Da Cost’ of crashing great in Buenos Aires

Antonio Felix da Costa took victory at the 4th race of Formula E’s first ever season in Argentina. The Portuguese youngster managed to keep clear of trouble in a race that saw two different race leaders retire and a third get demoted with a penalty, to take his and Amlin Aguri’s first win in the series.

Before I begin, please let me emphasise that the best way to understand how epic this race was is to actually watch it. Check out the entire race on YouTube; it’s sublime!

PRACTICE & QUALIFYING

Practice 1 saw the drivers get to learn the track. The challenging Turns 10-11-and-12 complex leading on to the final straight caught out a few drivers. Jean-Eric Vergne tagged the wall with his rear wheel early on, and Nelson Piquet Jr hit it much harder later on, breaking his front wing.

Practice 2 also featured a lot of drivers getting close to the same wall, including Daniel Abt, but he didn’t cause much damage to his car. One person who was not as fortunate was Stephane Sarrazin. He, like many drivers, found the heavy braking zones of Turns 1 & 6 difficult, but couldn’t get the car turned in and walloped the wall at the latter, destroying his car.

E.Dams Renault driver, and winner of the previous race Sebastian Buemi took Pole position in the Qualifying session, with his old Toro Rosso team mate Jaime Alguersuari alongside him in second. Jarno Trulli was the only driver not to set a time, and so he started from 20th.

RACE

At the start, Nick Heidfeld pounced on a slow-starting Jaime Alguersuari, diving down the inside at the first corner to take second place. If his statement of intent was not clear enough already, he then set about harrying Pole man Sebastian Buemi.

On lap 2, ‘Quick Nick’ immediately used his Fan Boost (An extra 30 Kilowatts of power for 5 seconds) to try and overpower the Swiss native, but he couldn’t find a way past.

Seven laps into the race, third-placed Alguersuari was causing a bit of a train. Lucas di Grassi took advantage of this, and overtook him at the first corner hairpin. This caused the group of cars they were leading to bunch up, and because of that, Antonio Felix da Costa managed to get past Jean-Eric Vergne as well.

An unprecedented victory makes da Cost' of racing all worth it. (Sorry)
An unprecedented victory makes da Cost’ of racing all worth it. Antonio dances through the sandy streets of Punta del Este, December 2014.

Fast forward to lap 14, and Heidfeld’s early pace had faded. He used too much of his power up trying to pass Buemi, and fell victim to di Grassi. In the same way as before, the pack bunched up, and Sam Bird also got past him too. Amlin Aguri’s da Costa also challenged Heidfeld (now 5th) but had to bide his time, for a while at least.

Karun Chandhok closed the first half of the race when his Mahindra’s suspension buckled going over the bumps at Turn 9. He lost control of the car and hit the wall, and the Safety Car was deployed.

From here on, the race got pretty crazy. Since it was the half-way point, most drivers were ready to swap cars as is customary in Formula E, but the timing of the Safety Car made this a confusing mess. Lapped cars were stuck in between people on the lead lap, and eventually, the race organisers decided to let everyone overtake the Safety Car so that they could re-form behind it in the correct order.

After a ridiculous seven laps, normal order was restored. Buemi led the pack into the last 12 laps, but set the worst example a leader possibly could – crashing. It was barely more than a nibble at the wall at the turn 8 chicane, but his suspension snapped in half. His despair was broadcast instantly, with his team radio cry of “Aww noooo! I hit the wall!” illustrating the scenario perfectly.

That left Lucas di Grassi in charge of proceedings on lap 24. The man behind him was Sam Bird, but not for long – he left the pits when the red light was on, and got a drive-through penalty.

His job of getting back to the front was made a little easier later on lap 26, when di Grassi’s suspension broke in identical circumstances to Chandhok’s, 10 laps earlier. That left Bird at the front, but his penalty (served on lap 28) dropped him way down the order. Nick Heidfeld then led.

Vergne attacked Alguersuari for third place, and on lap 33, he hit the back of him. It damaged vergne’s nose slightly, but for now, he carried on in third place behind da Costa and Heidfeld.

Heidfeld was then awarded a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. As soon as he peeled in to the pits on Lap 33, da Costa took the lead, and he was the one that managed to hold onto it. But the podium positions were not even close to being decided.

Vergne and Alguersuari occupied the bottom two steps on Lap 34, but as the former defended turn 1 from the latter, he locked up. Both went wide, and that meant Prost, Abt and Piquet were right behind them.

The first corner of the final lap was to be perhaps the most chaotic of the weekend. Vergne defended his second place from Prost, who had just passed Alguersuari, who was himself just ahead of Piquet and Abt. Vergne braked too late; Prost got past him; Abt smashed into the back of Alguersuari; Piquet sneaked through into third place.

Alguersuari dragged his heavily-damaged Virgin car over the finish line in 4th, despite the rear suspension making the car drive diagonally instead of straight. Vergne recovered to take sixth, but Abt was out.

While all that was going on, Antonio Felix da Costa calmly took his and Amlin’s first victory, something the team did not think possible at the start of the season.

FINISHING POSITIONS

1) A Felix da Costa, Amlin Aguri
2) N Prost, e.dams Renault
3) N Piquet Jr, China Racing
4) J Alguersuari, Virgin Racing
5) B Senna, Mahindra Racing
6) J-E Vergne, Andretti Autosport
7) S Bird, Virgin Racing
8) N Heidfeld, Venturi
9) O Servia, Dragon Racing
10) S Sarrazin, Venturi
11) H-P Tung, China Racing
12) M Andretti, Andretti Autosport
13) D Abt, Audi Sport ABT (Retired Lap 34, Collision damage)
14) J d’Ambrosio, Dragon Racing

OUT/UNCLASSIFIED

J Trulli, Trulli GP
L di Grassi, Audi Sport ABT (Suspension Failure)
S Buemi, e.dams Renault (Collision damage)
M Cerruti, Trulli GP
K Chandhok, Mahindra Racing (Suspension failure)

DISQUALIFIED

S Duran, Amlin Aguri (Power)*

*Salvador Duran was disqualified for using more than his allotted energy during the race.

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