’s a series that people should watch because that’s fantastic racing, it’s unreal.”

 

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Da Costa’s great run for Aguri ended when his car cut-out too, which handed a podium finish to Andretti’s Robin Frijns. However, the Dutchman was exceptionally fortunate to finish the race after clouting the wall as he made a passing move on the hobbled Duval.

Even though the suspension and steering were deranged, he somehow kept the car pointing in the right direction and crawled over the line for his first Formula E podium.

“I felt like I was a rally driver!” he exclaimed. “Duval had a problem in front of me and he also had a suspension failure. I overtook him before Turn 9 and I went in just a bit too quick and there was a lot of rubber and dirt. I was on it and I saw the wall coming and I said, ‘this is it, it’s over’. It was quite a big hit and the rear was completely bent, the steering was totally not straight any more. Right corners were fine but in left corners I really had to take it easy. But I’m surprised how strong the Formula E car is.”

Despite his problems at the start Sarrazin came through to fourth, while Bruno Senna took fifth for Mahindra Racing. Da Costa managed to get his car restarted and came home sixth, while Daniel Abt finished seventh for Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport.

Nelson Piquet Jr was again a FanBoost winner and kept out of trouble to score his first points of the season for NEXTEV TCR in eighth, while Nick Heidfeld finished ninth despite having been tipped into a spin at the first corner following a three-way tussle with Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Virgin Racing) who was eliminated on the spot and Jacques Villeneuve (Venturi).

Prost picked up the final point in 10th, while Buemi had the consolation of securing the Visa Fastest Lap and two bonus points.

After one of the most eventful races in Formula E’s short history, the teams and drivers now have a well-earned break before the series resumes in the amazing beachside setting of Punta del Este on 19 December.

 

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Formula E: Di Grassi wins on ABT’s home turf

 

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Brazilian driver Lucas di Grassi took a dominant win in the first ever DHL Berlin ePrix. This was his second win of the season, the first having come in Beijing on 13 September last year, at the inaugural Formula E race. This time, the victory came at the home race for his team, Audi Sport ABT. Behind di Grassi came Jerome D’Ambrosio in second place, the Belgian thus securing his first podium of the season. Third was the Monaco ePrix winner, Sebastien Buemi; the Swiss driver thus making it four top-three finishes.

Thanks to today’s victory, di Grassi consolidates his lead in the drivers’ classification, extending it to 17 points over Nelson Piquet Jr, who finished fifth. Nelsinho scored the 10 points that come with that position, plus the two that go with taking the Visa Fastest Lap Trophy. In the teams’ classification, Audi Sport ABT has closed the gap to e.dams-Renault down to 35 points (140 to 175.) Dragon Racing now moves up into third place: the 30 points picked up by D’Ambrosio and Loic Duval (fourth) means that in one go, the team moves ahead of Virgin Racing and NEXTEV TCR.

Just as in Monaco, here too, in the iconic setting of Tempelhof airport, a large enthusiastic and inquisitive crowd turned up to see the first race for electric single-seaters to be held in Germany – 21,000 of them attending the event, which ended with a concert from DJ Felix Jaehn, currently topping the German charts.

2014/2015 FIA Formula E Championship. Formula E Race. Berlin e-Prix, Berlin, Germany, Europe. Saturday 23 May 2015 Photo: Adam Warner/LAT/Formula E ref: Digital Image _L5R8398

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Qualifying threw up a big surprise, with Jarno Trulli securing an unexpected, but well deserved pole position. Running in the first group, the Italian made himself at home in the seat destined for the fastest driver in the FIA garage and stayed there right to the end, when it was time for the media interviews. At the start, Jarno managed to keep ahead of di Grassi, but the Brazilian pounced when the Italian made a mistake at the second corner and took the lead. From then on, the Audi Sport ABT driver had a pretty solitary race. Trulli, who was already beginning to struggle with energy management, kept everyone behind him for the first five laps, before dropping back, but in the meantime, Lucas had already built up a lead of around 10 seconds, which meant he was able to manage the race from then on.

On lap 10, Buemi was second, with Nick Heidfeld and D’Ambrosio behind him. By lap 17, 18 drivers had pitted to change cars: only the NEXTEV TCR pair stayed out for one further lap. After the run of stops, di Grassi still had a comfortable lead, while D’Ambrosio managed to get past Buemi in the pits, to move up to second.

2014/2015 FIA Formula E Championship. First Practice. Berlin e-Prix, Berlin, Germany, Europe. Saturday 23 May 2015 Photo: Adam Warner/LAT/Formula E ref: Digital Image _A8C7713

2014/2015 FIA Formula E Championship. Jarno Trulli (ITA)/Trulli Racing - Spark-Renault SRT_01E and Alain Prost. Formula E Race. Berlin e-Prix, Berlin, Germany, Europe. Saturday 23 May 2015 Photo: Adam Warner/LAT/Formula E ref: Digital Image _L5R8285

Jarno Trulli, Trulli Racing – Spark-Renault (right) and Alain Prost (left).

