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Formula E: Sebastien Buemi survives late to win in Uruguay

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Sebastien Buemi emerged victorious following a two-lap dash to the checkered flag in this afternoon’s FIA Formula E race at Punta del Este, Uruguay.

A crash with four laps to go involving Andretti’s Matthew Brabham brought out the safety car and bunched up the field for a final run to the finish, with Buemi in first and the other Andretti driver, former F1 pilot Jean-Eric Vergne, in second place.

When racing resumed, Buemi was forced to cut a chicane after locking up going in while trying to hold off Vergne. But later in the same lap, Vergne’s machine suddenly slowed down and came to a halt on course.

The snake-bitten Andretti team indicated on Twitter that a suspension issue was the culprit:

That effectively gave the win to Buemi, the F1 test driver for Red Bull Racing and one-half of the World Endurance Championship driver’s champions with Toyota Hybrid partner Anthony Davidson.

Buemi led home runner-up Nelson Piquet Jr., championship leader Lucas di Grassi in third, Jarno Trulli in fourth, and Jaime Alguersuari in fifth.

“It’s been a very difficult journey so far, because the first two races went worse than expected,” said Buemi, who drives for the e.dams-Renault team in F-E. “But today, we did everything right, so I’m more than happy. I’m delighted for the team. It’s been very difficult and now, we’ve won our first race.”

Vergne made a great first impression in F-E by qualifying on the pole earlier today, but off the start for the 31-lap event, Piquet beat him on the inside into Turn 1 to take the lead for China Racing.

The first safety car of the day came out not too long after that on Lap 4 after Sam Bird, the most recent F-E winner in Malaysia, got crossed up going into the Turn 1 chicane and then jumped over the curbing before hitting the wall. This marked the end of a rough day for the Brit, who had also crashed in qualifying.

Racing resumed at Lap 7 with Vergne continuing to push hard for the lead. But the Frenchman radioed in that he was having problems utilizing his Fan Boost to get past Piquet.

A second safety car period then started at Lap 10 for recovery of the stricken Amlin Aguri machine of Antonio Felix da Costa. Shortly after the green came back out at Lap 12, Vergne got a draft on Piquet and went to the inside for a out-braking move at the hairpin to take the lead at Lap 13.

Vergne’s reign at the front was short-lived, however, as he chose to swap cars in the pits at Lap 16. He ducked in before the safety car emerged for a third time following a crash involving Stephane Sarrazin, who damaged his Venturi car after aggressively going over a curb and then spun out directly in front of Brabham right into the inside wall.

That brought almost everybody else into the pits for car swaps, and when the order shook out, Venturi’s Nick Heidfeld and Buemi had beat out Vergne for first and second.

But after the race restarted at Lap 19, Heidfeld and Top-5 runner Nicolas Prost were both hit with drive-through penalties for using too much power (Prost and Heidfeld would recover to finish seventh and 10th respectively).

Those calls made Buemi the new leader ahead of Vergne in second, Piquet in third, and di Grassi in fourth. Vergne closed down on Buemi and was within a second of him before Brabham’s late incident with four to go.

di Grassi’s third consecutive podium finish enabled him to stretch his driver’s points lead to 18 points over both Buemi and Bird. Meanwhile, Buemi and Prost’s e.dams-Renault have seized the team championship lead by two points over Audi Sport Abt, which runs both di Grassi and Daniel Abt.

The latter driver was stymied by early mechanical problems but still ran the fastest lap in the race and secured two bonus points for himself with that distinction.

The next F-E race comes Jan. 10, 2015 in Buenos Aires.