2016-07-05 02:38:01

Race day dawned and those loyal Formula E fans knew that today a champion would be crowned. All the racing, the incidents, the mistakes, the accidents, this would be the final chance for all the drivers to prove a point, to get a podium, their best ever result....and for two of them it would be a chance to write their names in the record books. Lucas Di Grassi had played a good game yesterday to open his points lead at a track that so obviously favoured his rival. Five points though was a slim margin and he would have to fight tooth and nail to defend it. Sebastien Buemi was focuses on one thing: winning. He had every reason to be confident he could win it all today and struck early in free practice with an unofficial lap record. The time for talk was over. A battle needed to be fought and to the victor would go the spoils.....


Yesterday's winner Nico Prost lead the cars out for group one. All cars started out with banker laps at 170kw before going hell for leather at full power. The dominance of the E.dams team was immediately evident as Prost put in a time nearly a full second faster than his rivals. Sam Bird upheld British honour by going second followed by Piquet then the two Dragon entries of Duval and D'Ambrosio.

This time the two championship contenders would be in different groups and it would be Lucas Di Grassi to show his hand first. Knowing how fast Buemi would be later in the session this time was hugely important for the Brazilian. Impressively he steered his car into second, a mere 0.3 seconds behind Prost and with a definite chance of Superpole. The championship leader would later say he was pleased with the lap and that he "extracted 100% from the car". Jean Eric Vergne moved into third overall, ahead of his team mate with Mike Conway 8th, Simona de Silvestro 9th and Ma Qing Hua 10th

Superpole so far was in the hands of Prost, Di Grassi, Vergne, Bird and Piquet but this was sure to change after group three. NIck Heidfeld watched the monitors in the Mahindra pits before climbing into his car and hitting the track. All eyes though would be on Buemi as he aimed to build on his free practice time and top the time sheets. Sector one of his lap was fractionally up on his team mate and in sector two he edged further away. The final sector though was amazing as he recorded a lap seven tenths quicker than his team mate. The Swiss driver was clearly on a mission and a second faster than Di Grassi. Heidfeld went into fourth, pushing Abt to fifth over all with Antonio Felix da Costa well outside the top times in twelfth. This was not just a gauntlet being thrown down but seeing it smashed six feet into the Battersea tarmac.

The question for the drivers in group four would be if any of them could steal a place in the top five. Some, like last years pole sitter Stephane Sarrazin had the proven pedigree but sadly he was unable to repeat his previous exploits and had to settle for 15th. A podium yesterday did not translate into success for Bruno Senna either as he finished in 13th with Robin Frijns splitting the two in 14th place. The shock of the group though came from Britain's Oliver Turvey who must have had at least three shredded wheat in the morning to drag the NEXTEV TCR entry into third place overall and straight into Superpole!

So.....the final shootout of the season, and a lot to play for. Heidfeld began the charge with his fifth quickest time from the group stage. The lap, untidy and a bit ragged, set an initial benchmark of 1:24.827. Next out was Di Grassi and a lap with huge title implications. Extracting everything out of the car would probably still not be enough to take pole but he had to be as near to Buemi as possible. Fastest in sectors one and two he crossed the line with a 1:22.975, faster than his group stage time. Shock superpoler Oliver Turvey impressed again by going purple in sector one, beating Nick Heidfeld and slotting in just behind Di Grassi on a 1:23.685. Yesterday's winner Prost locked up early in his lap but still went purple all round the lap to take provisional pole with a time of 1:22.948. Now came the crunch moment as Buemi took to the track. A pole position would see him share the points lead going into the race. Sector one was just barely faster than his team mate as the blue of the E.Dams, number 9, powered round the London streets. Sector two was over half a second though and by the line Buemi had emphatically stamped his authority on qualifying, nearly a full second quicker than everyone else. If he could bring that same level to the race it would be a brave man who would bet against him.\


Several hours after qualifying and with the grid cleared everything is still. With Alain Prost biting his finger nails in the E.Dams garage it all came down to this. The next hour, the next thirty three laps would decide the fate of two drivers and the destination of the season two Formula E championship. As both Lucas Di Grassi and Sebastien Buemi said in a pre race promotional video it all came down to today. The Formula E circus had pitched its tent in nine different countries around the world to reach this point and, as the cars pulled forward to take up their grid slots, this seasons journey would soon come to an end. In jubilation for some, heartbreak for others.

