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Adam Warner / LAT / FE

2015 Putrajaya ePrix: di Grassi wins Malaysian thriller

Lucas di Grassi and the Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport team were able to keep their cool in an explosive Putrajaya ePrix to take victory as the Renault e.Dams team faultered.

Overview

Race Winner: Lucas di Grassi (Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport)

Pole Position: Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.Dams) – 1:20.196

Fastest Lap: Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.Dams) – 1:22.748. (L22)

Main drama: Renault e.Dams losing what should have been a double podium finish

Overtake of the race: Nico Prost’s cut-back on Da Costa (3rd place, T4, Lap 10)

Lap Leaders: Buemi (1-14), Duval (15-16), Frijns (17), Piquet (18-19), Prost (20-23), di Grassi (24-33)

Report

With the Putrajaya ePrix track continuing with the same layout as last year, the Malaysian street circuit would be the first chance to compare the team’s progress over the course of a year. Previous attempts to compare the cars at Donington Park were muted, owing to the track not representing a stop-start street circuit on which the cars typically race. Beijing offered an insight for comparison, but the layout change mean’t direct lap-for-lap comparisons weren’t possible.

Prior to Saturday’s running it was revealed that Jarno Trulli would return to the cockpit for his Trulli team following after it was confirmed Salvador Duran would not take part owing to a “breach of contract”. As it turned out, the identities of their drivers didn’t matter after the team announced on Friday that they wouldn’t be able to participate in the event after failing scrutineering. They’ll have over a month to sort out their technical troubles before heading to Punta del Este for round three.

Qualifying:

Pole position once again went to the seemingly unstoppable Sebastien Buemi and the Renault e.Dams team, with the surprise package of Stephane Sarrazin on the front row of the grid for Venturi. The Venturi-powered Dragon Racing car of Loic Duval took third ahead of Antonio Felix da Costa, who was driving the Team Aguri car which was still using a season one powertrain. Nicolas Prost made a mistake in the ‘Super Pole Shootout’ so could only qualify fifth.

Lucas di Grassi missed out on the lucerative top five spot in qualifying after brushing the wall on his qualifying lap, whilst 2014 Putrajaya ePrix winner Sam Bird suffered a similar fate, hitting the wall and ending up 14th. Reigning champion Nelson Piquet was able to out-qualify his team-mate, but he could only drag his NextEV car into 16th place.

Grid:

1. Sebastien Buemi Renault e.Dams 1:20.196

2. Stephane Sarrazin Venturi +0.443

3. Loic Duval Dragon Racing +0.690

4. Antonio Felix da Costa Team Aguri +0.779

5. Nicolas Prost Renault e.Dams +1.590

6. Lucas di Grassi Abt Audi Sport +0.628

7. Jerome D’Ambrosio Dragon Racing +0.675

8. Robin Frijns Andretti +0.725

9. Bruno Senna Mahindra Racing +0.795

10. Daniel Abt Abt Audi Sport +0.858

11. Nick Heidfeld Mahindra Racing +0.906

12. Jacques Villeneuve Venturi +0.933

13. Jean-Eric Vergne DS Virgin Racing +0.999

14. Sam Bird DS Virgin Racing +1.084

15. Nathanael Berthon Team Aguri +1.449

16. Nelson Piquet NextEV TCR +1.738

17. Oliver Turvey NextEV TCR +1.790

18. Simona de Silvestro Andretti +2.137

Sam Bloxham/FIA Formula E/LAT
Sam Bloxham/FIA Formula E/LAT
Race:

A brief delay to the start proceedings was brought about by a stranded Stephane Sarrazin, who was waving his hands frantically to signal a problem with his car. The Frenchman was wheeled away into the pit lane and the rest of the field took up their grid slots.

With a big gap now in second place, Sebastien Buemi easily held the lead off the start with Loic Duval and Antonio Felix da Costa slotting into second and third. Nicolas Prost stayed ahead of Lucas di Grassi as contact was made amongst the midfielders. Jacques Villeneuve, Jean-Eric Vergne and Nick Heidfeld all aimed for the apex at turn one and came together, spinning Heidfeld around and ending Vergne’s race with broken suspension. Villeneuve continued.

At the end of lap one, Buemi lead the race from Duval, da Costa, Prost and di Grassi. Robins Frijns had managed to pass Jerome D’Ambrosio into turn three for sixth place, whilst Bruno Senna, Daniel Abt and Sam Bird completed the top ten. Stephane Sarrazin managed to get going again but was at the back of the field.

Oliver Turvey’s race came to an early end, the Briton crashed at turn four on only the fifth lap of the race courtesy of a sticking throttle in his NextEV TCR vehicle. The safety car was brought out and the field bunched together, during this period the FanBoost winners were declared as Oliver Turvey, Nelson Piquet and Nick Heidfeld, none of whom were in points-paying positions.

Sam Bloxham/FIA Formula E/LAT
Sam Bloxham/FIA Formula E/LAT

The resumed on lap seven with Buemi, Duval and Da Costa breaking away from the rest of the field. However, Da Costa gradually dropped back and was leading a queue of drivers from third to eighth. He was soon under pressure from Prost, and the Frenchman took to the outside line on the approach to turn three, Da Costa defedned the inside line and Prost performed a prefect ‘cut-back’ to have the inside line for turn four, taking third place from the Portuguese pilot.

