A solitary point is all that will separate Sébastien Buemi from Lucas di Grassi and championship glory heading into the final weekend of the 2015/16 FIA Formula E Championship, following a masterful win by Buemi in the streets of Berlin.
Staring second on the grid, Buemi shadowed pole-sitter Jean-Éric Vergne for the opening laps, conserving power as Vergne attempted to pull away. This situation reversed as Vergne had to begin to conserve power in his DS Virgin car and Buemi made his move, passing the Frenchman and building a lead.
Even a Safety Car period called to recover Loïc Duval’s Dragon Racing car couldn’t end Buemi’s charge, who straight away went back to building his lead again once racing resumed, eventually taking the chequered flag by 1.767 seconds.
Buemi attempted to set the fastest race lap with his second car – the two bonus points for achieving it would have placed the Renault e.Dams driver one point ahead in the championship – but it wasn’t to be, so he will head to the London double-header event one point behind di Grassi. Based on the finish to he inaugural season last year, this may well be critical in the final championship standings.
Nonetheless, Buemi was still very happy with the race win, and credited his strategy early in the race as a big factor in the result.
“The first lap is always a bit tricky because you don’t know how much energy you will consume so basically he was using a lot of energy and I had to decide how much energy I was willing to use in the first laps,” he said later.
“I let him [Vergne] go but after four or five laps he had to save a lot more so I made my move. He closed the door so it was tricky but from then on I focused on building a gap. I was going for the fastest lap with the second car but it was not the quickest race as when you used a lot of energy you really had to save a lot. In the end I didn’t manage it so I’m a bit disappointed with that as it’s two points, but overall it was a good weekend.”
Vergne fell back from Buemi and battled with Daniel Abt, di Grassi and Nicolas Prost at various stages of the race, but it was damage sustained to his front wing at the chicane that ultimately left him fifth at the finish.
Daniel Abt enjoyed his best-ever Formula E result with second place in his home ePrix, despite being held up by lapped traffic as Prost attempted to chase him down. Celebrating the achievement in front of an excited local crowd, Abt shared his joy.
“Today was simply amazing. All day everything went perfectly. The atmosphere was great. The last few days were great,” he beamed.
“Starting the race, I knew I could do it but there were some really strong guys around me. I knew it would be tricky. I had a good start and it was pretty tight into the first corner. JEV was struggling a lot but he defended very aggressively so I had to make a committed move otherwise there was a chance to crash.
“Luckily I made it past and felt pretty confident but then some guys who were lapped just seemed to not know what the blue flags meant and I lost several seconds, especially in the second stint. Then it got interesting again because Prost got close. In the end, even with the safety car, all was good. I’m so happy and really thankful to the team for giving me a good car today.”
Having qualified tenth, di Grassi started in eighth, benefiting pre-race when both the Mahindras of Bruno Senna and Nick Heidfeld along with Dragon’s Jerome d’Ambrosio and Venturi’s Stéphane Sarrazin were moved to the back of the grid for tyre pressure irregularities. Sarrazin would ultimately start from pit lane due to an electrical issue, but would fight through to finish tenth.
Di Grassi’s race was a smart one, moving forward through the field. By managing an extra lap to his rivals in his first car, the Brazilian had additional energy to fight late in the race, which allowed him to slip by the second Renault e.Dams of Prost for third, but could not reach his ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport teammate to battle for second.
Still, given his poor qualifying, Di Grassi was pleased to still be leading the championship at the end of the event.
“I’m very happy, I started eighth, it was a very tough race,” he said.
“Everything against me, including [being held up by] Jean-Éric Vergne on the in-lap and the safety car, but we managed to pass Prost, who made it difficult to overtake but we managed to do another podium and stay in the lead by one point. It couldn’t be closer than that going into London. Now everything is open. London, and London weather, will decide how the championship goes.”
Prost finished in fourth, his points combined with Buemi’s win extend Renault e.Dams team’s championship over the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport cars.
The Andrettis of Robin Frijns and Simona de Silvestro both moved forward during the race; Frijns crossing the line in sixth, while de Silvestro was again in the points with ninth position. Heidfeld moved from the rear to finish seventh, ahead of Mike Conway in the leading Venturi.
Having lost his best-ever starting position earlier in the day, Senna too some consolation by claiming the fastest race lap bonus points on the way to a fifteenth place finish.
With the Moscow round cancelled and the driver’s championship on a knife edge, the break until the London event will simply build the tension between di Grassi and Buemi.
Both drivers have been here before. Both were in championship contention leading in to the final event last season, only to be beaten by Nelson Piquet Jr. This time stage the is set for an enthralling two-way fight at the London ePrix, with races nine and ten of the series to be held in Battersea Park over the weekend of July 2 and 3.
|2015-16 Formula E Berlin ePrix – Final Classification (48 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.DAMS||48||53:46.086|
|2.||Daniel Abt||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||48||+ 1.767|
|3.||Lucas di Grassi||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||48||+ 2.381|
|4.||Nicolas Prost||Renault e.DAMS||48||+ 3.328|
|5.||Jean-Éric Vergne||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||48||+ 4.927|
|6.||Robin Frijns||Amlin Andretti Formula E Team||48||+ 6.501|
|7.||Nick Heidfeld||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||48||+ 7.700|
|8.||Mike Conway||Venturi Formula E Team||48||+ 8.305|
|9.||Simona de Silvestro||Amlin Andretti Formula E Team||48||+ 12.743|
|10.||Stéphane Sarrazin||Venturi Formula E Team||48||+ 13.241|
|11.||Sam Bird||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||47||+ 1 lap|
|12.||Oliver Turvey||NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team||47||+ 1 lap|
|13.||Nelson Piquet Jr||NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team||47||+ 1 lap|
|14.||Ma Qing Hua||Team Aguri||47||+ 1 lap|
|15.||Bruno Senna||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||46||+ 2 laps|
|16.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Dragon Racing||45||+ 3 laps|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||René Rast||Team Aguri||42||+ 7.000|
|DNF.||Loïc Duval||Dragon Racing||39||Mechanical|
|Fastest Lap||Team / Entry||Lap||Time|
|Bruno Senna||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||39||59.067|
Image via FIA Formula E Championship