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Sebastien Buemi Renault e.dams
Jed Leicester/LAT/Formula E

2015 Punta del Este ePrix: Buemi Recovers to Victory

Renault e.Dams’ Sebastian Buemi charged from fifth on the grid to take his second victory of the season and lead a closely-fought drivers’ championship battle by one point.

Overview

Race Winner: Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.Dams)

Pole Position: Jerome D’Ambrosio (Dragon Racing) – 1:15.498

Fastest Lap: Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.Dams) – 1:17.413 (lap 23)

Lap Leaders: D’Ambrosi (1-7), Buemi (8-33)

Overtake of the race: Sebastien Buemi’s lunging move on Loic Duval at the double-left hairpin corner. (lap 4, turn 8).

Controversy of the race: The late-race collision between Jean-Eric Vergne and Nelson Piquet, which may or may not have caused damage to Piquet’s car prior to his dramatic crash.

Report

Qualifying:

In the only change so far this season, the injured Nick Heidfeld was replaced by Oliver Rowland, who would be making his debut for the Mahindra Racing team.

A messy couple of practice sessions ensured several teams had plenty to do over the course of the day, with various brushes and bangs with the walls of the Punta del Este beachside street circuit, but some of the driving errors were saved for qualifying.

Jacques Villeneuve crashed his car into the turn 17-18 chicane, which meant not only did he not set a time, he wouldn’t be able to start the race due to the excess damage. Jean-Eric Vergne’s mistake in qualifying ensured he started towards the back of the grid one year on from his stunning debut pole position in 2014.

Adam Warner / LAT/FE
Adam Warner / LAT/FE

Sebastien Buemi easily progressed as fastest to the ‘Super Pole’ shootout, but choked on his final lap to start the race in fifth, behind an equally disappointed Lucas di Grassi, who also failed to complete a clean lap.

Sam Bird looked to put his 2014 Punta del Este nightmares behind him by setting a lap time good enough for third on the grid, but he was unable to stop the first ever Dragon Racing front-row lockout, as Jerome D’Ambrosio took his first Formula E pole position ahead of Loic Duval.

Grid:
  1. Jerome D’Ambrosio Dragon Racing 1:15.498
  2. Loic Duval Dragon Racing 1:15.875
  3. Sam Bird DS Virgin Racing 1:16.109
  4. Lucas Di Grassi Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport 1:16.635
  5. Sebastien Buemi Renault e.Dams 1:19.811
  6. Nicolas Prost Renault e.Dams 1:15.913
  7. Daniel Abt Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport 1:15.993
  8. Antonio Felix Da Costa Team Aguri 1:16.014
  9. Bruno Senna Mahindra 1:160.48
  10. Oliver Turvey NextEV TCR 1:16.154
  11. Robin Frijns Amlin Andretti 1:16.255
  12. Nelson Piquet Junior NextEV TCR 1:16.300
  13. Stephane Sarrazin Venturi 1:16.353
  14. Nathanel Berthon Team Aguri 1:17.573
  15. Simona De Silvestro Amlin Andretti 1:18.281
  16. Oliver Rowland Mahindra 1:19.414
  17. Jean-Eric Vergne DS Virgin Racing 1:19.946
  18. Jacques Villeneuve Venturi No time
Race:

With the circuit’s close proximity to the beach, it was no surprise that dust had been a factor in the levels of grip throughout the day, but its biggest effect was at the race start. The right hand side of the grid – the racing line – started the race well, but the left side of the grid got away from the start poorly. In fact, every single driver on the left half of the grid lost one place (see lap chart below). This mean’t that Jerome D’Ambrosio easily lead the race into the first chicane, with Sam Bird passing Loic Duval, and Sebastien Buemi progressing past Lucas di Grassi for fourth place. The field negotiated the start well, aside from Jean-Eric Vergne who missed the first chicane altogether, but gained no advantage. At the end of lap one, the top ten was; D’Ambrosio, Bird, Duval, Buemi, di Grassi, Abt, Prost, Senna, da Costa and Frijns.

Bruno Senna’s race would effectively be over by lap three, thanks to a puncture. An easily-replaceable wheel remedied the situation without the need to switch cars, but the Brazilian was almost a lap down. At the front, Buemi was looking to further climb the order, and on lap four the Swiss pilot made a move on the inside of the double-left hairpin (turn eight and nine), sweeping past Duval and setting his sights firmly on Sam Bird.

Bird’s defence of second place would last just over one lap. Buemi spent most of lap five glued to the back of the DS Virgin Racing car before finally making his move on the inside of the final chicane (turn 17 and 18).

