Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Piquet Takes First Formula E Title In Thrilling Finale

Nelson Piquet Jr. claimed the inaugural FIA Formula E championship in thrilling fashion as the title decider at London's Battersea park went down to the final lap.

Piquet, who went into the weekend with a 17-point lead in the championship, defeated Sebastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi to the first ever all-electric motor racing crown by fighting through the field in a nail-biting season finale.

The first race of the weekend courted controversy before it even began as TecPro barriers were installed over bumps at the first turn for safety reasons. As a result, the race began under a safety car and overtaking was banned at the corner for the duration of the race.

The race itself was dominated by Buemi, who trimmed Piquet's advantage to just five points over the Swiss driver with compatriot di Grassi 13 points behind.

Buemi headed home Jerome D'Ambrosio and Jean-Eric Vergne while bitter rivals di Grassi and Piquet collided as they fought over the final podium spot. They eventually completed the top five.

Buemi's win, his third of the season and e.dams Renault's fourth, gave the French team the first Formula E team's championship with a race to spare.

On the second day of the season's only double header event, rain meant that half of the field qualified in the dry, while those who went out later had to set times in wet conditions for the first time in the series' history.

That meant that despite going into the weekend as the rank outsider, Buemi went into the final race as the favourite to claim the title after he qualified in sixth in the dry with di Grassi in 11th and Piquet down in 16th.

Venturi Grand Prix's Stephane Sarrazin started the race on pole and finished the race first on the road. However, he was instantly disqualified for using too much energy during the race.

As a result, Virgin Racing's London-born driver Sam Bird took his second win of the season on home soil, much to the delight of the 25,000 of fans who had flocked to Battersea Park.

Bird, who had started in fourth place, passed the Dragon pairing of Jerome d'Ambrosio and Loic Duval and was right on the tale of Sarrazin on the final lap as the Frenchman looked set to secure Venturi's first win of the season.

Bruno Senna finished the race in fourth, holding back title-challenger Buemi who made contact with the Brazilian more than once in the closing laps.

Buemi was set to finish ahead of Senna but a spin after he had exited the pits dropped the e.dams Renault driver behind the Mahindra pilot.

With Buemi's place in the points all but guaranteed and di Grassi virtually out of the championship chase due to finishing in sixth, Piquet needed to finish either ninth with the fastest lap or eighth to take the crown.

Following a safety car period, brought about as a result of Virgin's Fabio Leimer hitting the wall, Piquet was in tenth place.

Piquet's NEXTEV Team China Racing team mate Oliver Turvey soon allowed him past into ninth when the race resumed although he was still unable to set the fastest lap to secure the final two points he needed for the championship.

This would not matter though as he got by Amlin Aguri's Salvador Duran to put him in a position to claim the title by a single point.

"This championship has been really tough," said Piquet, who missed out on the Red Bull Global Rallycross title at the final round last season. “We have worked really hard since the beginning of the season when we were completely lost. I would have been shocked even to have a podium by the end of the year, and we turned things around quickly"

"When it was raining in group three [in qualifying] right when I was on track, I just thought things could not get any worse. On the positive side of things it took a bit of pressure away from me because I had nothing to lose anymore" he added. "I was at the back of the field, so let’s be aggressive and see what we can do. It worked out – we had an aggressive strategy."

The aggressive strategy allied with strong focus from the second generation driver allowed him to triumph when it looked like all the odds were stacked against him, although there was initially some confusion as to whether he had done enough to win the title, such was the close nature of the championship fight.

"One of our main things [from the team] was 'Nelson, don't ask any questions just drive, we'll take care of the race' and I shut my mouth, I only knew I won when the commentator came on the radio saying 'can we interview the champion!"

For more images, visit our London ePrix gallery HERE

All images: Dominik Wilde

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