Sébastien Buemi has romped to victory in the opening round of the 2015-16 FIA Formula E Championship in Beijing, finishing over eleven seconds clear of Lucas di Grassi (ABT Schaeffler Audi) and Nick Heidfeld (Mahindra).
Having claimed an assured pole position in the preceding qualifying and ‘Super Pole’ sessions, the Renault e.DAMS driver led off the line and blasted away from the chasing pack to the tune of over a second a lap before the compulsory car change pit stop at mid-distance.
The Swiss driver’s cause was aided by teammate Nicolas Prost, who drove an erratic race. The Frenchman had wheelspin from his front-row start and fell to third behind Heidfeld, before running wide at Turn 3 on Lap 2 to drop to fourth behind di Grassi.
Despite running an assured second, Heidfeld’s marginally slower Mahindra proved to be a blocker for the faster di Grassi and Prost, who ultimately had the rest of the field bottled up behind them as the pit stops approached.
All of that allowed Buemi to skip away into a huge lead, which was further extended thanks to an early full-course yellow flag brought out on Lap 3 when Simona de Silvestro crashed her Amlin Andretti at Turn 3.
The lower reaches of the points saw a fierce battle between the two DS Virgin Racing cars of Jean-Éric Vergne and Sam Bird, as well as the Dragon Racing entry of Loïc Duval. Duval and Vergne nearly came to blows when Vergne aggressively defended against his compatriot; Duval was later able to return serve by getting by.
Vergne and Bird’s aggression would ultimately prove to be something of a challenge, as each had been too aggressive with their power consumption and had to coast to the pits for their respective car changes.
Duval and teammate Jérôme d’Ambrosio – along with the two NEXTEV TCRs of Oliver Turvey and Nelson Piquet Jr – were able to run a lap longer thanks to better power consumption, and all four benefited from the race’s second full-course yellow at the time of their pit stops to vault up the order.
That caution period was brought about by Aguri driver António Félix da Costa, who punted former F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve’s Venturi into a spin at Turn 2, much to the Canadian’s frustration. Da Costa was out on the spot with deranged steering, while Villeneuve was able to continue, although he would finish a lap down on the field in fourteenth place.
The pit stop and car change cycles saw Heidfeld lose places to both di Grassi and Prost, but the German was quickly able to dispose of Prost on the pair’s out-lap – this time without Prost turfing his WEC teammate into the wall as was the case last year…
Prost’s hopes of challenging for the podium came undone when – in identical circumstances to those which befell teammate Buemi at the same even last year – his rear wing collapsed. He was shown the mechanical black flag and was forced to retire.
That left di Grassi and Heidfeld to complete the podium, although Heidfeld had to contend with an aggressive challenge from the two Dragon Racing cars of Duval and d’Ambrosio, who both tried and failed to get ahead of the German in the closing laps.
Turvey benefited from excellent power consumption and pitting during the full-course caution to move up to sixth place, and he should have been joined by teammate and reigning champion Piquet were it not for the Brazilian’s car mysteriously grinding to a halt on his out-lap. Piquet was eventually able to get his car restarted, but lost two laps to the leaders in the process.
That promoted Formula E debutante Nathanël Berthon into eigith place behind Sam Bird, with Stéphane Sarrazin (Venturi) and Robin Frijns (Amlin Andretti) rounding out the top ten.
Sarrazin and Frijns each gained a place in the final classification thanks to a post-race time penalty for the ABT Schaeffler Audi of Daniel Abt for an unsafe pit release.
The second round of the 2015-16 FIA Formula E Championship takes place on 7 November at the Putrajaya street circuit in Malaysia.
|2015-16 Formula E Formula E Beijing ePrix – Final Classification (26 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.DAMS||26||50:08.835|
|2.||Lucas di Grassi||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||26||+ 11.006|
|3.||Nick Heidfeld||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||26||+ 15.681|
|4.||Loïc Duval||Dragon Racing||26||+ 16.009|
|5.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Dragon Racing||26||+ 16.514|
|6.||Oliver Turvey||NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team||26||+ 39.466|
|7.||Sam Bird||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||26||+ 47.531|
|8.||Nathanaël Berthon||Team Aguri||26||+ 58.620|
|9.||Stéphane Sarrazin||Venturi Formula E Team||26||+ 1:07.814|
|10.||Robin Frijns||Amlin Andretti Formula E Team||26||+ 1:09.260|
|11.||Daniel Abt*||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||26||+ 1:13.351|
|12.||Jean-Éric Vergne||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||26||+ 1:31.050|
|13.||Bruno Senna||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||26||+ 1:50.833|
|14.||Jacques Villeneuve||Venturi Formula E Team||25||+ 1 lap|
|15.||Nelson Piquet Jr||NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team||24||+ 2 laps|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Nicolas Prost||Renault e.DAMS||22||Rear Wing|
|DNF.||António Félix da Costa||Team Aguri||13||Collision|
|DNF.||Simona de Silvestro||Amlin Andretti Formula E Team||2||Accident|
|Fastest Lap||Team / Entry||Lap||Time|
|Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.DAMS||24||1:39.993|
* Post-race penalties:
- Daniel Abt – who was originally classified in ninth place – was issued a 10-second post-race time penalty for an unsafe pit release.
Image via FIA Formula E Championship