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Adam Warner/LAT Photographic/Formula E.

London ePrix II: Piquet is inaugural champion as Bird secures home victory

Sam Bird claimed a historic victory in a dramatic race at Battersea Park which saw the close driver’s championship battle reach an entertaining conclusion.

Round one of the London ePrix double-header saw Sebastien Buemi draw first blood in the three-way championship battle against Nelson Piquet and Lucas di Grassi by winning the race. This mean’t that the Swiss pilot was just five points away from top spot, with the top three covered by 13 points, with 30 still on offer. The team’s championship battle was already wrapped up with e.dams-Renault securing the accolades in the first leg of the London ePrix.

The qualifying session gave a mixed up order for the grid, as the first two groups took advantage of a dry track to post their times. The rain came during groups three and four, which featured championship rivals Lucas di Grassi and Nelson Piquet, who had to settle for 11th and 16th respectively. Sebastien Buemi managed sixth, but it was Stephane Sarrazin who claimed his first Formula E pole position ahead of Jerome D’Ambrosio, Loic Duval, Sam Bird and Bruno Senna.

As the lights went out for the final time this season Stephane Sarrazin managed a quick getaway whilst the two Dragon Racing team-mates fought over second place. Loic Duval got the better of Jerome D’Ambrosio into turn one whilst Sam Bird was holding station in fourth. Sebastien Buemi managed to negotiate past Bruno Senna for fifth, Nick Heidfeld was seventh ahead of Salvador Duran, Lucas di Grassi – who had gained two places – and Jean-Eric Vergne. The NextEV TCR duo of Oliver Turvey and Nelson Piquet – up from 16th – were just outside the top ten in 11th and 12th.

Zak Mauger/LAT/Formula E
Zak Mauger/LAT/Formula E

A couple of laps into the race it became clear that Piquet was on an energy-saving mission in an attempt to try and adverse strategy to those ahead. After 3 laps, he already had 4-5% more power than the leaders, but at the expense of dropping to over five seconds behind his team-mate, Turvey. The intent looked to be a gamble on a safety car, which threatened to appear when a chunk of front wing fell off Fabio Leimer’s car following contact with Simona de Silvestro, but the BMW i8 failed to appear as the debris was quickly recovered.

At this early stage, things were looking good for Buemi, who would take the title by five points in the current positions.

Championship positions after eight laps:

  1. Sebastien Buemi – e.dams-Renault – 143 pts
  2. Nelson Piquet – NextEV TCR – 138 pts
  3. Lucas di Grassi – Audi Sport Abt – 127 pts
Zak Mauger/LAT Photographic/Formula E.
Zak Mauger/LAT Photographic/Formula E.

Another safety car chance came around when Sakon Yamamoto badly misjudged the Jarno Trulli’s braking. The Japanese driver looked to make a move into turn three but made contact with the car ahead, breaking his front suspension and causing him to limp around the track to find an area to pull off. Trulli was able to continue and the debris was swiftly picked up and no safety car was necessary.

An earlier than forecast pit stop for Nick Heidfeld on lap nine promoted Lucas di Grassi to eighth and Nelson Piquet to eleventh. Heidfeld’s car ground to a halt on the pit lane entry and he was forced to roll his car back to the pits in order to change car, dropping him well out of the points. Jean-Eric Vergne soon received a drive-through penalty for exceeding the maximum power output, which would put him out of the points, promoting Piquet to tenth, who now had 5-10% energy advantage over the various drivers ahead. Sebastien Buemi was also provisionally holding onto the the additional two points for setting the fastest lap.

Championship positions after thirteen laps:

  1. Sebastien Buemi – e.dams-Renault – 145 pts
  2. Nelson Piquet – NextEV TCR – 139 pts
  3. Lucas di Grassi – Audi Sport Abt – 129 pts
Zak Mauger/LAT/Formula E
Zak Mauger/LAT/Formula E

The top two drivers (Sarrazin and Duval) pitted at the end of lap 14 along with Duran, di Grassi, and Turvey. Sarrazin emerged ahead as the remainder of the field made their stops on the following lap apart from Piquet. Sam Bird managed to return to the track before D’Ambrosio and was challenging Duval as he exitted the pits, having to settle for a net third place.

Just two corners later, Sebastien Buemi made a costly mistake into turn three, locking up the rear of the car and half-spinning on cold tyres, losing a place to Bruno Senna and rejoining just ahead of Lucas di Grassi. Piquet, meanwhile, made his pit stop and returned to the track in tenth place, narrowly ahead of Nico Prost. The championship battle was about to close up once again, with Oliver Turvey taking the fastest lap of the race away from Buemi.