The red lights disappeared and eighteen cars launched forward, each looking to gain that vital inch of the Battersea tarmac. To defend their position or climb the order early on. Buemi used his Renault power to pull away cleanly and, with Nico Prost slotting into second, he knew his position would be secure. After struggling to find a way through on Daniel Abt in yesterday's race, as the German played the team game for Di Grassi, it was a good feeling to have his own rear gunner holding up his rival. For his part, Lucas Di Grassi reacted well to the lights and was alongside Prost coming down into turn three. His position was now precarious, boxed in by Prost to the left and by his title rival in front. Some had speculated whether the title race might be decided with a crash and, to paraphrase the legendary Murray Walker, "it happened immediately!" Whether Di Grassi went looking for an accident or whether Buemi applied the brakes unexpectedly early, the end result was the same. The Abt Schaeffler Audi car ploughed into back of Buemi after an initial jink to the left, pushing his title rival down the escape road and spinning him round. The damage to both was severe, Buemi's rear wing traveling to the scene of the accident attached to Di Grassi's broken front right suspension. If either party could be described as lucky then fortune slightly favoured the E.Dams team with Buemi being spun round and left at least facing in the direction of travel. As the safety car picked up the leader, the Swiss driver struggled round in frantic communication with his team. Di Grassi also managed to rejoin but whilst Buemi circulated, minus a rear wing and with potential rear suspension damage, the Abt team would be forced into a very premature car change. Trundling slowly, with one wheel at almost 90 degrees to the other three, down the pit lane Di Grassi reached his pits. A change of car would see him with no way to finish the race (He emerged a lap down even under safety car) and his title dreams hanging in the balance. The only hope would come in the form of a fastest lap and the precious two points that it offered. This was also something e.Dams were forced to do with Buemi as his rear-wingless car was black and orange flagged, forcing him also to abandon ship and go for fastest lap in the 2nd car. A strange but almost perversely fascinating end to a championship was fully in prospect, especially considering that the race had only just begun.

At the front of the race still was Buemi's team mate, and yesterday's winner, Nico Prost. The Frenchman, who might have been expecting a day of follow-the-leader now saw a race winning chance open up. If there was no way to help the sister car then the only order would be to win the race. When the safety car came in he led Heidfeld, Abt, Turvey and Bird over the line as Lucas Di Grassi rejoined the track with his car set to qualifying spec. The E.dams pit received Buemi on the same lap but, with tactics now coming into play, he did not return to the fray but sat patiently as the team made adjustments to the settings. With so much on the line one wrong move could see the dream ended but, play it right and, with possibly the fastest car on the grid, he could still be celebrating come the chequered flag.

With such drama in the pits it was easy to forget that other drivers were pushing the limits out on track. Sam Bird pulled off a daring move on fellow Brit Oliver Turvey, sliding through at the chicane. Loic Duval, meanwhile, was involved in contact with Simona de Silvestro as he pulled off an aggressive pass at a 90 degree left hander. As all this went on the determined eyes of Sebastien Buemi were visible from beneath his visor waiting still in the pit lane. His rival now began to push and on lap seven was confirmed to have taken fastest lap. Two points and advantage Di Grassi. The time though was surely not quick enough and Buemi felt no need to show his cards.

A driver with no cards left to play in the race was Sam Bird as Virgin DS slowed to a stop on the circuit. Team radio suggested that turning it off and on again hadn't helped and so the English driver was forced to abandon his car. This brought the Qualcomm safety car back on to the track and once again Nico Prost saw his lead dramatically reduced.

