POWER LINES: FORMULA E SEASON 1 REVIEW, PART 1
It's been three months since Formula E lit up the park with a title showdown around Battersea. The revolutionary series delivered a season full of adrenaline fuelled, electrically powered action on street circuits all over the world.
The countdown is now on for it to start all over again, promising to be even better than before.
So to kick off our preseason build up to Beijing here is the first in a two part review of the first season. Sit back, strap in and power up....
London, June 28 2015
"I'm not even going to say anything until we know it's true"
His voice calm and measured, Nelson Piquet Jnr. was, at first, unwilling to accept what he had achieved. Emotions, he knew, had to be kept in check at a time like this. Such had been the frenetic pace of the race, the championship pendulum swinging between himself and his rivals, such hesitation was understandable. Was he the champion? Would penalties steal it from him? Had he come so close...?
"Let me know what's going on…."
Just under an hour earlier, the balance of power had seemed to rest firmly with e.dams driver Sebastian Buemi. Sixth on the grid, ten places ahead of Piquet, one hand was already on the inaugural Formula E championship. Tension built as each of the five lights were illuminated and the drivers prepared to do battle once more around London's Battersea Park.
Nico Prost sat back in fifteenth place, a seemingly endless collection of talent and horsepower between him and the race lead. It was all so different at the first round, when the Formula E championship made its debut on the world stage in Beijing…
Race 1: Beijing, 13th of September 2014
The son of a four times formula one world champion sat on pole position. Prost had achieved the first ever pole for a brand new series, a brand new concept in motor racing. He had already made history, as had the series itself just being here. All that remained was for the French driver to take victory for himself and his e.dams team; but what transpired was testament to the fact that anything can and will happen in Formula E. Having controlled the entire race from the front, Prost was being challenged in the closing stages by Venturi’s Nick Heidfeld. Going into the last corner of the final lap Heidfeld attempted to make move on the inside and was sent flying into the barriers by Prost's aggressive defending. This left the way clear for a surprised Lucas di Grassi to be the first Formula E winner for the Abt Audi Sport team.
9 months on, the lights disappeared in London and the final race was underway, the cars launching their way towards the first turn. Stephane Sarrazin, driving for Venturi, maintained the lead from his pole position. A strong start saw Loic Duval into second place before the end of the lap with the three championship contenders also gaining ground. As the cars appeared and disappeared beneath the canopy of trees Buemi had gained a place up to fifth, Di Grassi was up to 9th and Piquet had climbed four places to run in 12th, but significantly he was outside the points. This meant that as the first five laps came and went, Sebastian Buemi was still driving towards the title.
The first five cars charged on offering a kaleidoscope of speed to the crowds trackside. In amongst them, home favourite Sam Bird driving one of his most competitive races of the season. This was a performance reminiscent of his drive at the second race in Malaysia…
Race 2: Putrajaya, 22nd of November 2014
Oriol Servia lined up at the head of the field (After Prost, who qualified on pole, incurred a grid penalty for crashing into Heidfeld at the end of Beijing) but right from the outset Sam Bird had looked the more competitive. In just five laps he had converted his second place on the grid into a race lead with a stellar overtake. His speed at the Putrajaya circuit was incredible, sometimes up to 2.5 seconds per lap faster than his rivals. Such was his dominance that, even with incidents and accidents requiring two appearances of the BMW I8 safety car, the result never looked in doubt. A commentator’s dream came in the closing stages as Senna (Bruno) overtook Prost (Nico) bringing back memories of long ago. Bruno then spoiled the illusion slightly by crashing heavily into the barriers on the final lap whilst chasing a podium. Things were going smoothly for Lucas di Grassi though as a second place kept him at the head of the championship table.
Fast forwarding back to London, and the multicoloured snake of cars continued to make its way around the track, just south of the river Thames. Gaps at the front reduced as Duval began to threaten the race leader, closing by nearly three tenths to Sarrazin. Crucially more important gaps continued to grow with Piquet looking more and more distant in twelfth place. The Brazilian would be trying to save energy, something of a speciality for the China Racing team, but would it be enough?
