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Formula E-Brief: Di Grassi wins wild and crazy Putrajaya ePrix

Discussion in 'Motorsports' started by R.J. O'Connell, Nov 7, 2015.

  1. R.J. O'Connell

    R.J. O'Connell

    putrajaya 2015 lucas.jpg For however long the FIA Formula E Championship continues on, it may never again see a race as frantic and unpredictable as the 2015 Putrajaya ePrix. Lucas Di Grassi of the ABT Sport Audi Schaeffler team won the race from sixth on the grid, but to summarize every moment of this unforgettable race in words wouldn't do it all the justice it deserves.

    Renault e.Dams proved fallible after all, as Beijing winner Sebastien Buemi, who qualified on pole for the fifth time in thirteen races, led the opening fifteen laps by a very comfortable margin - but then, as he was set to take another commanding victory, the Swiss Superman suffered two electronic failures that ended his bid for a second victory to open the 2015-16 season. Meanwhile, Di Grassi, who won the inaugural Formula E race in Beijing last year thanks to the now-infamous Prost/Heidfeld clash, the man who would have won the Berlin ePrix this May until he was disqualified for a technical infraction - evaded the misfortunes that struck down his chief rivals to secure a properly decisive victory to cherish for a lifetime. A new record margin of victory, 13.8 seconds, and overwhelming joy from the Brazilian after the race as Di Grassi moved into the lead of the race on lap 24, never looked back, and with the win, took the lead in the Formula E Drivers' Championship.

    “It was an extremely tough race," remarked Di Grassi after the race, "mainly determined by battery temperature. But gladly we managed it better than the others, we did a fantastic job. The team in the background did a perfect job with the strategy and we managed to claim the victory and I’m now the leader in the championship.” Just behind Di Grassi, second-place Sam Bird and fourth-place Stephane Sarrazin turned in the two strongest come-from-behind performances of the race, fighting back from well down the order to finish in the top five.

    Bird entered the second Putrajaya ePrix as the race's defending champion, but was lucky to get out of Beijing with any points. The DS Virgin Racing challenger has, by the team's own admission, been overweight, and a bit of a battery hog. And after glancing off the wall in what proved to be a poor qualifying run, the Brit wasn't expected to defend his victory in Malaysia from fourteenth on the grid. Instead, Bird evaded the chaos that included his DS Virgin teammate Jean-Eric Vergne crashing out just one corner into the race, managed his energy wisely, and when nobody was paying attention, powered his way back onto the podium in Putrajaya with a second place finish. “I’m absolutely chuffed," said Bird (pictured below) after the race. "This one is for the boys at Virgin – I don’t think that too many people know that before the race we were down in the dumps because I didn’t think we were going to finish the race because we only had one battery in the car. The Virgin boys fixed the car so quick, that’s for the Virgin boys – mega!”

    putrajaya 2015 bird.jpg

    In contrast, Sarrazin got onto the front row in qualifying, but the French veteran lost power on the starting grid and was forced to start from the pit lane in last place. With unbelievable pace and strategy, and a few decisive overtakes along the way, Sarrazin came back from last place to finish just off the podium in fourth. Even with the best result of his Formula E career, Sarrazin was unhappy with the mechanical gremlins that took him out of contention for victory before the race even got underway. With the pace demonstrated by Sarrazin, who left former F1 World Champion teammate Jacques Villeneuve well and truly in his vapour trails, he showed that he might merit a little more than just one FanBoost vote per week.

    Dear reader, let's talk about Robin Frijns of Amlin Andretti, because he gritted out a podium finish in only his second Formula E race and made a genuine fan out of this writer in the process. Frijns is one of four drivers competing in last year's SRT-01e - limited in outright pace compared to their full-fledged constructor rivals. He qualified a strong eighth, he worked his way up into the top five, then as he approached the limping Dragon Racing car of Loic Duval with four laps to go, he seemingly J.R. Hildebranded his chances of a podium finish by sliding off-line and clattering the wall. With very obvious suspension damage, Frijns not only drove the last three laps with broken freakin' steering, he wound up finishing third when the other Dragon car of Jerome D'Ambrosio crashed out on the final lap of the race. “I felt like I was a rally driver!” exclaimed the Dutchman after the race. The Blue Falcons at Amlin Andretti were back on the podium under improbable circumstances, with Frijns joining Bird to party like it was 2012.

