- Oct 27, 2014
Nicolas Prost took his first Formula E win in the Miami ePrix, made to work for it at the end by a sensational debut from Scott Speed.
Yet even past half-distance those two were not the main story of the race. Instead it was poleman Jean-Eric Vergne, having survived a tap from Prost under braking for the first corner, absorbing constant pressure from Sam Bird, the Briton displaying the same energy-efficient driving with which he dominated the Putrajaya race.
It was otherwise a rather formation first half. The tight 90-degreed Biscayne Bay circuit didn't provide obvious overtaking spots (when there’s a permanent yellow flag situation at the pit exit, isn’t it basically admitting that the circuit is too tight at points?), but Bird finally made his move despite Vergne leaving little room on the run into turn 5.
As is perhaps inevitable in a series which needs to switch cars to complete races and the long minimum pitstop time (63 seconds) that entails, the drivers which best conserve energy and nail that time are going to be the ones with ultimate track position. Thus when Bird apparently missed his pit window, he was left without power and spent half a lap trundling towards the pits. Having done all the hard work to earn the lead, he returned to the race in 7th and far from the front.
Vergne instead pitted immediately after being passed, and several drivers got elevated in his place, Daniel Abt being the big winner as he took the lead from Prost and Audi Sport ABT teammate Lucas di Grassi. Vergne’s slower pitstop sent him down the order, and another pole got wasted as he retired next to the pit entry with a couple of laps remaining.
Nelson Piquet Jr had to start 7th after taking a five-place penalty from the last race, but again coped very well despite missing out on a podium hat-trick, passing Sam Bird on lap 31, then Jean-Eric Vergne whilst locking up into turn 1. Risky on such a bumpy track, but he pulled it off and Vergne was thankfully always aware of where his opponents were, able to run them close without running them off the track. With 5th and an extra two points for fastest lap, a title campaign is still within Piquet Jr's grasp.
But Scott Speed was the real revelation; after qualifying 10th, he and his crew nailed the minimum pitstop time, and he stormed past Andretti teammate Vergne on lap 24, catching up to the leading trio with ten laps to go. di Grassi didn’t fight him too hard as he moved into 3rd, and his victory chance came when Prost passed Abt before turn 8, Speed following the e-Dams driver through into turn 1. Prost brushed the wall at turn 7 on the last lap, frantically urging his crew over the radio not to break his concentration.
The Frenchman was just able to hold off the American’s challenge to deliver the win that probably should have happened all the way back in Beijing, and take over the championship lead from di Grassi. Abt also held on for 3rd despite having less power, and will be relieved to have finally broken his duck.
Sam Bird fell further back in the second half and ended 8th, still ahead of di Grassi in 9th, but as in Buenos Aires Bird hasn’t capitalized on a chance to make big championship ground. Other title rival Sébastien Buemi fared even worse, surprisingly anonymous in 13th and slipping to 5th in the standings.
Jerome d’Ambrosio was more quietly effective, taking 4th place almost unnoticed. Another debutant, d’Ambrosio’s Dragon Racing teammate Loïc Duval, raced well after a mediocre first ever qualifying, completing a good move on Vitantonio Liuzzi’s Trulli GP on his way to 7th.
While Amlin Aguri scored solid points with da Costa 6th and Duran 10th, Karun Chandhok and Nick Heidfeld were sent to the back of the grid for using too much power in qualifying. For Mahindra this weekend was another missed opportunity, Chandhok then receiving a drive through penalty and Bruno Senna retiring during the race.
So after a steady start Formula E’s collected driving talent and low-grip cars overcame not the greatest circuit ever constructed to stage another nail-biting race in Miami. The series is staying in the USA for its next race, using a shortened version of the great Long Beach circuit in three weeks’ time, and after Scott Speed's display first time out everyone's already hoping that he'll return for a second home race...
Watch the Highlights Video here!
Race Result (39 laps)
1 Nicolas Prost e-Dams 25 points
2 Scott Speed Andretti Autosport 18
3 Daniel Abt Audi Sport ABT 15
4 Jerome d’Ambrosio Dragon Racing 12
5 Nelson Piquet Jr China Racing 10
Standings after 5 races
1 Nicolas Prost e-Dams 67 points
2 Lucas di Grassi Audi Sport ABT 60
3 Sam Bird Virgin Racing 52
4 Nelson Piquet Jr China Racing 49
5 Sébastien Buemi e-Dams 43
Pole Position: Jean-Eric Vergne Andretti Autosport (3 points)
Fastest Lap: Nelson Piquet Jr China Racing (2 points)
What did you think of the race? Did you have a favourite moment? Where would you rank this circuit in relation to the others so far? Comment below!
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