Nearly 35 years to the day after his father won the 1980 United States Grand Prix West at Long Beach (March 30) for his first Grand Prix victory, Nelson Piquet Jr. matched his father as a winner on the iconic streets of Long Beach.
Difference is, that was a Formula 1 race won by Nelson and today’s was the Long Beach ePrix, Round 6 of the inaugural FIA Formula E Championship season. Piquet Jr. is also the sixth winner in as many races this season.
Piquet Jr.’s win Saturday in the No. 99 China Racing Spark-Renault SRT_01E came after a dominant performance, only losing the lead in the 39-lap race on the pit stop cycle for a couple laps, where he had several seconds in hand heading into the stop and several more coming out of it.
He took the lead off the line from Daniel Abt, who inherited the pole in the No. 66 Audi Sport ABT entry after Sebastien Buemi lost the pole due to exceeding his available power use in qualifying.
Once Piquet Jr. was through to the lead, Abt ran second ahead of several others – notably teammate Lucas di Grassi, Andretti Autosport’s Jean-Eric Vergne and e.dams Renault’s pair of Nicolas Prost and Sebastien Buemi.
The hometown hopes for Andretti’s Scott Speed ended on Lap 4, when the California native smacked the wall on exit of the Turn 1/2 chicane. Speed ended second in Miami but didn’t follow that up today.
That caused one safety car period, and a second followed several laps later when Charles Pic made a late, low percentage lunge into the hairpin turn (Turn 7) that contacted Jarno Trulli and spun them both around.
Abt was first of the leaders to pit on Lap 22, while the majority of the rest followed on Lap 23. Bruno Senna, Salvador Duran, Loic Duval, Jaime Alguersuari and Pic were last of the leaders to pit on Lap 24.
Piquet Jr. maintained the gap on the pit sequence, with Vergne up to second, Abt in third, di Grassi fourth and Buemi fifth.
Some of the leaders fell out of contention in the late stages. Abt and Prost each earned late-race drive throughs, Abt for over use of power and Prost for contact with Jerome d’Ambrosio. That dropped Prost back to 14th and Abt 15th at the finish.
Piquet Jr. was able to cruise home to the victory by 1.705 seconds over Vergne, who delivered Andretti’s third runner-up finish this season by a third different driver. It also marks the Frenchman’s elusive first podium finish in the series.
Di Grassi made it back to the podium in third, with Buemi fourth after starting 10th due to his grid penalty, and Senna in the top five after maximizing his pit strategy from 12th.
Senna and Prost had one brief dice at Turn 3, which sounded nice to hear – Senna’s uncle Ayrton never raced at Long Beach, while Prost’s father Alain failed to score a point in Long Beach in three starts.
Di Grassi reassumes the points lead with Prost’s penalty and non-points finish, although Piquet Jr. has closed to within 1 point (75-74).
RESULTS: Round 6