Season one runner-up Sebastien Buemi made Formula E history by collecting a maximum score of 30 points in a race where both he and Renault e.Dams flexed their muscles to show a devastating level of pace in the season opener.
Race Winner: Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.Dams)
Pole Position: Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.Dams) – 1:37.297
Fastest Lap: Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.Dams) – 1:39.993 (lap 24)
Lap Leaders: Buemi (1-12, 14-26), Duval (13)
Overtake of the race: Nick Heidfeld around the outside of Nico Prost (2nd place, T1, lap one)
Controversy of the race: Dragon Racing’s Jerome D’Ambrosio almost eliminating team-mate Loic Duval whilst both were challenging for the podium.
The reins on the teams had been loosened and they can now start to show their technical prowess by developing their own powertrains. Months of curiosity about the pecking order were to come to an end and the sport’s onlookers were to receive their biggest clues yet about who was well equipped for the season ahead. Heading to the same circuit where electric-powered racing cars were christened just thirteen months ago seemed fitting; how much progress can really be made over the course of one year?
The event received two retirements before Saturday’s running could even begin with the withdrawal of the Trulli team, who fell foul of the Chinese postal service and couldn’t present their cars to the scrutineers in time for the event.
Reigning Formula E champion Nelson Piquet had the discomfort of seeing his group one qualifying effort plummet down to last place after an agonising display from his disobedient NextEV car, one which he was clearly over-driving in order to extract all he could from it.
His former championship rivals, however, flourished. Lucas di Grassi and Sebastien Buemi all succeeded in progressing to the ‘super pole’ shootout, but it was the Swiss pilot who took headlines by leading a Renault e.Dams 1-2 and finishing one full second faster than third-place Nick Heidfeld in the reformed Mahindra car.
1. Sebastien Buemi Renault e.Dams 1:37.297
2. Nicolas Prost Renault e.Dams +0.284
3. Nick Heidfeld Mahindra Racing +1.042
4. Lucas di Grassi Abt Audi Sport +2.242
5. Jean-Eric Vergne DS Virgin Racing +43.987
6. Stephane Sarrazin Venturi 1:38.645
7. Bruno Senna Mahindra Racing 1:38.761
8. Loic Duval Dragon Racing 1:38.859
9. Sam Bird DS Virgin Racing 1:38.884
10. Jerome D’Ambrosio Dragon Racing 1:39.058
11. Daniel Abt Abt Audi Sport 1:39.220
12. Jacques Villeneuve Venturi 1:39.665
13. Robin Frijns Amlin Andretti 1:39.672
14. Simona De Silvestro Amlin Andretti 1:39.681
15. Oliver Turvey NextEV TCR 1:39.734
16. Antonio Felix Da Costa Team Aguri 1:40.295
17. Nathanael Berthon Team Aguri 1:40.386
18. Nelson Piquet Jr. NextEV TCR 1:40.638
As the race began Renault’s front row lock-out was broken up when Heidfeld benefited from Prost’s wheelspinning start to take second place around the outside of turn one, slotting in behind Buemi. Lucas di Grassi held station in fourth ahead of the battling Jean-Eric Vergne and Bruno Senna. The field negotiated turn one well, with Nelson Piquet failing to gain any positions from the start.
The top four quickly began to distance themselves from the chasing pack, which was soon lead by Senna after negotiating his way up the inside of the very tight final corner and taking fifth place from Vergne, whose mirrors were now full of the Dragon Racing car of compatriot Loic Duval. At the end of the first lap, the top ten was; Buemi, Heidfeld, Prost, di Grassi, Senna, Vergne, Duval, Sarrazin, D’Ambrosio and Bird.
Prost’s start to the race was to worsen, a lock up on the approach to turn three resulted in the Frenchman skating wide and gifting di Grassi third place. Slightly further back, Bird guided his DS Virgin Racing car into ninth past Jerome D’Ambrosio.
The first on-track retirement of the new season only took three laps to arrive. Amlin Andretti’s de Silvestro crashed into the barrier at turn two, damaging her car beyond repair and bringing out the full course yellow flags. Post-race, she blamed da Costa for the crash, accusing the Portuguese driver of hitting her into the barriers. Under the yellows, FanBoost winners were declared as Bird, Piquet and Turvey.
