2015-09-23 16:50:32

On the 28th of June 2015, Battersea Park, in the picturesque London burrow of Wandsworth, was host to the first ever FIA level championship decider to take place in the UK. This was it: Round 11, the last of the Inaugural championship.

Driver Standings (After Rd 10):

1. Nelson Piquet Jr - 138pts

2. Sébastien Buemi - 133pts

3. Lucas di Grassi - 125pts

4. Jerome D’Ambrosio - 95pts

5. Nicolas Prost - 88pts

6. Sam Bird - 76pts

7. Jean-Eric Vergne - 70pts

8. Antonio Felix da Costa - 51pts

9. Daniel Abt - 32pts

10. Nick Heidfeld - 31pts

Going into the final day, the fight was between two protagonists: Nelson Piquet Jnr. driving for NEXTEV Team China, led by 5 points over e.dams driver Sébastien Buemi, who had won the first ever London ePrix race the previous day, securing the constructors title for the French team. Lucas Di Grassi, whilst still mathematically in contention in his Audi Sport ABT car, needed to make a up a 13 point deficit to Piquet.

Team Standings (After Rd 10):

1. e.dams-Renault - 221pts

2. Audi Sport ABT - 157pts

3. NEXTEV TCR - 144pts

4. Dragon Racing - 133pts

5. Andretti Formula E - 119pts

6. Virgin Racing - 106pts

7. Amlin Aguri - 62pts

8. Venturi - 50pts

9. Mahindra Racing - 46pts

10. Trulli - 17pts

Qualifying started off dry for the first two groups, with Buemi in the 2nd group only managing to qualify 6th, it seemed Nelson would have the perfect opportunity to out-qualify his championship rival and romp to the title. But fate had other ideas…

It was exiting the turn 12 chicane that Sakon Yamamoto’s Amlin Aguri car came to a halt after losing control, hitting the concrete barriers and badly bending the front wishbone. This caused a red flag, during which the drizzling rain turned into a downpour.

When qualifying resumed yet again, Nelson pushed as hard as he could on the increasingly treacherous and slippy surface, but in the end he was fast enough only for 16th. Stephane Sarrazin, took his first pole for Venturi, having been drawn for the first qualifying session before the rain came. Piquet could only watch on; his title hopes in jeopardy.

The moisture evaporated before the start, giving way to bright sunshine, but the heat was all on Piquet Jnr; on a tight track where overtaking had proved extremely difficult the day before, he knew that he would have to gain a lot of places to get into the points, and even then likely needed misfortune to befall Buemi in order to maintain his fragile points lead.

formula e round 11 london race start

At the start Piquet made an excellent getaway, gaining 4 places on the first lap alone, but Buemi also managed to jump past Bruno Senna for 5th. Piquet then began to drop back from the pack ahead in an attempt to save energy; Team China were banking on a safety car. Yamamoto crashed again into the back of Jarno Trulli on lap 7, but this was cleaned up swiftly, and with no safety car Piquet used his reserved power to stay out an extra lap compared to everyone else before his pitstop, emerging in 10th place.

However, there was trouble for Buemi. Just after emerging from the pits on lap 15, he spun the car at Sun gate; in the process Bruno Senna was able to retake 5th place, snatching two crucial championship points away from the Swiss driver, who was marginally able to keep title outsider Di Grassi behind.

Meanwhile at the front, Sam Bird in the Virgin Racing car had managed to jump Jerome D’Ambrosio for 3rd place during the stops, but then a huge accident for Bird’s substitute teammate Fabio Leimer caused a safety car, allowing Bird to close the gap to leaders Duval and Sarrazin, and Piquet to close the gap to his teammate Oliver Turvey, who ran 9th.

At the restart, Bird wasted no time passing Duval for second, whilst Turvey allowed his NEXTEV TCR teammate through without a fuss, putting Piquet Jnr. within touching distance of the 7th place held by Amlin Aguri’s Salvador Duran which would put him back into a title winning position.

Into the long left-hander of turn 13, Duran made a mistake, and that was all Piquet needed; he went right around the outside of him in a textbook move. The pressure was now on Buemi, who was still desperately trying to pass Bruno Senna to regain the 5th place that he needed to become champion. But Bruno, determined to end his difficult season for Mahindra on a high, used every trick in the book to keep Buemi behind. For his part, Sébastien never relented, even making contact with Senna in his desperation to find a way through.

On the final lap, Duval in 4th was desperately saving power, having been dangerously close to 0%, bunching the pack up into the final chicane. Buemi tried a last ditch attempt to get ahead and pulled alongside Senna, but it was not enough: Senna showed him the door and a dejected Sébastien Buemi lost the title by a single point to Nelson Piquet Junior.

But there was confusion up ahead as Sarrazin, moments after crossing the finish line in 1st place after withstanding sustained pressure from Bird, was penalised for exceeding the power limit in his Venturi car; like Duval he had also hit 0%, but was told by his team that he would be fine despite using more energy to defend, a miscalculation that cost him the victory and left him 15th. The crowd cheered as Stephane’s misfortune after an otherwise great drive meant that home hero Sam Bird would win for Virgin Racing, and Nelson Piquet was emotional as he learned from commentator  Jack Nichols that he had become the inaugural Formula E champion; a prospect which had seemed so unlikely only a few short hours before.

Final Driver Standings (After Rd 11):

1. Nelson Piquet Jr - 144pts

2. Sébastien Buemi - 143pts

3. Lucas di Grassi - 133pts

4. Jerome D’Ambrosio - 113pts

5. Sam Bird - 103pts

6. Nicolas Prost- 88pts

7. Jean-Eric Vergne - 70pts

8. Antonio Felix da Costa - 51pts

9. Loic Duval - 42pts

10. Bruno Senna - 40pts

In securing a great double podium to end the season, Dragon Racing jumped both NEXTEV TCR and Audi Sport Abt to finish 2nd in the teams standings, but it was too late to catch e.dams who had been crowned champions the day before. Thanks to Bird’s win Virgin overtook the none-scoring Andretti for 5th, whilst Venturi’s misery was compounded by Bruno Senna’s season high of 4th place for Mahindra meaning they were beaten to 8th by the Indian team.

Final Team Standings (After Rd 11):

1. e.dams-Renault - 232pts

2. Dragon Racing - 171pts

3. Audi Sport Abt - 165pts

4. NEXTEV TCR - 152pts

5. Virgin Racing - 133pts

6. Andretti Formula E - 119pts

7. Amlin Aguri - 66pts

8. Mahindra Racing - 58pts

9. Venturi - 53pts

10. Trulli - 17pts

So Bird was the winner, Piquet was the champion whilst Buemi and Di Grassi missed out, having both looked so strong at various points earlier on in the campaign. They were left to lick their wounds, but no sooner had the first season ended before the drivers were back behind the wheel, developing their chargers for the next season. However, some of the drivers at Battersea were driving in what transpired to be their final races in Formula E: Karun Chandhok vacated his Mahindra seat after ending his final race in 13th, whilst Trulli retired from his final race for his eponymous team after accident damage, but stays on in a managerial role. Season two starts in Beijing on October 24th.

Report written by Edward Hunter,

Formula E Editor

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