Thursday, 18 September 2014

A new era begins in Beijing

Formula E, the world's first ever all-electric single seater championship, got underway in spectacular fashion last weekend with Audi Sport Abt driver Lucas Di Grassi taking an unexpected win in the Beijing ePrix.

Di Grassi, one of the pre-season championship favourites looked set to settle for third place until a controversial incident involving front runners Nicolas Prost of eDams Renault and Venturi's Nick Heidfeld saw both taken out on the final lap.

Prost, who had led the race from pole position (only surrendering the lead during the pitstop cycle), appeared to move over on Heidfeld who had conserved power during the race to make a late charge for the lead.

Heidfeld went onto slide over one a 'sausage kerbs' at the final turn, launching into the air before landing upside down while Prost grinded to a halt as a result of the crash damage.

The two Rebellion WEC team mates escaped uninjured and were quick to point the finger of blame at each other before Prost seemingly accepted responsibility on Twitter later in the day.

As a result of the incident, Franck Montagny moved up to second behind Di Grassi. The Andretti Autosport driver was arguably the star of the race after a string of overtaking moves saw him move up from eighth on the grid.

Third Placed driver Sam Bird also made big gains, despite a relatively quiet race, after starting eleventh on the grid. He did however finish fourth on the road with Daniel Abt taking the final podium place.

After the race, the young German was judged to have used more electrical power than permitted. He waas slapped with a 57 second penalty dropinng him down to tenth.

Fourth place went to Montagny's Andretti team mate Charles Pic with Mahindra's Karun Chandhok rounding out the top five.

While the Spark-Renault SRT_01E proved to be an entertaining racer on the tight, twisty streets of Beijing, there was an alarmingly high number of gearbox issues with many being damaged when cars hit barriers. In the end, Formula E ran out of spare gearboxes and had to hold a lottery for the remaining spares.

eDams Renault's Sebastien Buemi was the unlucky victim of the lottery and retired from the event early on. Jarno Trulli also retired with gearbox problems after struggling to get off the line.

Another early retirement was Bruno Senna whose race ended on the first lap after an accident. Amlin Aguri's Takuma Sato was another retirement, with power issues bringing his race to an end on lap 21 of 25.

A novel feature for Formula E, Fanboost - which allows fans to vote for three drivers to receive an extra 30kW of power for five seconds - didn't really feature in the race, proving to be more of a gimmick than a race changing feature.

Di Grassi, Senna and Katherine Legge were the winners of the online vote - Di Grassi was unable to use his boost due to a telemetry glitch, Senna crashed out before he had chance to use it whilst Legge couldn't make the most of it, finishing down in 15th.

The next race will take place on the streets of Putrajaya in Malaysia on November 22.

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