Dragon Racing’s Jérôme d’Ambrosio has inherited victory in the Berlin ePrix, after dominant on-track winner Lucas di Grassi’s car was excluded from the results.
A post-race technical inspection found di Grassi’s front wing fairings failed to comply with Article 3.1 of the 2015/2015 FIA Formula E Technical Regulations, specifically metal reinforcing rods had been added internally to the wing, along with six wing holes having been sealed, whilst two more contained helicoil inserts. Additionally, it was found that the front flap and gurney contained a filler layer, and had been modified. Whilst the Audi Sport ABT team claimed these discrepancies were merely as a result of repairs that had been made to the wing and gave no performance advantage, the team has decided against appealing the exclusion.
Prior to the post-race drama, di Grassi had dominated the entirety of the race. Starting from second on the grid, the Brazilian followed pole-sitter Jarno Trulli away from the start, before quickly finding his way through to the lead at Turn 3 and building a 4.5-second gap over the field in two laps – the start of a lead that would stretch beyond 11 seconds at one stage.
Trulli held second from Sébastien Buemi and Nick Heidfeld, with the German initially putting pressure on the rear of Buemi’s edams.Renault. Behind, Trulli’s team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi charged from eleventh at the start to sixth place in the opening laps.
Having seen off the challenge from Heidfeld, Buemi latched on to the rear of Trulli’s car, passing for second with the aid of FanBoost. This was effectively the beginning of the end for any hopes Trulli had for a strong result. His car was using energy at an alarming rate, forcing the Italian into conservation mode – once Buemi had passed, Heidfeld, d’Ambrosio and Liuzzi followed in quick succession. The energy use situation was not improved for Trulli in his second car, causing him to retire with two laps remaining.
As pit stops approached, d’Ambrosio found his way past Heidfeld into third, and started challenging Buemi for second. A near perfect pitstop from the Dragon team that was right on the 63-second minimum permitted stop time allowed the Belgian to emerge in second, ahead of Buemi. He then set about trying to chase down di Grassi, ultimately reducing the gap to 7.58 seconds as d’Ambrosio finished second on the road.
Buemi held third, finishing one second ahead of Loïc Duval, whose promotion to third following di Grassi’s exclusion gave Dragon Racing their first double podium result, and moved the team to second in the Team’s Championship. Nelson Piquet Jr, who started the race thirteenth, stormed his way through the field late in the race to cross the line in fifth and also claim two bonus points for fastest lap of the race – set with the assistance of FanBoost.
The two Venturis of Heidfeld and Stéphane Sarrazin finished sixth and seventh – the team’s best points scoring race to date – ahead of a spirited late battle between Andretti’s Jean-Éric Vergne and Virgin’s Sam Bird, which included some contact between the two cars. Tenth over the line was Liuzzi, who fought back from a painfully slow pitstop after his car stalled to score his first Formula E championship points.
Eleventh on track (and ultimately tenth in the race) was Nicolas Prost, giving edams.Renault yet another double-points finish and ensuring the team retains a healthy 63 point lead in the Teams’ standings over Dragon, with Audi Sport ABT a further point behind in third.
Further to di Grassi’s exclusion, Mahindra’s Karun Chandhok was also penalised, with 28 seconds added to his race time for exceeding the maximum permitted power usage. The Indian finished in 18th place.
Speaking before news of di Grassi’s penalty was announced, d’Ambrosio was pleased with second, admitting that the field had given away too much time to di Grassi in the opening stanza: “It could have been a different story, but you build a race from your qualifying, and we started in P6. I knew Lucas would try to build a gap once he passed Jarno so I started trying to work my way up right away. He had great pace and maybe we could have challenged if we’d got to the front sooner, but in the end second is fantastic.”
For Buemi, third place (later elevated to second) was a strong championship point score, given that the Swiss driver felt he struggled for pace throughout the ePrix, especially managing tyre pressures for the abrasive Berlin Tempelhof Airport concrete apron track surface: “I’m quite happy with the result because I felt it was not our weekend. We were slow all weekend. So it’s good to get the points for third place. We didn’t nail the setup of the car or the tyre pressures.”
Di Grassi’s exclusion has meant the Brazilian has fallen from first to third in the Drivers’ Championship standings. Piquet Jr now leads, holding a slender two-point buffer over Buemi. Piquet’s two points for the fastest lap in this ePrix may just prove vital as the championship approaches its final three races: The Moscow ePrix on June 6, and the double-header at the London ePrix on June 27 and 28.
|2015 Formula E Berlin ePrix – Final Classification|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DQ.||Lucas di Grassi*||Audi Sport ABT Formula E Team||33||48:18.980|
|1.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Dragon Racing Formula E Team||33||+ 7.586|
|2.||Sébastien Buemi||Team e.dams Renault||33||+ 10.019|
|3.||Loic Duval||Dragon Racing Formula E Team||33||+ 11.094|
|4.||Nelson Piquet Jr||China Racing Formula E Team||33||+ 11.561|
|5.||Nick Heidfeld||VENTURI Formula E Team||33||+ 20.632|
|6.||Stéphane Sarrazin||VENTURI Formula E Team||33||+ 20.921|
|7.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Andretti Autosport Formula E Team||33||+ 21.264|
|8.||Sam Bird||Virgin Racing Formula E Team||33||+ 21.641|
|9.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Trulli Formula E Team||33||+ 23.222|
|10.||Nicolas Prost||Team e.dams Renault||33||+ 24.188|
|11.||António Félix da Costa||Amlin Aguri||33||+ 24.383|
|12.||Jaime Alguersuari||Virgin Racing Formula E Team||33||+ 28.180|
|13.||Scott Speed||Andretti Autosport Formula E Team||33||+ 28.735|
|14.||Daniel Abt||Audi Sport ABT Formula E Team||33||+ 31.274|
|15.||Charles Pic||China Racing Formula E Team||33||+ 33.077|
|16.||Salvador Durán||Amlin Aguri||33||+ 51.743|
|17.||Bruno Senna||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||33||+ 53.843|
|18.||Karun Chandhok*||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||33||+ 1:00.289|
|19.||Jarno Trulli||Trulli Formula E Team||31||Energy|
* Di Grassi was disqualified for running non-standardised components. Chandhok was issued with a 28-second post-race time penalty for exceeding maximum power usage.
Images via FIA Formula E Media