The Swiss had to focus more on fending off Heidfeld than on attacking D’Ambrosio, at least up until the German Venturi team driver had to slow the pace. The final laps saw the top three manage the situation easily enough, while behind them Piquet was fighting back, with his usual ability to be a protagonist in the closing stages, thanks to his skill in managing the remaining energy in the best way possible. The Brazilian had struggled in qualifying (13th on the grid) but managed to secure a fifth place that means he is still in the hunt for the title.

While he was first past the chequered flag, di Grassi was last to come back to the pits, because his car stopped on track with a technical problem: it meant he had to wait just a little bit longer before being greeted by his team as they celebrated this important win.

The inaugural Formula E season is now on the home straight. After the German capital, it will be the turn of the Russian one, which hosts the Moscow ePrix on 6 June, against the backdrop of the walls of the Kremlin itself.

2014/2015 FIA Formula E Championship. First Practice. Berlin e-Prix, Berlin, Germany, Europe. Saturday 23 May 2015 Photo: Adam Warner/LAT/Formula E ref: Digital Image _A8C7752

2014/2015 FIA Formula E Championship. Berlin ePrix, Berlin Tempelhof Airport, Germany. Saturday 23 May 2015 Photo: Andrew Ferraro/LAT/Formula E ref: Digital Image _FER0099

FIA Formula E Championship – DHL Berlin ePrix (Rd 8) – Race results:

1. Lucas di Grassi, Audi Sport ABT, 48:18.890
2. Jerome D’Ambrosio, Dragon Racing, +7.586s
3. Sébastien Buemi, e.dams-Renault, +10.019s
4. Loïc Duval, Dragon Racing, +11.094s
5. Nelson Piquet Jr, NEXTEV TCR, +11.561s
6. Nick Heidfeld, Venturi, +20.632s
7. Stéphane Sarrazin, Venturi, +20.921s
8. Jean-Eric Vergne, Andretti, ++21.264s
9. Sam Bird, Virgin Racing, +21.641s
10. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Trulli, +23.222s
11. Nicolas Prost, e.dams-Renault, +24.188s
12. Antonio Felix da Costa, Amlin Aguri, +24.833s
13. Jaime Alguersuari, Virgin Racing, +28.180s
14. Scott Speed, Andretti, +28.735s
15. Daniel Abt, Audi Sport ABT, +31.274s
16. Charles Pic, NEXTEV TCR, +33.077s
17. Salvador Duran, Amlin Aguri, +51.743s
18. Bruno Senna, Mahindra Racing, +53.843s
19. Karun Chandhok, Mahindra Racing, +1:00.289s
20. Jarno Trulli, Trulli, +2 laps

Driver Standings
Lucas di Grassi – 118
Nelson Piquet Jr – 101
Sébastien Buemi – 98
Nicolas Prost – 77
Jerome D’Ambrosio – 70
Sam Bird – 66
Antonio Felix da Costa – 45
Jean-Eric Vergne – 34
Jaime Alguersuari – 30
Bruno Senna – 28

Team Standings
e.dams-Renault – 175
Audi Sport ABT – 140
Dragon Racing – 106
NEXTEV TCR – 105
Virgin Racing – 96
Andretti – 86
Amlin Aguri – 48
Mahindra Racing – 46
Venturi – 30
Trulli – 16

Buemi wins in Formula E

Buemi on the top step of the podium in Monaco.

Buemi (centre) on the top step of the podium in Monaco.

 

Today, Sebastien Buemi became the first driver to secure two wins in the FIA Formula E Championship. The Swiss driver won the first ever race of the series to be held in Europe, adding to his previous victory in Punta del Este. It was also the third win for a driver from the e.dams-Renault team, as Nico Prost had come out on top in Miami, thus extending its lead in the teams’ standings.

The race drew a great crowd of around 23,000 spectators which packed the free grandstands and the hospitality areas.

Earlier in the day, Buemi secured pole ahead of championship leader Lucas di Grassi, while Jerome D’Ambrosio and Nelson Piquet Jr lapped fast enough to secure spots on the second row. But it was the race itself that reserved the real thrills and excitement. When the race was only a few seconds old, the leaders managed to escape unharmed, but behind them there was carnage of epic proportions, triggered by Daniel Abt, with a host of drivers involved – Bruno Senna, Jean-Eric Vergne, Loic Duval, Salvador Duran and Vitantonio Liuzzi – while Jaime Alguersuari had already been knocked out before the first corner.

