On to Beijing: Formula E completes pre-season testing

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It’s all downhill from here to next month’s inaugural race for the all-electric FIA Formula E championship in Beijing.

Today’s fifth and final F-E preseason test at Donington Park in England saw e.dams-Renault driver Sebastien Buemi pop a 1 minute, 31.792 second lap that proved to be the fastest of the day.

Buemi, who also serves as a race driver for Toyota’s World Endurance Championship team and a tester in Formula One for Red Bull Racing, ended up topping all but one of the five F-E preseason tests.

Behind Buemi was his e.dams-Renault teammate, Nicolas Prost, who logged a lap of 1 minute, 32.117 seconds.

As for American-based teams Andretti Autosport and Dragon Racing, their cars were scattered along the speed charts.

Andretti’s Franck Montagny was third-fastest (1:32.143) behind the e.dams-Renault duo, while Lotus F1 tester Charles Pic was 13th (1:32.841) in the team’s second car. Dragon had Jerome d’Ambrosio in eighth (1:32.646), and IndyCar veteran Oriol Servia in 16th (1:33.411).

“So far, so good,” Montagny said in a series release. “In terms of lap time, we’re not too bad, in terms of performance, true performance; in race mode, we’re good too, so I’m quite confident.”

Montagny will race the full F-E season with Andretti, while d’Ambrosio and another IndyCar regular, Mike Conway, have been confirmed to do the same for Dragon.

Mahindra Racing’s Bruno Senna (1:32.249) and Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird (1:32.292) rounded out the Top 5 overall speeds today. Just under one second covered the Top 10, from Buemi to Venturi’s Nick Heidfeld (1:32.775).

According to the series, a combined total of 1,222 laps were run today by the teams, which each ran all four of their cars.

The Formula E season begins September 13th with the Beijing ePrix, which will be contested on a 20-turn street circuit inside the city’s Olympic Village.

Here now is a smattering of social media from the test (including a demonstration of how F-E drivers will change cars during pit stops from Senna’s teammate, Karun Chandhok), as well as today’s lap times…

FIA Formula E – Preseason Test 5 at Donington Park, UK
Combined Times

1. Sebastien Buemi, e.dams-Renault, 1:31.792s
2. Nicolas Prost, e.dams-Renault, 1:32.117s
3. Franck Montagny, Andretti Autosport, 1:32.143s
4. Bruno Senna, Mahindra Racing, 1:32.249s
5. Sam Bird, Virgin Racing, 1:32.292s
6. Lucas di Grassi, Audi Sport ABT, 1:32.293s
7. Karun Chandhok, Mahindra Racing, 1:32.369s
8. Jerome d’Ambrosio, Dragon Racing, 1:32.646s
9. Stephane Sarrazin, Venturi, 1:32.663s
10. Nick Heidfeld, Venturi, 1:32.775s
11. Nelson Piquet, China Racing, 1:32.808s
12. Jaime Alguersuari, Virgin Racing, 1:32.821s
13. Charles Pic, Andretti Autosport, 1:32.841s
14. Daniel Abt, Audi Sport ABT, 1:32.867s
15. Jarno Trulli, Trulli, 1:32.892s
16. Oriol Servia, Dragon Racing, 1:33.411s
17. Antonio Garcia, China Racing, 1:33.469s
18. Takuma Sato, Amlin Aguri, 1:35.425s
19. Michela Cerruti, Trulli, 1:35.444s
20. Katherine Legge, Amlin Aguri, 1:38.112s

Formula E: Team Aguri confirms da Costa for second season

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Antonio Felix da Costa has been confirmed for a second season with Team Aguri for the 2015-2016 FIA Formula E Championship, which begins later this month in Beijing.

He won once this past year at Buenos Aires and finished eighth in the points despite missing both the season opener and season finale due to clashes with his DTM schedule.

Said the 24-year-old Portuguese driver, “I am really happy to continue with Team Aguri and Formula E for season two. This championship is earning its respect in the world of motorsport and I am honoured to be involved. Regarding the season, I am really looking forward to getting started.”

Team Aguri team principal Mark Preston added, “It is a great pleasure to have Antonio continuing with the team for season two of Formula E. Antonio brought us our maiden win in Buenos Aires and helped to develop the team from scratch, he will continue to build on that success for season two and beyond.”

The team that bares the name of ex-Formula 1 driver and team owner Aguri Suzuki has not yet confirmed its second driver, which is the last outstanding seat to be filled on the Formula E grid.

Amlin, which had partnered with Aguri last year, is now present with the Andretti Formula E team and its drivers, Robin Frijns and Simona de Silvestro.

Hulkenberg leads shorter than normal FP1 in Russia

Nico Hulkenberg
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Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg posted a 1:44.355 lap of the of the Sochi Autodrom to lead a fairly abnormal, and shorter than usual, first free practice for the Russian Grand Prix.

Hulkenberg posted the time to conclude the usual 90-minute session, to pip Nico Rosberg at 1:44.407 on his final lap. The usual 90-minute session was shortened due to a track delay for cleanup of diesel fuel on course.

Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top five.

While the clock started on time for the full 90-minute session, track activity was halted for the opening 30 minutes to clean up diesel spillage on the track at Turn 8.

It left teams and drivers with just a 60-minute first free practice to tackle the Sochi Autodrom, but did not push the session later or affect the timetable for the rest of the day. However, with a damp if not entirely wet track, it made things difficult in FP1.

The delay also meant that teams weren’t able to use an extra set of Pirellis handed out at the start of FP1. Supersofts can be used for the first time in FP2.

During the delay, it did offer a chance for sarcasm, and Manor seized the opportunity following a comment from McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso noting that even with Mercedes engines next year, Manor wouldn’t move ahead of them.

NBC’s Will Buxton explained the track surface dilemma drivers would face in this session.

With just under one hour to go in the session, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was the first to head out on course, leading several others. Ericsson made the first laps of the weekend at the track where he made his final start for Caterham a year ago.

Both Williams drivers went on course on Pirelli’s wet weather tires for their installation laps. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg tried the intermediates, and Alonso was first on course in slicks.

No official times were registered until there were less than 40 minutes remaining in the session, with Alonso registering a 2:00.736 time, while putting down a bevy of sparks. He quickly lowered the mark to 1:56.327, and 1:53.854 after that. Ericsson was next in at a 1:58.926, although dropped into the 1:54 range not long after.

Alonso’s teammate Jenson Button clocked in at 1:50.920 with just under 20 minutes remaining and for the first time this year, we could say we had a McLaren Honda 1-2 on track, albeit under abnormal circumstances.

The trsck got busy in the final 15 minutes, with Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen posting a 1:50.870 to lead before Alonso clocked in a 1:49.240.

A 1:47.959 from Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, then a 1:45.987 from Hulkenberg followed in the final 10 minutes as times firmly began to drop. Vettel got down to a 1:45.491 shortly thereafter, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton came up two tenths shy of the mark at a 1:45.691.

Ericsson reported a power cut near the end of the session down at Sauber but otherwise there were no issues through the field, other than a handful of spins, including one from Hamilton on his final flier at the second-to-last corner.

FP2 begins from 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.