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London ePrix I: Buemi Boosts Championship Ambitions

Sebastien Buemi secured an essential victory in his quest for the Driver’s Championship ahead of Jerome D’Ambrosio and Jean-Eric Vergne as the title fight officially whittled down to three contenders in the British capital.

London was the host of Formula E’s first attempts of a motor racing double-header, with the first event taking place on the usual Saturday slot, and the season finale falling just one day later. The scenic backdrop of Battersea Park converted it’s roads and public footpaths into a temporary raceway which saw thousands flock to see the first motor race in the city for decades.

Almost synonymous with the majority of the street circuits seen this season, ‘bumps’ became a key word over the course of the day. Only this time they weren’t seen as just a minor inconvenience which drivers would have to deal with, this time they were very noticeable, one in particular was causing big headaches. The entry into turn one featured a big bump which caused a couple of near-misses at the corner, before Dragon Racing’s Jerome D’Ambrosio hit the bump, broke a pushrod before crashing. Modifications to the corner mean’t that the corner was now deemed too narrow and the race would start under a safety car with no overtaking at the corner for the remainder of the race.

FIA Formula E Media
FIA Formula E Media

This would be good news for Sebastien Buemi, who guided the e.dams-Renault team to pole position and earning both a valuable three points to aid their respective championship challenges. Things got even better for Buemi when he found out that his two main championship rivals – Audi Sport Abt’s Lucas di Grassi and NextEV TCR’s Nelson Piquet – were starting third and fourth, just behind Jerome D’Ambrosio. Jean-Eric Vergne (Andretti) started in fifth ahead of Nicolas Prost (e.dams-Renault), debutant Oliver Turvey (NextEV TCR), Bruno Senna (Mahindra Racing), Sam Bird (Virgin Racing) and Salvador Duran (Amlin Aguri). Incidentally, Bird was now ruled out of championship contention because he failed to pick up the pole position points, having required all 60 points to remain in the contest.

As soon as the safety car left the circuit for the pit lane, the race commenced with a strong getaway for Buemi, as the first lap of the race had a tamer feel to it as the normal concertinas and early jostling for position were muted. Nevertheless, it took Piquet only three laps to decide to try and make progress through the field; on approach to turn eleven, he used his FanBoost and tried a pass on the outside heading into the turn ten/eleven chicane, but di Grassi held his ground and a touch between the two almost sent Piquet into the barrier. Instead, the championship-leader merely lost ground but gave Vergne the chance to gain a place. The recovering Piquet was out-paced on approach to turn twelve and Vergne finished off an easy overtake into the ‘Millenium Chicane’ (named so because of the neighbouring Millenium Arena). Not satisfied with passing one title challenger, Vergne set after di Grassi.

Vergne was soon harrying the Audi Sport Abt driver, and by lap seven he mugged the Brazilian driver into turn twelve, out-braking him and moving into third place. As the race stabilised, the top ten prior to the pit stops were; Buemi, D’Ambrosio, Vergne, di Grassi, Piquet, Prost, Turvey, Senna, Bird & Duran. Race-leader Buemi was also on course for a further two points by setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 12.

Not only had Buemi and D’Ambrosio been relatively comfortable in the race, but they also managed to stay out one lap longer than their main race contenders. Vergne, di Grassi and Piquet all pitted in on lap fourteen. Buemi and D’Ambrosio pitted one lap later, with the top six remaining the same. Sam Bird temporarily lead his home ePrix before his stop, but any advantage he gained from staying out longer was eradicated by a pit issue, which demoted him to tenth. Turvey also suffer pit dramas, which sent him out of the top ten.

There were two retirements in quick succession; Amlin Aguri’s Sakon Yamamoto ended his debut with power issues but it was a crash for Daniel Abt after an alleged handling issue with the car that brought out the safety car on lap 17, bunching the field up.

Sam Bloxham/LAT Photographic/Formula E.
Sam Bloxham/LAT Photographic/Formula E.

The race restarted on lap 21 with Piquet immediately on the tail on di Grassi for the second time in the race. He followed his rival relentlessly, almost colliding with him at turn twelve whilst locking up. Di Grassi was relieved of the pressure when Piquet lost momentum and dropped back, leaving di Grassi to set the fastest race lap and turn his attention to Vergne ahead. Bruno Senna received a penalty for speeding in the pit lane.

Sam Bird was looking to finish with a flourish; having been promoted to eighth via Senna’s penalty, he was hounding Loic Duval for seventh place and got a run on the Dragon Racing driver on approach to the turn ten/eleven chicane, taking the place to the delight of the home crowd. Not content with finishing there – and making use of his extra power – he replicated the move almost perfectly on Nicolas Prost just one lap later. Looking to make it a hat-trick of overtakes, he chased Piquet on the final lap, but fell just short.

Ahead, Buemi completed a master-class of a race by taking victory ahead of Jerome D’Ambrosio to reduce his championship deficit to Piquet to five points. Jean-Eric Vergne took his second Formula E podium in third ahead of Lucas di Grassi – now 13 points adrift of the championship lead – Piquet, Bird, Prost, Duval, Turvey and Sarrazin.

The strong double points score for e.dams-Renault means that they can no longer be beaten in the Team’s Championship and therefore are the champions of the inaugural season.

London ePrix I Race Classification:

  1. Sebastien Buemi, e.dams-Renault, 47:54.784s (29 laps)
  2. Jerome D’Ambrosio, Dragon Racing, +0.939s
  3. Jean-Eric Vergne, Andretti Formula E, +1.667s
  4. Lucas di Grassi, Audi Sport ABT, +2.409s
  5. Nelson Piquet Jr, NEXTEV TCR, +7.370s
  6. Sam Bird, Virgin Racing, +7.762s
  7. Nicolas Prost, e.dams-Renault, +8.553s
  8. Loic Duval, Dragon Racing, +9.507s
  9. Oliver Turvey, NEXTEV TCR, +10.032s
  10. Stephane Sarrazin, Venturi, +12.077s
  11. Simona de Silvestro, Andretti Formula E, +15.946s
  12. Karun Chandhok, Mahindra Racing, +35.595s
  13. Nick Heidfeld, Venturi, +41.034s
  14. Fabio Leimer, Virgin Racing, +42.697s
  15. Jarno Trulli, Trulli, +43.273s
  16. Bruno Senna, Mahindra Racing, +48.423s
  17. Salvador Duran, Amlin Aguri, +1:01.987s
  18. Alex Fontana, Trulli, DNF
  19. Daniel Abt, Audi Sport ABT, DNF
  20. Sakon Yamamoto, Amlin Aguri, DNF

Driver’s Championship:

  1. Nelson Piquet – NEXTEV TCR – 138 pts
  2. Sebastien Buemi – e.dams-Renault – 133 pts
  3. Lucas di Grassi – Audi Sport Abt – 125 pts
  4. Jerome D’Ambrosio – Dragon Racing – 95 pts
  5. Nicolas Prost – e.dams-Renault – 88 pts

Team’s Championship:

  1. e.dams-Renault – 221 pts (champions)
  2. Audi Sport Abt – 157 pts
  3. NEXTEV TCR – 144 pts
  4. Dragon Racing – 138 pts
  5. Andretti – 119 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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