On lap 10 FanBoost was engaged by the current championship leader in a bid to secure two precious points for fastest lap. These could be vital and, as if to prove that all things were going his way, by lap twelve Sebastian Buemi had claimed them for himself, further strengthening his grip on the title. Everything seemed to be falling into place just as it had at the third round of the series in Punta del Este…
Race 3: Punta del Este, 13th of December 2014
With the Atlantic Ocean for a backdrop, Uruguay really had found a great place for a race. The best place to start the race though (A.K.A. Pole position) had been acquired by series debutant Jean Eric Vergne driving for the Andretti team. Any advantage was short lived however as a fast starting Piquet surged into the lead. Sebastian Buemi attacked his team mate and was past Prost and into third. Drivers were clawing away at the steering wheel and sliding dramatically round the track, providing a fast and exciting spectacle for the fans. By lap 13 Vergne was back in front, outbreaking Piquet, who was then harried by a charging Buemi. The Swiss ace was in fighting spirit and found himself in front of the Brazilian come the pit stops. With the car change overs complete the E.Dams driver was great shape, seeking the teams first victory. A result all but guaranteed when Vergne suddenly slowed with a technical problem. Cruel luck for the Andretti driver but an overdue celebration for e.dams, who had themselves been denied success early on....
As the final race approached half distance the top nine cars were all running dangerously low on power necessitating a change of car, a unique feature of Formula E. Drivers launching themselves from one car to another before returning, fully charged, to the fray. The frugal energy saving of Nelson Piquet Jnr. saw him take the lead and hold onto it for a couple of laps. It was not to last but the tide could still turn in his favour. Sometimes it pays to expect the unexpected…
Race 4: Buenos Aries, 10th of January 2015
Round 4 saw the Formula E grid move to Argentina. Buemi proved again that his team was the strongest in qualifying as e.dams topped the time sheets once more. A challenging mix of corners awaited the drivers as they sat on the grid, eyes fixed on the lights. Launching away Buemi kept the lead despite his wheels spinning up as they fought for traction. The fast starting Venturi of Nick Heidfeld was soon in second and giving chase to the leader. As the gap between first and second ebbed and flowed, Lucas di Grassi sought to build his title lead with a move past Sam Bird. This forward momentum continued as he continued to pass cars he found himself up with, and then in front of, the German Venturi driver and into second. A safety car slowed proceedings but a few corners after the restart the frustrated cries of Buemi were heard over pit radio as he crashed into retirement, a small touch with the wall at the final chicane bending his wishbone out of shape. As if in sympathy, di Grassi’s car then had a suspension failure at the very same place a lap later. Nick Heidfeld then proved that bad things happen in threes as he received a drive through penalty whilst leading, whilst Sam Bird was also penalised for narrowly jumping the red light at the pitlane exit. All this chaos left Amlin Aguri to claim a somewhat unexpected maiden victory with Antonio Felix da Costa, who had driven smartly and sensibly throughout to avoid the pitfalls and take the victory ahead of Prost and a surprised Piquet Jnr.
The tension in London's Battersea Park seemed to have increased exponentially as Sebastian Buemi spun the car after leaving the pits, allowing Bruno Senna to leapfrog him on track. The Swiss driver still found himself in a championship winning position though as his main rival, Piquet, had dropped back outside the points following his pit stop. At the sharp end of the race Stephane Sarrazin continued to lead from Loic Duval with Sam Bird beginning to threaten more and more with each lap, and then setting the fastest. The loss of the fastest lap points for Buemi brought Piquet ever closer, now just 2 points separated them with the laps counting down. The title was up in the air as the contenders fluctuated between being underdogs and leaders of the pack.
Fabio Leimer had no such championship concerns or aspirations at this time. Piloting the second Virgin racing entry in only his second series start substituting for regular driver Jaimie Alguesuari, every corner was a learning experience. Tyre smoke and locked brakes from the number 17 car plus a fast approaching barrier was an indication that he would add his own twist to a championship battle that had already had so many turns...
Join Power Lines next week for the exciting conclusion before we turn our attention to season 2.
Written by Mark Child, Edited by Edward Hunter