Nelson Piquet Jr has taken a large step towards the inaugural FIA Formula E Championship title with a lights-to-flag win in the Moscow ePrix. Piquet’s second win extends his championship lead over second-placed finisher Lucas di Grassi, while costly mistakes for eDAMS.Renault’s Sébastien Buemi may have ended the Swiss driver’s championship hopes.
Starting second on the grid, Piquet Jr jumped ahead of pole sitter Jean-Éric Vergne off the start and was never headed, at one point having a lead of over five seconds before conserving energy late in the race to finish 2.012 seconds ahead of di Grassi.
The biggest talking point of the race was an incredibly slow pitstop for Sebastien Buemi. The eDAMS team mistakenly held their driver for 68 seconds, rather than the mandated 58-second minimum pitstop time. The ten-second delay dropped Buemi down the order, before he fought through to finish third on the road.
Given Buemi crossed the line 11.050 seconds behind Piquet at the end of the race, and set the fastest lap time in doing so, one can only wonder if he would have challenged for the lead without the pit lane delay.
Post-race, it all became academic as things turned from bad to worse for Buemi, after he was judged to have been released from his pit bay in an unsafe manner, into the path of Nick Heidfeld – stewards handing out a 29-second time penalty that dropped him from third to ninth overall for the race. The result means Buemi now sits third in the Drivers’ Championship standings, 23 points behind Piquet and 6 points behind di Grassi. With a maximum of 60 points left available from the double-header final round in London, it seems Buemi will need misfortune to strike Piquet in at least one of the races to remain in with a serious shout.
Venturi’s Nick Heidfeld scored a long-awaited first Formula E podium when he was promoted to third in light of Buemi’s penalty, with Vergne moving up to fourth. The Frenchman had entered the final lap in third place, but he and Buemi made contact at the chicane. Buemi slipped by, and then appeared to slow to allow Vergne back past but he did not take the opportunity. Instead, the wily Heidfeld capitalised and passed Vergne to follow Buemi over the line.
Daniel Abt finished in fifth place after Buemi’s penalty, ahead of a strong showing from the Amlin Aguri pair of Salvador Duran and Antonio Felix da Costa.
Da Costa’s charge from fourteenth on the grid heavily featured Jarno Trulli. His early progress was halted once he reached the rear of the Italian, whose attempts to keep da Costa behind included shortcutting the Turn 7 chicane on three occasions. Stewards deemed Trulli did not sufficiently slow after each cut to negate any advantage he received, and consequently has been handed a five-place grid penalty for the first race in London.
After finally making a pass on Trulli (which didn’t happen until after the pit stops), da Costa continued on his charge, with Nicolas Prost becoming his final victim on the last lap.
With Buemi demoted to ninth the final position in the top ten was taken by Justin Wilson. The Briton claimed a point on his Formula E debut but only after another post-race penalty, this time for Loïc Duval. Duval was battling with Wilson on the final lap, but out-braked himself and hit the car of Trulli in front. A 29-second post-race penalty was the result, and dropped Duval from tenth to fifteenth, just behind Stéphane Sarrazin, who was forced to the back of the grid for breaching parc fermé conditions after qualifying.
Other drivers to encounter issued included Sam Bird and Bruno Senna. Bird had to switch to his second car after just a handful of laps as a result of damage to his right-rear wheel and tyre. While unable to complete the remaining race distance in the second car, Bird attempted – ultimately unsuccessfully – to set the fastest race lap.
Senna’s race was compromised when he too was forced to make an early switch to his second car. The Brazilian made a mistake at Turn 1 and hit the barriers with the rear of his Mahindra, losing his wing in the process.
Speaking post-race, Piquet was pleased with his performance, praising his team’s preparation after a ‘sub-par’ event in Berlin: “We got really prepared coming to Russia. We knew it would be an important race for us after, I would say, not a very strong performance in Berlin. I think everything was important – practice, and especially qualifying well was really important here. I think if I hadn’t qualified at the front it would have been close to impossible to win the race. Track position was very hard, you could see there was not much action in the back of the race, so I am glad I qualified very well, and had a great start. I think our procedure is a mixture of a bit of luck, good reaction, and I think set-up helps a little bit. We just did a great job, everything worked perfectly, and we did our homework.”
For di Grassi, second place was vindication that the speed he showed before being disqualified in the previous event in Berlin had nothing to do with having an illegal car in that event: “For everybody that was in doubt that our car was illegal for some reason, or we had any advantage by the wing we had in Berlin, it just shows that we had a very fast car today. Track position is very important, and if we were in front we might not have been like in Berlin, but we showed everyone that we had again a fast car. It does not matter we had a small repair which was deemed illegal in Berlin which cost us 25 points, one podium and leading the championship. In the end it was something that, for me, was a decision which was not in the right way.”
Before the race, it was revealed that the three championship contenders had won the FanBoost vote. Piquet Jr used his boost to maintain his race lead, di Grassi used the feature during his early-race battle with Buemi, while Buemi utilised his late in the race when chasing down Vergne.
In the Teams’ Championship standings, only an absolute disaster for eDAMS.Renault in London will stop the team sealing the inaugural title, although they proved they are no certainty with their strategic blunder in the pits. The team currently holds a 44 point lead over Audi Sport ABT, with NEXTEV TCR a further eleven points back in third place.
The final event of the Inaugural FIA Formula E Championship is the London ePrix, comprising two races across the weekend of June 27 and 28.
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Nelson Piquet Jr||NEXTEV Team China Racing||35||43:18.867|
|2.||Lucas di Grassi||Audi Sport ABT Formula E Team||35||+ 2.012|
|3.||Nick Heidfeld||VENTURI Formula E Team||35||+ 11.548|
|4.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Andretti Autosport Formula E Team||35||+ 12.416|
|5.||Daniel Abt||Audi Sport ABT Formula E Team||35||+ 25.626|
|6.||Salvador Durán||Amlin Aguri||35||+ 28.960|
|7.||António Félix da Costa||Amlin Aguri||35||+ 30.529|
|8.||Nicolas Prost||Team e.DAMS Renault||35||+ 31.556|
|9.||Sébastien Buemi*||Team e.DAMS Renault||35||+ 40.050|
|10.||Justin Wilson||Andretti Autosport Formula E Team||35||+ 46.320|
|11.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Dragon Racing Formula E Team||35||+ 51.474|
|12.||Karun Chandhok||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||35||+ 52.493|
|13.||Jaime Alguersuari||Virgin Racing Formula E Team||35||+ 55.810|
|14.||Stéphane Sarrazin||VENTURI Formula E Team||35||+ 56.715|
|15.||Loïc Duval*||Dragon Racing Formula E Team||35||+ 1:18.763|
|16.||Bruno Senna||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||34||+ 1 lap|
|17.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Trulli Formula E Team||34||+ 1 lap|
|18.||Jarno Trulli*||Trulli Formula E Team||32||Collision|
|19.||Antonio García||NEXTEV Team China Racing||32||+ 3 laps|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Sam Bird||Virgin Racing Formula E Team||24||Battery|
- Buemi was awarded 29-second drive-through penalty (applied as a post-race time penalty) for unsafe pit release.
- Duval was awarded 29-second drive-through penalty (applied as a post-race time penalty) for colliding with Jarno Trulli.
- Trulli was awarded a 5-place grid penalty for the next race as a result of overshooting Turn 7 on three occasions, thereby gaining an advantage which he failed to redress.
Images via FIA Formula E Media