Nelson Piquet - NextEV TCR Photo: Adam Warner / LAT/FE
Nelson Piquet – NextEV TCR
Photo: Adam Warner / LAT/FE

By lap eight, Buemi was hounding D’Ambrosio for the lead of the race. In an almost-carbon copy of his move on Bird only a couple of laps ago, Buemi hit the brakes later than his competitor and sailed past at the final chicane, taking the lead of the Punta del Este ePrix. Bird lost another place to Loic Duval on the following lap.

Almost spurred on by the progress of his championship rival, Lucas di Grassi overtook the struggling Bird at the same chicane for fourth place just two laps later, with the two Dragon cars just ahead.

The first pit stops took place at the end of lap 16 with Abt, Sarrazin, Turvey and Senna, but the leaders made their car swap’s on lap 17. Buemi was comfortable in first place, but the drivers from second to fifth were nose-to-tail in the pit lane. A quick turnaround for the Abt Audi Sport team saw di Grassi edge into second place with D’Ambrosio, Bird and Duval right behind. After the pit stops, the top ten order was; Buemi, di Grassi, D’Ambrosio, Bird, Duval, Prost, da Costa, Abt, Turvey and Sarrazin. Turvey’s jump to ninth place was aided by a pit stop which broke the minimum limit on pit time, so was handed a drive-through penalty.

Sam Bird - DS Virgin Racing Photo: Adam Warner / LAT/FE
Sam Bird – DS Virgin Racing
Photo: Adam Warner / LAT/FE

Just half-a-lap after leaving the pit lane, Bird’s DS Virgin Racing car developed a problem. Numerous resets failed get his car going again and it resulted in consecutive Punta del Este ePrix retirements for the Briton. The resulting ‘full course yellow flag’ caused confusion amongst the drivers, with some slowing down upon seeing the deployment of the boards thinking that they had missed the countdown to the speed-limiter. The ten second countdown followed moments after the signs, much to the annoyance of Sebastien Buemi, who complained to race control after losing several seconds to Lucas di Grassi:

“Thanks a lot race control, you put the signs out, but I am already slowing down because I thought you had done the countdown, and I just lost at least five seconds on di Grassi.”

Post-yellow flags, the second half of the race became a midfield battle, with Jean-Eric Vergne and Nelson Piquet making progress from lowly grid slots. Turvey’s penalty promoted Piquet to eighth, Vergne to ninth and Sarrazin to tenth.

With a settled race up front, the remainder of the race had little in the way of drama until the final couple of laps. With Vergne eyeing up Piquet’s eighth place, the Frenchman made a move at the double-left hairpin, but Piquet was able to cut-back and repass, albeit with an ‘elbows out’ approach. Moments later, Piquet crashed into the turn 14-15 chicane, losing the rear of his car on entry to the corner. The collision with the wall damaged his car beyond repair and he was out of the race, handing the hard-fought eighth place to Vergne.

With no time left to deploy a safety car, Buemi comfortably took the chequered flag to take back-to-back Punta del Este ePrix wins and regain the lead in the drivers’ championship by one point over second-place finisher Lucas di Grassi. Jerome D’Ambrosio collected a third-place podium finish to promote himself into the championship top three, whilst team-mate Loic Duval took fourth.

Nicolas Prost and Antonio Felix da Costa completed quiet races to finish fifth and sixth, whilst an issue on the final lap for Daniel Abt saw the German pipped to seventh place by Jean-Eric Vergne, with Stephane Sarrazin and Robin Frijns completing the top ten.

Punta del Este ePrix Lap Chart

Drivers’ Championship:
  1. Sebastien Buemi – Renault e.Dams – 62 pts
  2. Lucas di Grassi – Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport – 61 pts
  3. Jerome D’Ambrosio – Dragon Racing – 28 pts
  4. Sam Bird – DS Virgin Racing – 24 pts
  5. Loic Duval – Dragon Racing – 24 pts
  6. Nick Heidfeld – Mahindra Racing – 17 pts
  7. Robin Frijns – Amlin Andretti – 17 pts
  8. Stephane Sarrazin – Venturi – 16 pts
  9. Antonio Felix da Costa – Team Aguri – 16 pts
  10. Nicolas Prost – Renault e.Dams – 11 pts
Constructors’ Championship:
  1. Renault e.Dams – 73 pts
  2. Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport – 71 pts
  3. Dragon Racing – 52 pts
  4. DS Virgin Racing – 30 pts
  5. Mahindra Racing – 27 pts
  6. Team Aguri – 20 pts
  7. Amlin Andretti – 17 pts
  8. Venturi – 16 pts
  9. NEXTEV TCR – 12 pts
  10. Trulli -0 pts

About Luke Murphy

I've been a motor racing fan since the late 90's, enjoying the underdog stories, the history and the technology of the sport. Graduate of Huddersfield University with a BEng Motorsport Engineering Degree and a keen amateur karter.

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