LONDON – Sebastien Buemi brought himself back into the thick of the fight for the inaugural FIA Formula E championship by winning the first London ePrix race on Saturday at Battersea Park.
Starting from pole position, the Swiss driver was rarely challenged en route to his third victory of the season as he slashed the gap to championship leader Nelson Piquet Jr to just five points ahead of the last race of the season on Sunday.
Piquet could only finish the race in fifth place following an early clash with title rival Lucas di Grassi, who crossed the line just ahead in fourth to give himself an outside chance of winning the championship on Sunday.
Following the decision to reprofile the first corner in the morning, the start of the race took place under the safety car before the drivers were finally released on lap two. From pole, Buemi immediately shot off into the distance, leaving Jerome d’Ambrosio trailing in second place by a couple of seconds after the opening five laps.
Just behind, there was a dramatic twist in the race for the Formula E championship. Running fourth, series leader Nelson Piquet Jr bravely tried to overtake Lucas di Grassi for third place, using his FanBoost to have an extra 40 bhp. However, the two Brazilians made slight contact, forcing Piquet onto the kerbing and to drop back into the clutches of Jean-Eric Vergne. The Frenchman took full advantage of this, slipping into third place on lap three.
Vergne put another spoke in the works at the front by lunging down the inside of di Grassi on lap seven, making a fantastic overtake to seize third place. His Andretti team engineer quickly gave him the call to get his head down and push on for second place, whilst Buemi continued to push on at the front.
Buemi retained his advantage to the first round of pit stops, coming in one lap after the first teams that decided to come in. The Swiss driver retained his advantage after switching cars ahead of d’Ambrosio, who in turn had been caught by Vergne during the pit stop cycle. Di Grassi and Piquet remained in fourth and fifth place respectively, and as the race entered its second half, the advantage lay with Buemi.
However, his lead was eradicated when the safety car was deployed on lap 17 after Daniel Abt crashed at the final corner. The German had been dealing with a steering problem on his car following contact earlier that lap, but ended up in the wall.
The safety car was brought in at the end of lap 20, allowing the drivers to return to full speed. Buemi wasted little time in re-establishing his lead over d’Ambrosio. Di Grassi did appear to make up some ground on Vergne in third place, but soon found his mirrors filled with Piquet in fifth. Despite using his FanBoost again, Piquet was unable to make a pass, and dropped back from his compatriot with five laps remaining.
At the front, Buemi was able to simply monitor the gap to d’Ambrosio behind before crossing the line to win the first London ePrix event and move to within five points of Piquet at the front.
D’Ambrosio managed to keep his head to finish second ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne, who scored his second podium finish of the season in third place. Di Grassi kept himself in the title fight by finishing fourth, whilst Piquet saw his advantage drop to just five points in fifth, edging out Sam Bird on the final lap of the race.
Heading into Sunday’s season finale, just 13 points separate Piquet, Buemi and di Grassi, setting the stage for a thrilling last battle at Battersea Park tomorrow.