Switzerland’s Sébastien Buemi took the honours at the 2015 Beijing ePrix, the opening round of the 2015-16 FIA Formula E season.
The Renault e.Dams driver finished 11 seconds clear of nearest rival Lucas di Grassi, who won the same race – the series’ inaugural event – last year, and behind him finished Nick Heidfeld, whose spectacular crash with Nico Prost in Beijing 2014 brought the race to a close.
It might well have been an e.Dams double-podium, but Buemi’s team mate Prost had a bizarre aerodynamic failure that left his rear wing dangling off the back of his car.
Due to the lack of downforce required on FE cars, his pace was not really affected, but the Marshals deemed his car’s condition too dangerous, and he duly came in to retire the car with three laps to go.
The race started well for Buemi, who had taken the first ever ‘SuperPole’, a newly-added fifth Qualifying session.
For 2015, Four groups of five drivers are randomly selected in a lottery draw, and these four groups go out separately (to minimise traffic) to set lap times and decide the grid. However, the fastest drivers from each group are now grouped together for the final session, and they get a chance to improve their time, and attempt to take ‘SuperPole’.
His prime starting position meant he was in great shape at the first corner, but team mate Prost locked up and lost second place to Nick Heidfeld. He did exactly the same thing on Lap 2, and that handed third place to Lucas di Grassi.
Lap 3 saw the first ever Full course yellow (FCY) for Formula E, whereby yellow flags to curb drivers’ speed are shown all around the track while an incident is cleared.
The incident in question was that of FE debutant Simona de Silvestro. The sport’s leading lady locked up and clouted the barriers hard, ending her first race on a low.
After two laps, the FCY ended, and immediately Sébastien Buemi took off into the distance; his pace in this stint culminating in a 14.9 second lead at the pit stops and eventually, the win.
Formula E batteries are still not capable of running an entire race, so the compulsory car swaps remain. On lap 14 most cars – including the frontrunners – came in for their swaps, and it was here that another swap occurred – di Grassi slipped past Heidfeld.
1997 Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve caused another FCY when he collided with Team Aguri’s Antonio Felix da Costa. The Uruguayan ePrix winner of Season 1 was out on the spot, but the Canadian veteran continued.
Season 1 Champion Nelson Piquet Jr had a tough race, languishing in 9th for much of the race, and then suffering a mechanical issue two laps from the finish.
The Dragon racing cars looked spirited at the end of the race, with fourth-placed Loic Duval bearing down on Nick Heidfeld for the final podium position. Jerome d’Ambrosio in the sister Dragon in fifth also looked racy and fancied his chances against Duval on the last lap, but there was not quite enough time remaining, and the trio finished where they were.
Buemi up ahead had created a monstrous gap to di Grassi in second, to take the first win of the season, and the second of his electric career.
This gave him 25 points, as well as three points for Pole Position, and two points for fastest lap, resulting in a highest possible total of 30 points.
1) Sébastien Buemi, e.Damns Renault
2) Lucas di Grassi, Abt Shaeffler Audi
3) Nick Heidfeld, Mahindra
4) Loic Duval, Dragon racing
5) Jerome d’Ambrosio, Dragon racing
6) Oliver Turvey, NEXTEV China Racing
7) Sam Bird, DS Virgin
8) Nathaniel Berthon, Team Aguri
9) Daniel Abt, Abt Schaeffler Audi
10) Stephane Sarrazin, Venturi
11) Robin Frijns, Amlin Andretti
12) Jean-Eric Vergne, DS Virgin
13) Bruno Senna, Mahindra
14) Jacques Villenueve, Venturi (+1 Lap)
15) Nelson Piquet Jr, NEXTEV Team China (+2 Laps)
Nicolas Prost, e.Dams Renault (Rear wing)
Antonio Felix da Costa, Team Aguri (Collision)
Simona de Silvestro, Amlin Andretti (Collision)
The next race is on November 7 2015 in Putrajaya, Malaysia.