LONDON – Nelson Piquet Jr has become the first ever FIA Formula E champion following a thrilling final battle in the London ePrix on Sunday.
Piquet started 16th on the grid, but managed to fight his way up to seventh in the final timings to clinch the title by just a single point ahead of e.dams driver Sebastien Buemi.
The race was won on track by Stephane Sarrazin, but the Frenchman was hit with a penalty after the race for hitting 0% power to give the win for home driver Sam Bird.
However, all eyes were on the three title rivals as they finished nose-to-tail on track in a battle that went down to the very final lap of the season.
With the first corner resurfaced for the race, the drivers were able to pull away with a regular standing start without the aid of the safety car. Pole-sitter Sarrazin made a good start to retain his lead ahead of Loic Duval, who had passed Jerome d’Ambrosio for second place.
In the race for the title, Sebastien Buemi managed to gain a position off the line to move into fifth, whilst both Lucas di Grassi and Nelson Piquet Jr picked up positions. However, Piquet – running 12th – had dropped a long way behind the leading pack, lying six seconds behind Oliver Turvey in 11th after just three laps.
Further back, Sakon Yamamoto’s debut Formula E weekend came to an early end following two incidents in the Amlin Aguri car in the space of a few laps. After making contact with Fabio Leimer early on, the Japanese driver careered into the back of Jarno Trulli’s car on lap seven, suffering suspension damage before parking up on a slip road.
As Sarrazin continued to push on at the front and establish a lead over d’Ambrosio, the title fighters continued to toil. Piquet was unable to make up the time to Turvey, but was saving plenty of power during his first stint in the hope that it would give him a boost for the second half of the race.
On lap 14, the first drivers dived into the pit lane with race leader Sarrazin leading the way. The Frenchman was slow in the pits, allowing Duval to close up in second place, whilst di Grassi came in for his stop. The Brazilian managed to jump ahead of Salvador Duran for net P7, but Piquet’s power-saving meant that he could continue for another two laps.
Upon exiting the pits, Buemi remained in net fifth place and still had the championship as things stood, only to spin on lap 16 and lose a position to Bruno senna. This allowed Lucas di Grassi to latch onto the back of the Swiss driver, taking the title battle on track.
Piquet pitted at the end of lap 16, emerging back out on track in tenth place. However, with more power to use, the Brazilian driver looked to push on in the final stint of the race.
On lap 17, Piquet received a boost as NEXTEV TCR teammate Oliver Turvey posted the fastest lap of the race, taking the two point reward away from Buemi for the time being. As this time, just two points separated Buemi and Piquet at the top of the championship standings.
The race took another twist when Fabio Leimer crashed out on lap 20 of the race, prompting the safety car to be deployed just one lap later. The impact was that the field became bunched up once again ahead of the restart on lap 22.
At the front, Loic Duval failed to get a good restart and dropped back from second place down to P4, allowing Sam Bird to assume second place ahead of Jerome d’Ambrosio. The focus still remained on the title fighters just behind, though.
Piquet took another step towards the title by slipping past teammate Turvey for ninth place, and followed this up by passing Salvador Duran for eighth. With five laps to go, Piquet had a theoretical one point lead over Buemi at the top of the standings.
Buemi refused to go down without a fight, though, using his FanBoost to try and make a pass on Bruno Senna for fifth place. However, the Brazilian defended valiantly to retain the position, giving Buemi just four laps to try and make a pass to win the title.
On the penultimate lap, Bird hit Sarrazin whilst trying to pass for the lead. Both drivers managed to continue with Sarrazin still in front, although their advantage had fallen.
The title fight went down to the very last lap of the race. Buemi continued to pile the pressure on Senna, but was still unable to find a way past the Mahindra driver. The two drivers made contact on the final lap of the race, going side-by-side, but Senna stayed ahead, leaving a frustrated Buemi sixth at the line.
As a result, with Nelson Piquet Jr in eighth place, the Brazilian driver did enough to be crowned the first ever FIA Formula E champion with the provisional result.
After hitting 0% power on the final lap of the race, Sarrazin was handed a 49-second time penalty (equivalent to a drive-through), making Sam Bird the race winner. Jerome d’Ambrosio and Loic Duval completed the podium, with Senna fourth ahead of title rivals Buemi, di Grassi and Piquet.
Despite the drivers being bumped up a position, the differences remained the same, with Piquet clinching the title by just a solitary point.