Lucas di Grassi has won the FIA Formula E Putrajaya ePrix, a chaotic race where even one of his fellow podium finishers limped home with damage.
Pole sitter Sébastien Buemi won the start unchallenged after second-placed Stéphane Sarrazin’s Venturi car cut out on the dummy grid and was pushed into the pit lane.
That delayed the start in the process, but the green-flag conditions lasted all of a few corners before the Safety Car was called so Oliver Turvey’s NEXTEV TCR racer could be recovered from the Turn 5 barriers after the Englishman crashed out with a sticking throttle.
As racing resumed the FanBoost winners were announced, with NEXTEV team mates Nelson Piquet Jr and Turvey among those receiving the boost – however due to the Briton’s earlier incident, he was no longer in the race to benefit from the vote.
Buemi again established a comfortable lead of over two seconds, and it seemed as if the Swiss driver and championship leader was on track for back-to-back victories to extend his championship lead.
As the pit stops approached, however, a software failure caused Buemi’s car to stop on circuit, handing the lead to Dragon’s Loïc Duval. With his dramas occurring right on the edge of the pit window opening, Buemi managed to limp his car back to pit lane to complete his car swap, although with time lost through the issue and struggling back to the lane would leave him in ninth place after the pit stop cycle.
The earlier-than-planned stop would also have flow-on effects for the Buemi, who would be unable to defend his position while conserving energy to get to the end – ultimately he ended the race in twelfth, salvaging two points for the fastest race lap.
With data suggesting the second eDAMS car was also experiencing temperature issues the team pitted Nicolas Prost at the same time; the early stop gave the Frenchman the race lead after all pit stops were completed. But he too needed to save energy to get home, and was unable to halt the advances of the chasing pack, led by di Grassi.
The Brazilian moved into the lead on Lap 24, with Duval and António Félix da Costa close behind. An entertaining battle ensued, ultimately being decided in favour of di Grassi when an electronics failure halted da Costa, and then a broken damper ended Duval’s run.
As Prost fell further back, the second Dragon car of Jérôme d’Ambrosio moved to second place. The Belgian looked set for a podium finish, only to crash on the penultimate lap and hand second place to last year’s Putrajaya winner, Sam Bird. The DS Virgin driver had started 14th following a difficult qualifying, but by simply staying out of the trouble many of his rivals fell into, he ended his day on the podium, 13.884 seconds behind di Grassi.
Third place went to the disbelieving Robin Frijns who only just made it to the finish, crabbing his Amlin Andretti across the line with suspension damage caused by clouting the wall trying to pass the hobbled car of Duval.
Behind the podium trio, the top ten was eventually completed by the recovering Sarrazin, Bruno Senna, da Costa, Daniel Abt, Piquet Jr, Nick Heidfeld and Prost.
For di Grassi, the result moved him into the championship lead, a position he held for much of the previous season before slipping to third place in the final reckoning.
Post-race, the Brazillian detailed just how tough the conditions were and his relief at making the finish.
“You can see how difficult the conditions were with the amount of sand I have in my eye, the amount of sand I have in the car. It was an extremely tough race, mainly determined by battery temperature,” he recalled. “But gladly we managed it better than the others, we did a fantastic job. The team in the background did a perfect job with the strategy and we managed to claim the victory and I’m now the leader in the championship.”
Bird was ecstatic with second, having at one point thought even finishing the race was unlikely.
“I’m absolutely chuffed,” he said. “This one is for the boys at Virgin – I don’t think that too many people know that before the race we were down in the dumps because I didn’t think we were going to finish the race because we only had one battery in the car. The Virgin boys fixed the car so quick, this is for the Virgin boys! If people don’t say Formula E is exciting, then I think they didn’t watch that race. It was carnage, but cool carnage. It’s a series that people should watch because that’s fantastic racing, it’s unreal.”
Celebrating his maiden Formula E podium, Frijns was also surprised to finish the race, given how large an impact he made with the wall on the penultimate lap.
“I felt like I was a rally driver!” he exclaimed. “Duval had a problem in front of me and he also had a suspension failure. I overtook him before Turn 9 and I went in just a bit too quick and there was a lot of rubber and dirt. I was on it and I saw the wall coming and I said, ‘This is it, it’s over’. It was quite a big hit and the rear was completely bent, the steering was totally not straight any more. Right corners were fine but in left corners I really had to take it easy. But I’m surprised how strong the Formula E car is.”
With two rounds completed in two weeks, the FIA Formula E championship now has a six-week break ahead of a visit to the coastal town of Punta del Este, in Uruguay, on Saturday December 19.
|2015-16 Formula E Formula E Putrajaya ePrix – Final Classification (33 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Lucas di Grassi||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||33||50:17.449|
|2.||Sam Bird||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||33||+ 13.884|
|3.||Robin Frijns||Amlin Andretti Formula E Team||33||+ 29.776|
|4.||Stéphane Sarrazin||Venturi Formula E Team||33||+ 32.628|
|5.||Bruno Senna||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||33||+ 34.404|
|6.||António Félix da Costa||Team Aguri||33||+ 36.925|
|7.||Daniel Abt||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||33||+ 37.283|
|8.||Nelson Piquet Jr||NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team||33||+ 40.623|
|9.||Nick Heidfeld||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||33||+ 52.904|
|10.||Nicolas Prost||Renault e.DAMS||33||+ 53.695|
|11.||Jacques Villeneuve||Venturi Formula E Team||33||+ 58.698|
|12.||Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.DAMS||33||+ 1:07.728|
|13.||Simona de Silvestro||Amlin Andretti Formula E Team||33||+ 1:24.464|
|14.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Dragon Racing||32||Accident|
|15.||Nathanaël Berthon||Team Aguri||32||+ 1 lap|
|16.||Loïc Duval||Dragon Racing||29||Suspension|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Oliver Turvey||NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team||4||Accident|
|DNF.||Jean-Éric Vergne||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||0||Collision|
|Fastest Lap||Team / Entry||Lap||Time|
|Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.DAMS||22||1:22.748|
Image via Michelin Motorsport