The Qualcomm Safety Car made an immediate appearance and while the extremely efficient Automobile Club de Monaco marshals removed the Brazilian’s and the Spaniard’s cars, the others managed to make their way back to the pits and switch to their second cars, even though in fact their races were irrevocably compromised. At the restart, a lead group developed consisting of Buemi, with di Grassi on his tail, followed by D’Ambrosio, Piquet, Stephane Sarrazin, Nicolas Prost and Sam Bird.

On lap six, the NEXTEV TCR Brazilian made the most of the FanBoost and overtook the Belgian Dragon driver with a super move at Turn 3, to go third. In front, di Grassi stayed in Buemi’s slipstream, but never found the right moment to get past and so decided to pit early on lap 25, going for an undercut. The move didn’t work but only by a few hundredths because Buemi, who had stayed out on track along with Piquet, managed to stay in the lead fending off the attacking move from di Grassi in his Audi Sport ABT car around the outside of the Harbour Hairpin.

In the second stint, di Grassi first tried to stay with Buemi, although he knew the Swiss driver had more energy available, but then had his mirrors full of Piquet with whom he duelled for the lead in the championship. In the end, despite huge efforts from the Long Beach winner, it was di Grassi who came off best in this all-Brazilian battle, crossing the line just over two seconds down on Buemi, while in the closing stages Piquet had to defend from Bird, who tried his utmost to get a foot on the podium at the very last.

Behind the top four, the rest of the points went to D’Ambrosio, Prost, Sarrazin, Charles Pic, Antonio Felix da Costa and Nick Heidfeld, while Scott Speed, eighth at the flag, was dropped back to 12th, right behind Jarno Trulli and ahead of Karun Chandhok.

Not seeing the flag, but making his mark on the event, was Vergne, who set the fastest lap. He did it in 55.157s, thanks partly to his FanBoost, which was worth two points to the Frenchman, as well as the Visa Fastest Lap Award. It’s the first time this award has been given, a partnership between Formula E and the electronic payment services provider.

After seven races, Lucas di Grassi still leads the drivers’ classification on 93 points, four more than Nelson Piquet Jr. Today’s win puts Buemi back in the hunt for the title: the Swiss driver is third on 83 points, six more than team-mate Prost.

In the teams’ classification, e.dams-Renault has made a significant step forward, the French team now has a 45 point lead over Audi Sport ABT (160 to 115) while Virgin Racing has closed up even further to NEXTEV TCR (94 to 93.) Among the results, worthy of note is the fact the Venturi team managed to get both its drivers into the points at this its home race with Sarrazin seventh and Heidfeld 10th.

The historic venue of Monaco kicked off the European part of the Formula E season and now there are new settings to explore. The next round, the DHL Berlin ePrix, takes place in a fortnight, on 23 May at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport.

FIA Formula E Championship – Monaco ePrix (Rd 7) – Race results:
1. Sébastien Buemi, e.dams-Renault, 48m05s225
2. Lucas di Grassi, Audi Sport ABT, +2.154s
3. Nelson Piquet Jr, NEXTEV TCR, +4.634s
4. Sam Bird, Virgin Racing, +4.801s
5. Jerome D’Ambrosio, Dragon Racing, +5.881
6. Nicolas Prost, e.dams-Renault, +11.032s
7. Stéphane Sarrazin, Venturi, +26.472s
8. Charles Pic, NEXTEV TCR, +49.538s
9. Antonio Felix da Costa, Amlin Aguri, +52.658s
10. Nick Heidfeld, Venturi, +52.936s
11. Jarno Trulli, Trulli, +58.984s
12. Scott Speed, Andretti, +1m14.138s
13. Karun Chandhok, Mahindra Racing, +1 lap
NC Vitantonio Liuzzi, Trulli, DNF
NC Jean-Eric Vergne, Andretti , DNF
NC Salvador Duran, Amlin Aguri, DNF
NC Loïc Duval, Dragon Racing, DNF
NC Daniel Abt, Audi Sport ABT, DNF
NC Jaime Alguersuari, Virgin Racing, DNF
NC Bruno Senna, Mahindra Racing, DNF

Driver Standings
Lucas di Grassi – 93
Nelson Piquet Jr – 89
Sébastien Buemi – 83
Nicolas Prost – 77
Sam Bird – 64
Jerome D’Ambrosio – 52
Antonio Felix da Costa – 45
Jean-Eric Vergne – 34
Jaime Alguersuari – 30
Bruno Senna – 28

Team Standings
e.dams-Renault – 160
Audi Sport ABT – 115
Virgin Racing – 94
NEXTEV TCR – 93
Andretti – 82
Dragon Racing – 76
Amlin Aguri – 48
Mahindra Racing – 46
Venturi – 16
Trulli – 12

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