Reliablity issues for both Renault cars crept in on lap fifteen, with race leader Sebastien Buemi slowing down just after the turn eleven hairpin, handing the lead to Duval. He crawled back to the pits where his team-mate was already switching cars; Nico Prost had to make his pit stop early as his car was having difficulties with the temperatures. Buemi’s issues were linked to software troubles. Both would now have to run an energy-conserving second half of the race to in order to finish the race. Daniel could only survive until lap 16 after a thirsty opening stint in the Abt Audi Sport car, but time was wasted in the pit lane when his car failed to set off, dropping him out of contention for major points.

The first of the front-running stops were made on lap 17, with Duval, da Costa and di Grassi all pitting in. A pit delay sent Duval behind both drivers as they all fell behind Nico Prost. All remaining drivers pitted on lap 18 apart from Piquet, who went all the way to lap 20 in an attempt to benefit from an adverse strategy.

Di Grassi wasted little time in overtaking da Costa for a net second place, as all were catching up to the energy-saving Nico Prost, who was eventually confirmed as race leader when Piquet made his late pit stop. The order after all pit stops was Prost, di Grassi, da Costa, Duval, D’Ambrosio, Frijns, Bird, Heidfeld, Buemi and Abt. Heidfeld, however was to receive a drive-through penalty for an early pit release.

Di Grassi’s pursuit of Prost was complete by lap 24 when, after a better exit out of the final corner, the Brazilian brushed past the Renault driver to take the lead of the race into turn one. That was only the start of Prost’s punishment; on the same lap da Costa made light work of moving ahead of him to take second place at turn seven.

The drama wouldn’t end there for da Costa, though, as his race hit trouble on lap 25 when his car stopped after the first chicane, with da Costa declaring “the whole thing switched off”. He managed to restart the Team Aguri car, but he was in the lower regions of the points now. Duval benefitted from those misfortunes to move into second place following a move at the popular overtaking spot of turn seven. The next few laps saw Prost continue to tumble down the classification charts, with D’Ambrosio, Frijns and Bird all overtaking him. Buemi’s attempts to recover points resulted in a fastest lap of the race, worth an extra two championship points.

Sam Bloxham/FIA Formula E/LAT
Sam Bloxham/FIA Formula E/LAT

The race soon turned sour for the Dragon Racing team. Second-placed Duval suffered a suspension failure on the 30th tour of the 33 lap race, and he was very quickly being pestered by Frijns and Bird. Frijns made what looked to be an easy move into turn ten but, having to overtake slightly off-line put him wide on the exit of turn ten. The Dutchman lost the rear of the car and connected with the inside concrete wall heading towards turn eleven. Bird now moved up into third, but Frijns continued with an ill-handling Andretti car, desperately attempting to finish the race with the prospect of a big points haul on the cards.

Duval parked his damaged car up to retire from the race, whilst a poor race turned to disaster for Renault. Buemi, who had managed to recover as high as fifth place, stopped on circuit once again. He was able to continue but this dropped him well out of the points. A mistake for Prost at turn three demoted him to fighting for much smaller points.

Dragon Racing’s race completely fell apart on the final lap when D’Ambrosio – who had benefitted from the various dramas to move into second place – crashed out of the Putrajaya ePrix with broken suspension in a similar scenario to Duval’s. Bird was now promoted into second and the limping Frijns hobbled his way into third with Sarrazin catching quickly in fourth.

Lucas di Grassi took the chequered flag to win a messy race in Malaysia and put himself atop the drivers’ championship standings. Bird completed an exquisite recovery from 14th on the grid to take second place and Robin Frijns had enough of a gap over Stephane Sarrazin to take his first Formula E podium in only his second race.

Sam Bloxham/FIA Formula E/LAT
Sam Bloxham/FIA Formula E/LAT

Sarrazin’s fourth place came despite a pit lane start and was his personal best race finish in Formula E. Bruno Senna, despite having to temporarily stop the car owing to an electronics problem, was able to recover to take fifth place for Mahindra ahead of the recovering da Costa, who passed Daniel Abt on the final lap.

Nelson Piquet also made last-lap moves to overtake Nick Heidfeld and earn NextEV TCR four valuable points, whilst Heidfeld could only manage ninth after communcation issues and a drive-through penalty, but ensured Mahindra claimed their first ‘double points’ finish in Formula E. Nicolas Prost claimed the final point whilst Jacques Villeneuve, Sebastien Buemi, Simona de Silverstro and Nathanael Berthon all saw the chequered flag.
Putrajaya ePrix Lap Chart

Driver’s Championship:
  1. Lucas di Grassi – Abt Audi Sport – 43 pts
  2. Sebastien Buemi – Renault e.Dams – 35 pts
  3. Sam Bird – DS Virgin Racing – 24 pts
  4. Nick Heidfeld – Mahindra Racing – 17 pts
  5. Robin Frijns – Andretti – 16 pts
  6. Stephane Sarrazin – Venturi – 14 pts
  7. Loic Duval – Dragon Racing – 12 pts
  8. Bruno Senna – Mahindra Racing – 10 pts
  9. Jerome D’Ambrosio – Dragon Racing – 10 pts
  10. Antonio Felix da Costa – Team Aguri – 8 pts
Team’s Championship:
  1. Abt Audi Sport – 49 pts
  2. Renault e.Dams – 36 pts
  3. Mahindra Racing – 27 pts
  4. DS Virgin Racing – 24 pts
  5. Dragon Racing – 22 pts
  6. Andretti – 16 pts
  7. Venturi – 14 pts
  8. NEXTEV TCR – 12 pts
  9. Team Aguri – 12 pts
  10. Trulli Formula E – 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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