The midfield battle was relentless in the first half. Sam Bird looked to be making great early progress, working his way up to seventh until he out-braked himself at turn two and lost places. The toing and froing of places was brought on by the various stages of energy saving from the drivers, who seemed to be taking turns at overtaking. Such was the compactness of the field, that five seconds covered Vergne in fifth to Villeneuve in fourteenth as the stops approached. Both Senna and Vergne dropped had damaging pre-pitstop energy-saving stints which sent them both down the order.
Most of the field pitted at the end of lap twelve, with five drivers deciding to eke out their energy stores and go an extra lap. This turned out to be the ideal – if slightly fortuitous – strategy call as when da Costa took out Villeneuve moments after exiting the pits, the circuit was put under full course yellows. The subsequent reduction in pace mean’t that any pit lane losses were now reduced, and it fell perfectly into the hands of those who had stayed out for an extra lap; Duval, D’Ambrosio, Turvey, Berthon and Piquet, all of whom were in the points when racing resumed.
In the front four, Heidfeld lost out to di Grassi and Prost in the pit stops, returning to the track in fourth. Another lock-up from Prost at turn two (immediately after exiting the pits) allowed Heidfeld to move alongside and complete the overtake just one corner later. However, they swapped positions again when the full course yellows ended, with Prost reclaiming third after jumping Heidfeld at the chicane. Prost now began his pursuit of di Grassi.
Piquet’s hopes of securing a surprise points finish were dashed when his car stuttered to a stop. He was able to restart his car, but the positions lost mean’t he now had little chance of scoring. Further ahead, Prost was up to the back of di Grassi by lap 20, but a collapsed rear wing resulted in the Frenchman being shown the ‘mechanical damage’ flags, meaning he was forced to retire the car.
Heidfeld, now promoted into third, was coming under increased pressure from the Dragon Racing pair of Duval and D’Ambrosio in the closing laps. With a couple of laps to go, D’Ambrosio made an audacious effort to overtake Duval at the fast right-hander at turn six, and came wincingly close to taking out his colleague, living to fight another day, or at least until team boss Jay Penske had a word with him.
Duval went on the attack with one lap to go, having to jump the chicane in order to avoid a defensive Heidfeld, who held on superbly to take Mahindra’s first podium finish in Formula E.
Further ahead, Buemi, who had barely been seen by the television cameras, crossed the line to take the victory and maximum points in a perfect day for the Swiss pilot. He only missed out on a ‘grand chelem’ (pole position, fastest lap and a light-to-flag race victory) by one lap, having breifly handed the lead to Duval during the pit stop phase. Di Grassi’s attempts at back-to-back Beijing ePrix victories ended in a second place ahead of Heidfeld, Duval and D’Ambrosio.
Turvey benefited from the earlier pit stop advantage to claim a surprise sixth for NextEV, his highest ever points finish, with Sam Bird recovering to take eighth ahead of debutant Nathanael Berthon for Team Aguri. Daniel Abt originally took ninth but was penalised for an unsafe release in the pits, demoting him to eleventh, and Sarrazin pipped rookie Robin Frijns to ninth place after the Dutchman ran out of power on the finish straight.
- Sebastien Buemi – Renault e.Dams – 30 pts
- Lucas di Grassi – Abt Audi Sport – 18 pts
- Nick Heidfeld – Venturi – 15 pts
- Loic Duval – Dragon Racing – 12 pts
- Jerome D’Ambrosio – Dragon Racing – 10 pts
- Oliver Turvey – NextEV TCR – 8 pts
- Sam Bird – DS Virgin Racing – 6 pts
- Nathanael Berthon – Team Aguri – 4 pts
- Stephane Sarrazin – Venturi – 2 pts
- Robin Frijns – Amlin Andretti – 1 pt
- Renault e.Dams – 30 pts
- Dragon Racing – 22 pts
- Abt Audi Sport – 18 pts
- Mahindra Racing – 15 pts
- NextEV TCR – 8 pts
- DS Virgin Racing – 6 pts
- Team Aguri – 4 pts
- Venturi – 2 pts
- Amlin Andretti – 1 pt
- Trulli Formula E – 0 pts