Sunday June 28, 2015
LONDON – Nelson Piquet Jr. won the first Formula E championship after a strong day in the London ePrix, the season finale, on Sunday.
The Brazilian drove in a very determined fashion from start to finish, making up a lot of places, thanks to a very aggressive strategy: his courage was rewarded with seventh place, enough for him to triumph in the title fight by a single point. It also means that, for the first time, a Chinese team, NEXTEV TCR, produced the champion in an FIA series.
Apart from Piquet, the other hero of the moment was Englishman Sam Bird, who took his second win of the season in front of his home crowd.
It was a well-deserved, if not unexpected victory, given that Bird actually took the chequered flag right behind Stephane Sarrazin, but on the slowing down lap, the Venturi driver was informed he had exceeded the permitted energy allowance. The inevitable penalty dropped him to 15th place. Bird’s great day also included setting the fastest race lap, which was worth not just the two bonus points in the classification, but also the Visa Fastest Lap Trophy in the very race in which Visa Europe was the title sponsor.
Even the cleverest of thriller screenwriters could not have come up with such an incident packed script as the one delivered at the eleventh and final round of the season. A fantastic crowd flocked to Battersea Park: once again today, over 25,000 spectators packed the grandstands and the eVillage, bringing the total number of people through the gates over the duration of the event from Friday to Sunday, to around the 60,000 mark.
They were treated to two equally thrilling scenarios. The first was the fight for the win, which apart from the two aforementioned drivers, also involved Belgium’s Jerome D’Ambrosio and France’s Loic Duval, who both finished on the podium. The result means that Dragon Racing has finished second in the teams’ championship, right behind newly crowned champions e.dams-Renault.
The second big story of the day was the title fight, with three contenders, Buemi, di Grassi and Piquet, who went on to cross the line in that order.
However, only the last of them was smiling about his finishing position, because the six points that go with seventh place were enough to finish just a single point ahead of Buemi in the classification. The Swiss driver paid the price for a spin shortly after his pit stop: the mistake meant Bruno Senna got ahead of him to finish fourth, his best result of the season. The Brazilian proved to be an unshakeable opponent for the e.dams-Renault driver, who tried his best in the final few metres to take back the position that would have given him the title.
Lucas di Grassi would have needed a combination of favourable circumstance to take the title and, in the end, sixth place was not even enough to allow the Audi Sport ABT team to hang on to second place in the teams’ classification.
The remaining points places were filled by the Mexican Duran (eighth), Englishman Turvey who finished ninth just as he did yesterday in his debut weekend in Formula E and Nicolas Prost, the only driver who has always finished in the points this season.
The day got off to a dramatic start, as the battle for the Julius Baer Pole Position was hit by rain, just as the second group of drivers were out on track. Therefore, for the first time ever this season, the special all-weather tyres supplied to all Formula E competitors by Michelin, were given a stern test. Paying the highest price for the drops of rain that hit that track was Piquet, who was in the third group and thus found himself in 16th place on the grid, behind fellow countryman di Grassi (11th) but more importantly, a long way off Sebastian Buemi, his closest title rival, who was sixth fastest. Quickest was Sarrazin who beat D’Ambrosio by a whisker with Duval third and Bird fourth.
“Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the final would turn out like this,” commented Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag. “It was an incredible day and we achieved what we set out to do; putting on a great motorsport show in one of the most important cities in the world. We did it.”