With the circuit circuit clear once again Prost pulled the pin and jumped away as Lucas Di Grassi returned once more to wait in the pits.

In the last race as Team Aguri their driver Antonio Felix da Costa was putting in a fine performance passing Jerome D'ambrosio. A good time to make the move as it turned out with D'Ambrosio being lifted up by Frijns' front wing after minor contact into the final corner. Senna and Duval also got a little too close for comfort as the drivers approached one third distance.

Closer to the front saw a great fight between Heidfeld, Abt and Vergne but all three were left in the wake of Nico Prost escaping, once again, like a scalded French cat. Any plans to race to the flag were, however, interrupted by another contretemps and another safety car. This time Frijns and Duval were responsible but neither could agree on who was actually responsible after the race. The saying two into one doesn't go came to mind as Robin Frijns was left stranded at the chicane.

The in-out shenanigans of the title contenders continued apace as, with the safety car still out on track, neither Buemi or Di Grassi could set a quick time. The resulting cat and mouse games were, unfortunately, adding an element of farce to the proceedings - a great shame for a title showdown that promised so much.

Approaching half distance the cars were released once more with Prost making, if anything, an even better get away with the Mahindra of Nick Heidfeld no where near on the main straight. Indeed the German was soon under pressure from his countryman Daniel Abt with his superior Audi power.

Having waited longer in the pits than his rival, Di Grassi rejoined in front of Buemi. Still holding the vital two points it seemed, at least to The Swiss driver that Abt were deliberately attempting to block his run and deny him the chance for fastest lap. Team radio became full of accusations describing underhand tactics as Buemi returned once more to the pits.

The battle for the podium was hotting up as, on lap 17, Daniel Abt made a strong move by for second place at the expense of Heidfeld. Jean Eric Vergne, in what was rumoured to be his last race for DS Virgin looked to follow through but for the next few laps found the door shut hard.

The proliferation of safety cars had meant that the pit stops had not been needed until lap 19 when all but Mike Conway headed for a welcome car change. Prost climbed swiftly from the number 8 E.Dams and ran to his second car before heading back out. Conway's moment in the sun would end one lap later as he was forced to bring the Venturi on to pit lane handing the race lead back to Prost. With the car changeovers complete the order was: Prost, Abt, Vergne, Heidfeld and Turvey to complete the top five.

Drama came on lap 20 as, thanks to a clear track, Buemi had managed to free himself of his shadow and put in a lap quick enough to claim the title winning fastest lap. As he had been held up by Ma it was not a done deal and was still vulnerable to a Di Grassi counter attack but for now at least he was back in control. A lock up for Di Grassi just a few laps later showed he was leaving nothing on the table as he pushed his Abt to the limit but was unable to match the Renault power unit. A 1:24.5 for Buemi on lap 23 seemed unbeatable even with Di Grassi trying to use his Fanboost before the line for extra speed. (fastest laps must not be achieved with Fanboost used on the actual lap itself).

On lap 26 the still reigning champion, Nelson Piquet Jr, was forced to retire from his last race as title holder. The difficult season came to a premature end for the thirty year old as he suddenly slowed, losing places to fellow Brazilian Bruno Senna, then Sarrazin and Conway as he fell down the order. A similar fate would befall his impressive team mate Turvey in the closing laps after a sensational display at his home race.

Lap 30 saw a chance for Di Grassi and he threw everything at it, driving on the limit, mere millimetres away from the walls. Up in sector one and sector two it seemed as though there might be one last twist as Buemi might find himself out of time to respond. Across the line flashed the Abt car but it was just too slow, mere fractions of a second. With Dragons racing hard and Da Costa pushing Heidfeld all Di Grassi could do was drive back to the pits. The game was over. As if to rub salt into the wound, as he climbed out of the car, he could see that Buemi had gone even faster, underlining his right to the title.

