BUEMI SUR­VIVES FOR­MULA E CHAOS

LON­DON EPRIX AC­TION

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - Pho­tos: LAT

R

edemp­tion. Just two weeks ear­lier, Se­bastien Buemi had watched his Ja­panese team­mate Kazuki Naka­jima pull over and con­cede the lead of Le Mans with just min­utes re­main­ing.

Two weeks later, the Swiss driver was drip­ping in cham­pagne as he saw off fel­low sportscar ace Lu­cas di Grassi in or­der to suc­ceed Nel­son Pi­quet Jr’s man­tle and be­come the sec­ond FIA For­mula E cham­pion.

But – like last year when he lost out on the ti­tle by a point – it wouldn’t be easy. Far from it.

At Turn 1 of Sun­day’s fi­nale on the very first lap, Abt driver di Grassi – tied on points with Buemi head­ing into the race – ploughed into the back of his ti­tle rival as both blamed each other for the in­ci­dent in a Senna/ Prost, Brazil/ja­pan-type drama. The re­sult­ing col­li­sion took both out of any chance of an over­all fin­ish, so in­stead they fought for the points on of­fer for fastest lap, which would be­come the de­cider. Although di Grassi came close, it was dif­fi­cult to see the ex­cel­lent Buemi and his su­pe­rior Re­nault e.dams los­ing out on such a bat­tle. On his 16th tour, and in his sec­ond car af­ter the shunt, he pumped in the 1m24.150s. That gave him the two points for fastest lap and the ti­tle. Di Grassi had no re­sponse in his spare car.

While Buemi’s team-mate Nico Prost walked away with Satur­day’s race the TV cam­eras barely fell upon him such was the fe­roc­ity of the mid­field bat­tle cen­tred on Buemi and di Grassi, but also con­tain­ing JeanEric Vergne, Sam Bird, Daniel Abt and Robin Fri­jns.

As well as the ti­tle fight, di Grassi and Buemi also had the con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship to think of, but that was put out of reach in the lat­ter stages of the first race thanks to an ag­gres­sive move around the out­side by Abt on Fri­jns, the two made con­tact putting both out of the race and ef­fec­tively end­ing Abt’s ti­tle hopes with Re­nault e.dams’ Prost and Buemi in the top five.

Be­hind the es­cap­ing top two of Prost and Senna – which was en­ter­tain­ing in it­self purely for nos­tal­gia – it was Bri­ton Oliver Tur­vey, Vergne, di Grassi and Buemi, af­ter the lat­ter had forced his way past Abt af­ter a frus­trat­ing pe­riod for the Swiss driver. The two ti­tle chal­lengers were down the or­der thanks to rain in their qual­i­fy­ing groups and scyth­ing their way through the field to­gether nicely hav­ing started 10th and 12th on the grid re­spec­tively.

With the two to­gether it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore trou­ble en­sued. Di Grassi al­most lost his wing af­ter a bold move on Vergne at Turn 8 – which di Grassi later la­belled as “stupid” for leav­ing the door half open and then clos­ing it abruptly.

Di Grassi’s front wing end­plate de­tached from his car, mean­ing he could con­tinue. In­cred­i­bly he con­se­quently set the fastest lap.

That was al­most in­stantly re­taken by Prost though, who went un­chal­lenged through the pit­stops and a brief safety car for Abt and Fri­jns’ ear­lier shunt. Senna did an ad­mirable job to stay with him in what is an in­fe­rior car. It was Mahin­dra and Senna’s best re­sult in For­mula E to boot.

While they scur­ried away, drama un­folded with three laps to go. Tur­vey crashed out of third blam­ing dam­age from a hit from Vergne, which caused a con­certina ef­fect, with the French­man tak­ing third. Bird used this op­por­tu­nity to dive down the in­side of Buemi and steal fifth, but on the fi­nal lap the Brit and last year’s Sun­day race win­ner ran out of power. It al­most ended in tears as Buemi ploughed into the back of Bird whose power ran out in the worst pos­si­ble place: the mid­dle of a straight.

Luck­ily it came on the last lap and Buemi fin­ished, but he still lost three points to ti­tle rival di Grassi.

But, no mat­ter. Both Buemi and di Grassi had to set a qual­i­fy­ing time in the rain on Satur­day and were there­fore both out of the su­per­pole bat­tle, but on the Sun­day it was dry and both made it to the five-driver shootout.

Buemi was supreme, just un­der a sec­ond quicker than team-mate Prost, who was his only re­al­is­tic rival in the ses­sion. Not only was it rel­e­vant to be on pole for the tight Lon­don track, it also meant he earned three points for the hon­our, and that put he and di Grassi equal on points into the sec­ond race of the week­end with the lat­ter start­ing di­rectly be­hind Buemi on the track in third.

Then, Turn 3. With di Grassi hit­ting the back of Buemi and con­sign­ing them to qual­i­fy­ing runs to try and set the fastest lap, Prost again ran away with the lead, even more em­phat­i­cally this time. But all eyes were on the fan­tas­tic Buemi and di Grassi. De­spite the open­ing drama, they both fo­cused and pro­duced supreme laps around the Bat­tersea Park cir­cuit.

Prost’s clos­est chal­lenger was Abt, who at­tempted to make up for his mis­de­meanour on Satur­day by com­plet­ing a bril­liant over­tak­ing move past Nick Hei­d­feld for sec­ond place. The po­si­tions ap­peared set for most of the race but on the last lap Vergne, Hei­d­feld and An­to­nio Felix da Costa were pe­nalised for us­ing more than the al­lowed amount of en­ergy. Da Costa es­pe­cially missed out on a bril­liant re­sult af­ter start­ing 13th and run­ning in the top five. He’d man­aged a sim­i­lar feat in Satur­day’s race.

That left a sur­prised Jerome d’am­bro­sio to round out the top three, with Loic Du­val and Stephane Sar­razin com­plet­ing the top five.

While a bril­liant sea­son pro­duced a ti­tanic bat­tle, the way in which the ti­tle was de­cided left a sour taste. Af­ter such an im­pres­sive sea­son of rac­ing, it was a shame that the cham­pi­onship was de­cided on a fastest lap. But the qual­ity of the two driv­ers fight­ing for the se­ries’ over­all hon­our proves that For­mula E is full of qual­ity.

Prost won both races, celebrates with Alain Buemi lost wing but took ti­tle Senna gave Mahin­dra best re­sult Di Grassi hit Buemi in Turn 1 shunt

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