Thirty-five years after his father, Nelson Piquet, claimed his first Formula One win at the same venue, Nelson Piquet Jr has scored his first Formula E win on the streets of Long Beach. Wearing a helmet resplendent in his father’s famous colours, Piquet Jr jumped to the lead into Turn 1 from third on the grid and, save for the pit stop cycle, maintained the lead for the duration of the race.
Pre-race, Piquet, along with Jean-Éric Vergne and Sam Bird were awarded the FanBoost, however for Bird his chances of a race result were dashed at the first corner as his Virgin contacted Sébastien Buemi’s car, damaging the front suspension.
The Briton limped back to pit lane and switched to his second car, but the need to complete over thirty laps on the energy of a single car meant he was unlikely to ever finish. The Briton did make an attempt to use his FanBoost to collect the bonus point for fastest lap but ultimately was beaten to the point late in the race by Nicolas Prost, himself recovering from a drive-through penalty for contact with Jérôme d’Ambrosio.
The safety car was called early for Scott Speed, who after a lock-up into the Turn 1 / 2 chicane, clattered the wall on exit. With the Andretti car cleared away, the race resumed with a tight battle for the minor podium placings, with Daniel Abt in second, Vergne and Lucas di Grassi passing Prost for third, António Félix da Costa and d’Ambrosio.
The safety car was soon out again for Jarno Trulli, who had been t-boned by Charles Pic in an ambitious move at the hairpin which left the Italian out of the race and the Frenchman with a penalty.
Following the restart, Piquet began to clear out on the field again, as pit stops began. Eight seconds lost during his stop saw da Costa drop out of the podium fight, while a brilliant stop from the Andretti Autosport team allowed Vergne to jump into second ahead of Abt. The news soon became worse for Abt as it was found the German had exceeded the maximum energy usage allowance and was served a drive-through penalty.
The fight for third was now down to a two-car battle between di Grassi and Buemi, however the Swiss driver could not find a way past, leaving the Brazilian to take third and re-claim the championship lead.
Out in front Piquet was in a class of his own, and despite some minor communication confusion as to if the team wanted him to coast or push more in the latter stages of the race, became the sixth different Formula E winner from as many races, 1.705 seconds ahead of Vergne. Behind di Grassi and Buemi, Bruno Senna scored a positive fifth place for the Mahindra team. The recovering d’Ambrosio and da Costa, along with Jaime Alguersuari, Loïc Duval and Stéphane Sarrazin completed the top ten.
Having been held up by a slower car in qualifying, Piquet was pleased to show the true potential of his China Racing car to achieve the race result.
“The start was one of those times where everything goes right, the car didn’t wheelspin much and it seemed like both cars in front didn’t have a very good reaction,” he recalled after the race.
“So I got almost alongside Daniel [Abt] and broke as late as I could into the first corner. I was really confident on the brakes here and I found a way to control them which can be a big issue with these cars. As soon as I got the lead it was just a matter of managing from the front and keeping calm without making mistakes. The last race in Miami we lost a great result from a mistake in the pitstop so I think it was crucial to hold on to the lead here. I just made sure I managed the gap to Jean-Éric [Vergne] behind me and just brought it home. This one meant a lot to me!”
For Vergne, several promising showings since debuting in Formula E had been yet to yield a result, but Long Beach marked the first podium for the Frenchman since before he entered Formula 1 in 2012.
“It’s good, it’s been four years since I stood on the podium. In my three years with Toro Rosso in Formula 1 it wasn’t possible so I’m really happy to be here,” he beamed afterwards.
“Maybe I should have been here earlier but that’s racing and you never know what can happen and I’ve been quite unfortunate in the past three races. This result is good points for the team, they are pushing hard in the championship and the podium is always the objective. It was a difficult start to the day with me crashing heavily in practice but I have to say thanks to the guys for fixing it and hope this podium serves as an apology!”
Piquet’s win sees him rocket to second in the driver’s championship, just one point behind di Grassi, who was pleased to reclaim the position atop the standings.
“It’s an honour to be back in the lead of the championship. We should have had a very good result in Buenos Aires and a good result in Miami without the mechanical failures, which were neither mine nor the team’s fault. To return to the podium was the main goal here even if it was my fourth podium in six races…it was off the back of two tough results.”
The championship now moves to Europe for the first time, with round seven being held on a shortened version of world motorsport’s most revered street circuit: Monaco. This next event will be held on Saturday May 9, two weeks before the Formula 1 Grand Prix.
|2015 Formula E Long Beach ePrix – Final Classification|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Nelson Piquet Jr||China Racing Formula E Team||39||46:01.971|
|2.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Andretti Autosport Formula E Team||39||+ 1.705|
|3.||Lucas di Grassi||Audi Sport ABT Formula E Team||39||+ 2.994|
|4.||Sébastien Buemi||Team e.dams Renault||39||+ 3.518|
|5.||Bruno Senna||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||39||+ 8.844|
|6.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Dragon Racing Formula E Team||39||+ 13.460|
|7.||António Félix da Costa||Amlin Aguri||39||+ 16.171|
|8.||Jaime Alguersuari||Virgin Racing Formula E Team||39||+ 17.975|
|9.||Loic Duval||Dragon Racing Formula E Team||39||+ 18.436|
|10.||Stéphane Sarrazin||VENTURI Formula E Team||39||+ 20.418|
|11.||Nick Heidfeld||VENTURI Formula E Team||39||+ 21.326|
|12.||Karun Chandhok||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||39||+ 32.917|
|13.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Trulli Formula E Team||39||+ 38.592|
|14.||Nicolas Prost||Team e.dams Renault||39||+ 42.375|
|15.||Daniel Abt||Audi Sport ABT Formula E Team||39||+ 44.361|
|16.||Charles Pic||China Racing Formula E Team||39||+ 58.125|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Salvador Durán||Amlin Aguri||27||Track rod|
|DNF.||Sam Bird||Virgin Racing Formula E Team||22||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Jarno Trulli||Trulli Formula E Team||7||Collision|
|DNF.||Scott Speed||Andretti Autosport Formula E Team||3||Accident|
Image via FIA Formula E Championship