Championship positions after nineteen laps:

  1. Sebastien Buemi – e.dams-Renault – 141 pts
  2. Nelson Piquet – NextEV TCR – 139 pts
  3. Lucas di Grassi – Audi Sport Abt – 129 pts

A crash for Virgin Racing’s Fabio Leimer at turn ten eventually brought out the safety car on lap twenty, with nine laps to go, playing into the hands of Nelson Piquet’s energy-saving tactics beforehand.

A quick recovery mean’t that the race resumed on lap 22 with Sarrazin restarted well, leading ahead of Duval, Bird, D’Ambrosio, Senna, Buemi, di Grassi, Duran, Turvey and Piquet. Sam Bird was in no mood to waste time, and proceeded to pass Duval into the turn ten/eleven chicane to take second place, Jerome D’Ambrosio took advantage of Duval’s lost momentum to pass into turn thirteen at the Millenium chicane. Bird now turned his attention to race-leader Stephane Sarrazin.

Meanwhile Nelson Piquet, having been allowed to pass Oliver Turvey, swiftly dispatched of a compliant Salvador Duran for eighth place, putting him into a championship-winning position for the first time in the race.

Championship positions after twenty-five laps:

  1. Nelson Piquet – NextEV TCR – 142 pts
  2. Sebastien Buemi – e.dams-Renault – 141 pts
  3. Lucas di Grassi – Audi Sport Abt – 129 pts

The focus now turned to Sebastien Buemi, who now had to pass Bruno Senna to retake the championship lead, and began to harass the Mahindra Racing driver, making light contact around the Millenium chicane, as Sam Bird was being equally as bullish about targeting the lead. With five percent extra energy, things were looking promising for Bird.

Adam Warner/LAT Photographic/Formula E.
Adam Warner/LAT Photographic/Formula E.

As the final lap approached, it was obvious that Sarrazin was having to do a bit more ‘lifting and coasting’ to save energy as Bird continued to push, tagging Sarrazin through one of the chicanes. Buemi was also continuing to harry Senna as the pair began to catch Loic Duval, who was running short of power. Slightly further back, Piquet had given himself a gap in order to try and secure the fastest lap of the race (worth an additional two points) to try and secure the title.

The final lap began and Buemi’s pursuit was relentless, bordering on desperate. Sarrazin took victory but crossed the line with ‘zero percent’ battery ahead of Sam Bird and Jerome D’Ambrosio. Loic Duval was slowing down in order to conserve battery, backing Bruno Senna into Sebastien Buemi, with the Swiss driver lunging into turn thirteen but stern defensive driving prevented a pass, meaning Buemi would cross the line in sixth place, not enough to take the Driver’s Championship.

It emerged just moments later that Stephane Sarrazin received a 49 second penalty (equivalent to drive-through penalty), which mean’t that Sam Bird was promoted to race victor, D’Ambrosio to second and Duval to third. Despite the championship contenders also being promoted, it changed nothing in the points tables. Therefore, Nelson Piquet was confirmed as Formula E’s first ever driver’s champion.

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

London ePrix II Race Results:

  1. Sam Bird – Virgin Racing – 29 Laps
  2. Jerome D’Ambrosio – Dragon Racing +6.973s
  3. Loic Duval – Dragon Racing +9.430s
  4. Bruno Senna – Mahindra Racing +10.147s
  5. Sebastien Buemi – e.dams-Renault +10.689s
  6. Lucas di Grassi – Audi Sport Abt +11.204s
  7. Nelson Piquet Jr – NextEV TCR +11.561s
  8. Salvador Duran – Amlin Aguri +12.402s
  9. Oliver Turvey – NextEV TCR +14.142s
  10. Nicolas Prost – e.dams-Renault +14.535s
  11. Daniel Abt – Audi Sport Abt +23.170s
  12. Simona de Silvestro – Andretti +24.610s
  13. Karun Chandhok – Mahindra Racing +31.501s
  14. Alex Fontana – Trulli +38.423s
  15. Stephane Sarrazin – Venturi +48.680s
  16. Jean-Eric Vergne – Andretti +1 Lap
  17. Nick Heidfeld – Venturi – DNF
  18. Fabio Leimer – Virgin Racing – DNF
  19. Jarno Trulli – Trulli – DNF
  20. Sakon Yamamoto – Amlin Aguri – DNF

Driver’s Championship:

  1. Nelson Piquet – NextEV TCR – 144 points
  2. Sebastien Buemi – e.dams-Renault – 143 points
  3. Lucas di Grassi – Audi Sport Abt – 133 points
  4. Jerome D’Ambrosio – Dragon Racing – 113 points
  5. Sam Bird – Virgin Racing – 103 points

Team’s Championship:

  1. E.dams-Renault – 232 points
  2. Dragon Racing – 171 points
  3. Audi Sport Abt – 165 points
  4. NextEV TCR – 152 points
  5. Virgin Racing – 133 points

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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