It may have been a late addition to the Formula E calendar, but Moscow looked every bit a part of the championship as the city’s bold architecture provided a striking backdrop to the 13-turn 2.39km circuit, which was likely to be the location that would identify the main contenders for the inaugural driver’s championship title.
Old habits certainly die hard and, after a four race streak of not having to contend with any driver changes, two teams changed a driver for the Moscow ePrix; Andretti and NextEV TCR. Scott Speed was busy participating (and winning gold) in the X Games, so Justin Wilson was drafted in to make his Formula E debut for Andretti. Slightly more undisclosed circumstances were around the departure of Charles Pic who, seemingly after being chronically out-performed by his championship-leading team-mate, Nelson Piquet, has been dropped. Antonio Garcia, who drove for the team at the Punta del Este ePrix, was brought in once again to fill the spare seat.
Qualifying would’ve certainly whetted the appetites of the spectators after the top five drivers in the championship lined up from 2nd through to 6th, but none of them could stop Jean-Eric Vergne narrowly taking his third Formula E pole position of the year. Nelson Piquet was just 0.02 behind on the front row ahead of Lucas di Grassi, Sebastien Buemi, Jerome D’Ambrosio and Nicolas Prost. If Vergne’s task wouldn’t be hard enough, the three drivers directly behind him (also the top three in the championship) were awarded FanBoost for the race.
As the lights went out Vergne encountered blip of wheelspin and this gave Piquet enough of a chance to get alongside the Andretti driver and take the lead at turn one, with di Grassi and Buemi filtering behind, whilst Daniel Abt made a great start to move up from seventh to fifth on lap one ahead of D’Ambrosio, Prost, Heidfeld, Bird and Duran.
Piquet proceeded to scamper away, building a 2.1 second lead in five laps of running as the top four broke away from the rest of the field. Jarno Trulli – further down in eleventh – was beginning to hold up Antonio Felix da Costa and Justin Wilson. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Trulli) and Sam Bird (Virgin Racing) made early stops with technical problems.
With field settling down quite quickly, it became apparent that overtaking was going to be a difficult task, with many turning their attentions to their energy usage strategies. Da Costa, however, was not to be put off as he attempted a ballsy pass on the inside of the chicane of turns 7, 8 and 9. He put his car on the inside line and Trulli responded by running across the chicane altogether, keeping his place, much to the frustration of da Costa.
Only a couple of laps later, the Amlin Aguri man attempted the same move again at the chicane, which generated the same result of Trulli skipping across the chicane and keeping the place. As the field were approaching their pit stop, Bruno Senna’s rear wing managed to detach from the Mahindra Racing car early on in the lap after the Brazilian lost the rear end part way around turn one. He was able to pit but he lost a lot of time.
The leaders started pitting in with Piquet defying his normal tactics and stopping one lap earlier than the rest. Vergne, di Grassi, Abt, D’Ambrosio and Prost pitted one lap after Piquet, with Buemi and Heidfeld pitting a further lap later.
A sense of bemusement fell over the pit lane as both the e.dams-Renault drivers of Buemi and Prost stayed in their garage for an extra ten seconds than necessary. It quickly became apparent that the team simply thought the minimum pit time was 68 seconds instead of the 58 seconds that everybody else was adhering to.
Piquet retained his race lead over the pit stop ahead of di Grassi, who leadfrogged Vergne. Buemi’s elongated pit stop didn’t lose him any places, but dropped him into the clutches of Heidfeld, who had gained a couple of places over the stops. Abt was now in sixth ahead of Duran, Alguersuari and da Costa, who passed Trulli just after the pit stops at turn two. Jerome D’Ambrosio had fallen out of the points due to problems at his stop.
Justin Wilson was the next man to try and pass Trulli, and also tried his luck at the chicane, which gave the same result of the Italian missing the corner and retaining the place, as it was confirmed – with over 12 laps still to go – that Trulli’s action would be investigated after the race. Jaime Alguersuari was given a drive-through penalty for exceeding the maximum power limit, which would undo his efforts to get into the points.
Di Grassi gradually left Vergne behind and turned his attentions to Piquet, with the gap at 2.5 seconds with seven laps to go. Further back, a battle was developing between Trulli, Wilson and Duval for the final championship point.
With three laps to go Duval made an attempt to pass Wilson at the turn eleven hairpin and, as he was half way past, encountered Trulli who was travelling slowly on the apex of the corner. Duval clattered into the back of Trulli’s car, ripping the rear wing from the Italian’s car. Wilson capitalised by taking tenth place.
Onto the final lap, and di Grassi was unable to make any gains into Piquet’s lead after suffering with overheating issues. Piquet was unchallenged in claiming the victory ahead of di Grassi, but the battle for third intensified on the penultimate corner. Buemi was harrying Vergne throughout the last lap. The Swiss pilot moved alongside the Frenchman on approach to the chicane, the pair made contact and Buemi skipped across the chicane. Buemi lifted to let Vergne reclaim the place, but the Andretti driver was overtaken by Heidfeld, leaving Buemi to take third place ahead of Heidfeld and Vergne.
Abt took sixth ahead of Duran, da Costa, Prost and Wilson. That wasn’t to be the finalised top ten, however, as Buemi was handed a 29-second penalty for an unsafe pit release, demoting him to ninth place and handing the final podium position to Heidfeld, who claimed his first Formula E podium. Jarno Trulli was also slapped with a five-place grid drop at the next race for his corner-cutting antics.
Moscow ePrix – Race Results:
- Nelson Piquet – NextEV TCR – 35 laps
- Lucas di Grassi – Audi Sport Abt +2.012s
- Nick Heidfeld – Venturi +11.548s
- Jean-Eric Vergne – Andretti +12.416s
- Daniel Abt – Audi Sport Abt +25.626s
- Salvador Duran – Amlin Aguri +28.960s
- Antonio Felix da Costa – Amlin Aguri +30.529s
- Nicolas Prost – e.dams-Renault +31.556s
- Sebastien Buemi – e.dams-Renault +40.050s
- Justin Wilson – Andretti +46.320s
- Jerome D’Ambrosio – Dragon Racing +51.474s
- Karun Chandhok – Mahindra Racing +52.493s
- Jaime Alguersuari – Virgin Racing +55.810s
- Stephane Sarrazin – Venturi +56.715s
- Loic Duval – Dragon Racing +1:18.763s
- Bruno Senna – Mahindra Racing +1 lap
- Vitantonio Liuzzi – Trulli +1 lap
- Jarno Trulli – Trulli – DNF
- Antonio Garcia – NextEV TCR – DNF
- Sam Bird – Virgin Racing – DNF
- Nelson Piquet – NextEV TCR – 128 pts
- Lucas di Grassi – Audi Sport Abt – 111 pts
- Sebastien Buemi – e.dams-Renault – 105 pts
- Nicolas Prost – e.dams-Renault – 82 pts
- Jerome D’Ambrosio – Dragon Racing – 77 pts
- e.dams-Renault – 187 pts
- Audi Sport Abt – 143 pts
- NextEV TCR – 132 pts
- Dragon Racing – 106 pts
- Andretti – 104 pts