Away from all this drama though, one man sailed serenely on. Nico Prost had faced a season of more downs than ups. Not able to consistently match his team mate Buemi it had been a time to forget. London though had been very kind to the amiable Frenchman and rounding the final corner he made it back to back wins in Battersea with a near faultless drive. Behind him there was a crumb of consolation for the Abt team as Daniel Abt claimed another podium. The final spot on the podium eventually went to Jerome D'Ambrosio as Heidfeld, Vergne and Da Costa all exceeded their energy usage and were penalised.

In the pits Sebastien Buemi could not hide his emotions and broke down in the E.Dams garage. It was not the way he wanted to win it. It was not the fight fans had wanted to see. It was though, his title. After a season that had started off with domination but via mistakes and misfortune had come down to the wire, no-one could take this championship away from him. He was a deserving victor. Spare a thought though for Di Grassi who until turn 3 on the first lap had driven an immaculate championship himself. As we saw though, small errors can have big consequences.

So as we left Battersea Park for the last time, we say goodbye to the London ePrix, which may/may not return for next year or future seasons. We say goodbye to season two of Formula E, and the enthralling twists and turns it's given us. We say goodbye to the Team Aguri name, to be replaced by Techeetah. And we thank the drivers who've put on a brilliant show all season long, and wish best of luck to those who may not be returning for next season. But we also say hello to Jaguar, and hello to some fabulous new cities, including Marrakesh, Brussels, Monaco (back from season 1), Montreal and New York. Season 3 starts in Hong Kong on October 9th, with pre-season testing at Donnington Park on August 23rd-25th, and September 5th-7th. We'll also be back to report on the guaranteed mayhem, speed, drama and craziness that has characterised the first two seasons. Until then, take care.

Final championship standings: 

POSNOTEAM/DRIVER                                                   R1R2R3R4R5R6R7R8R9R10
19Sébastien BUEMI
Renault e.Dams
27 FL2 FL27 FL18182152510DNF P FL155
211Lucas DI GRASSI
ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport
38Nicolas PROST
Renault e.Dams
DNF1101017 FL0121228 P25115
42Sam BIRD
DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team
618DNF28 P811 P11 P06DNF88
Dragon Racing
10018 P2 FL28 P60041583
64Stéphane SARRAZIN
Venturi Formula E Team
766Daniel ABT
ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport
86Loïc DUVAL
Dragon Racing
925Jean-Eric VERGNE
DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team
0DNF60001813 P154*56
Mahindra Racing Formula E Team
152/64122 FL60653
1121Bruno SENNA
Mahindra Racing Formula E Team
010DNF111022 FL18852
1227Robin FRIJNS
Andretti Formula E Race Team
1355Antonio Felix DA COSTA
Team Aguri
1488Oliver TURVEY
NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team
151Nelson PIQUET JR
NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team
04000DNF002 FL28
1612Mike CONWAY
Venturi Formula E Team
1777Nathanaël BERTHON
Team Aguri
Andretti Formula E Race Team
1977Qing Hua MA
Team Aguri
2012Jacques VILLENEUVE
Venturi Formula E Team
2123Oliver ROWLAND
Mahindra Racing Formula E Team
2277Salvador DURAN
Team Aguri
2355René RAST
Team Aguri


1Renault e.Dams30 P FL6 P FL37 FL2835 FL2 FL273738 P30 P FL270
2ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport1831221564026331218221
3DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team618628 P811 P29 P13 P214*144
4Dragon Racing22030 P10 FL40 P1000427143
5Mahindra Racing Formula E Team1512075224 FL8 FL1814105
6Venturi Formula E Team21221221910531077
7Andretti Formula E Race Team115141026100DNF49
8Team Aguri488DNF00408032
9NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team840200002 FL319


*Jean Eric Vergne's 8th place is currently under protest by the Dragon Racing team, who believe that Vergne should recieve a harsher penalty than just the 50 seconds for running out of energy due to an unsafe release from his pitstop, so his 4 points, and by extension DS Virgin's narrow 3rd place in the team's championship are subject to the result of an FIA court of appeal.

Written by Mark Child, edited by Edward Hunter.

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