    And Antonio Felix da Costa may have been up in that fight as well had he not lost power twice in the space of a lap, but even in spite of that, he was was still rewarded with a sixth place finish for Team Aguri. Da Costa qualified fourth and was genuinely challenging Di Grassi on pace, even in the old car, before his misfortunes in an otherwise solid race weekend. Give credit also to Mahindra Racing, who saw Bruno Senna complete the top five, and Nick Heidfeld finish ninth despite being punted into a spin, serving a drive-thru penalty for a minimum pit time infraction, and a very hairy close call that was averted with just a Dab of Oppo. Nelson Piquet Jr. stretched the battery in his first car an astonishing 20 laps, using savvy strategy to salvage eighth place, championship points, and a "reduced sodium" attitude from what could have been another hellish race for the defending series champion.

    The punishing Malaysian heat and humidity wrecked havoc on man and machine alike, with the disappointments of Renault e.Dams and Dragon Racing topping the list. Nicolas Prost could only salvage a single point for the French squad after driving his second car at a crawling pace following a botched strategy call. To say nothing of the Double Dragons Duval and D'Ambrosio, who each looked at one point to challenge Di Grassi for the win, yet neither driver even saw the chequered flag as their suspensions gave out. Jean-Eric Vergne and Oliver Turvey - erm, apologies, SUPER GT SUPERSTAR Oliver Turvey - were eliminated within five laps, Vergne with damage from the first corner crash and Turvey from a stuck throttle that pitched him into the Tec-Pro barriers. Simona de Silvestro's whole race meeting was compromised as her Amlin Andretti car had battery issues throughout the day.

    Trulli Formula E Team reprised their Beijing role as Team Not Appearing In This Race after their cars failed scrutineering checks. To add to the drama for the Swiss-Italian squad, a breach of contract means that Salvador Duran won't be coming back to the team, whenever they may finally appear on track.

    putrajaya 2015 podium.jpg

    Six weeks until the following round in the beautiful beachfront city of Punta del Este in Uruguay is already long enough, but after a thrilling race that delivered so much chaos in the final handful of laps, the wait til 19 December will seem even longer. More like this, please and thank you.

    Final Results
    1st - Lucas di Grassi [BRA] - Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport - 50:17.449
    2nd - Sam Bird [GBR] - DS Virgin Racing - +13.884s
    3rd - Robin Frijns [NED] - Amlin Andretti - +29.776s

    4th - Stephane Sarrazin [FRA] - Venturi Grand Prix - +32.628s
    5th - Bruno Senna [BRA] - Mahindra Racing - +34.404s
    6th - Antonio Felix da Costa [POR] - Team Aguri - +36.925s
    7th - Daniel Abt [GER] - Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport - +37.283s
    8th - Nelson Piquet Jr. [BRA] - NEXTEV TCR - +40.623s
    9th - Nick Heidfeld [GER] - Mahindra Racing - +52.904s
    10th - Nicolas Prost [FRA] - Renault e.Dams - +53.695s
    11th - Jacques Villeneuve [CAN] - Venturi Grand Prix - +58.698s
    12th - Sebastien Buemi [SUI] - Renault e.Dams - +1:07.728s (PP + FL)
    13th - Simona de Silvestro [SUI] - Amlin Andretti - +1:24.464s
    14th - Jerome d'Ambrosio [BEL] - Dragon Racing - +1L
    15th - Nathanael Berthon [FRA] - Team Aguri - +1L
    16th - Loic Duval [FRA] - Dragon Racing - +1L
    Not Classified
    Oliver Turvey [GBR] - NEXTEV TCR - 4 laps
    Jean-Eric Vergne [FRA] - DS Virgin Racing - 0 laps
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 9, 2015
    • Like Like x 4
  2. Jimlaad43

    Nice apex, I'll take it! Premium

    All the people who've criticised Formula E for not being proper motorsport need to watch that race.
    • Agree Agree x 3
  3. the_sigman



    Proper motorsport is car failures and some crashes? I treat FE like one, but this race is not a good example, no wheel to wheel action.
  4. Bertil


    Shame about Vergne in the first corner, he never seems to catch a break.
  5. Flammenjc

    hydr.eSport Premium

    Pitifully slow cars that have to drive even slower than optimal because of battery saving. No thanks I'd rather watch something else.
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