Sebastien Buemi kicked off the second FIA Formula E season in the best possible fashion by winning the Beijing ePrix on Saturday.
After heading up a Renault e.dams front-row lock-out in the series’ first Super Pole session earlier in the day, Buemi retained his lead at the start before controlling proceedings throughout the race en route to his fourth Formula E victory.
Teammate Nicolas Prost lost second place off the line to Nick Heidfeld, and was unable to put the pace advantage of the Renault e.dams car to good use thanks to the tight confines of the Beijing street circuit, leaving him to toil with Lucas di Grassi behind the Mahindra car ahead.
An early full course yellow – another new concept in Formula E – was thrown after Simona de Silvestro crashed out on lap three, giving the drivers a chance to save energy and push for a longer first stint.
Buemi used this to great effect, pulling out a lead of more than ten seconds over the field before making his mandatory pit stop at the end of lap 13. Most of the teams followed suit, with only Loic Duval, Jerome d’Ambrosio, Oliver Turvey, Nathanael Berthon and defending champion Nelson Piquet Jr. opting to stay out for an extra lap.
When a second FCY was called after Antonio Felix da Costa’s car was left stranded at turn two following a tangle with Jacques Villeneuve, the late-stoppers were able to vault up the order and into the top ten, handing the likes of Turvey, Berthon and Piquet an unlikely reprieve.
However, this high lasted just moments for Piquet as an issue caused him to stop out on track. Although he was able to get the NEXTEV TCR car going again, the Brazilian dropped all the way to last. He would eventually finish two laps down, marking a rough start to his title defence.
At the front, di Grassi and Prost had both managed to get the jump on Heidfeld for second place through the pit stops, and soon fired into the distance to begin their own battle.
Pushing hard, Prost overstepped the mark and clipped the wall, causing damage to his rear wing. Despite attempting to continue and, in his defence, keeping with di Grassi, the stewards soon forced Prost to pit, bringing his race to an end with three laps to go.
As Buemi and di Grassi eased home in P1 and P2 respectively, for the second Beijing ePrix in a row, Heidfeld was left with a tight battle on the last lap as Duval and d’Ambrosio tried to pass. Heidfeld managed to hold on, finishing just three-tenths of a second ahead to score Mahindra’s first podium in Formula E.
Duval and d’Ambrosio were forced to settle for fourth and fifth, but their combined result gives Dragon an early lead in the teams’ championship.
Oliver Turvey salvaged sixth place from a rough weekend for NEXTEV TCR, finishing ahead of Sam Bird and debutant Nathanael Berthon. Daniel Abt and Stephane Sarrazin rounded out the points in Beijing.
Formula E returns in two weeks’ time with the Putrajaya ePrix in Malaysia.