During the midseason break before Formula E embarks upon its European leg, we’ll be taking a look back at how the championship has gone so far. In this feature will be looking at how it has gone for the drivers.
Part 1: The Championship Top 6 and Race Winners
Many people were dubious when the idea for an all-electric racing series was conceived in 2012, but now just over half way through the inaugural season, Formula E has certainly not disappointed.
Twenty-nine drivers have been placed behind the wheel of the cars, with teams constantly chopping and changing their drivers when necessary; with cases such as Antonio Felix da Costa who missed the first round due to DTM commitments, or conversely Franck Montagny who has been banned from racing for two years, having been found to have a derivative of cocaine in his system.
Regardless of that, the season and the sport as a whole has been met with much positivity – notably due to there being six different winners (from four different teams) in the first six races. Those drivers are: Lucas di Grassi, Sam Bird, Sebastien Buemi, Antonio Felix da Costa, Nicolas Prost and Nelson Piquet Junior; and these are the same six drivers that we currently find sitting at the top of the driver standings. The championship is wide open, with numerous drivers having realistic title possibilities and just about every one of the 20 cars that make each of the race starts being capable of winning.
However ultimately, there can only be one champion. Let’s take a look at how the Top 6 have preformed thus far…
1st Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT) – 75 points, 1 win (Beijing)
Having been the winner of the first ever Formula E race, di Grassi relinquished the lead of the championship in Miami – where over-heating problems caused him to slow late on and drop to ninth place. Only to return to the top at the next outing in Long Beach.
The Miami race came as the second disappointing result in a row for the Brazilian, who started the season with three straight podium finishes – he admitted that in Beijing he was fortunate to inherit the victory following the collision between Heidfeld and Prost.
During qualifying in Malaysia, he hit the wall and started 18th – but he drove an incredible race to move to second by the flag.
Di Grassi lost out at the start of the race in Punta Del Este, but a tactical drive saw him finish third.
When Sebastien Buemi hit the wall in Buenos Aires, di Grassi had victory in the bag – only for a broken suspension to send him crashing out of the race.
After team-mate Daniel Abt was penalised in Long Beach, di Grassi made use of the clear track to prevent original pole sitter Buemi (before his demotion to 10th) attacking for the final podium position.
2nd Nelson Piquet Junior (China Racing) – 74 points, 1 wins (Long Beach)
Piquet’s debut to the season held minimal impact to say the least – running in the top-10 throughout the race to ultimately take ninth. His team’s title-challenging potential was first made evident in Putrajaya, where a strong run to a probable second was ended when Jarno Trulli squeezed him into the wall.
In Punta Del Este he bounced back in the best possible way and lead for the first time after making an excellent start. However, he tapped the wall in a bid to break free from the chasing pack – making him vulnerable as the stint went on. But he fought back strongly after the safety car to take second place.
In the chaotic race in Buenos Aires even Piquet was surprised to take third place after he dropped off the lead lap during a confusing safety car period. In the dramatic closing stages he was one of the fastest cars on track which allowed him to snatch third.
Piquet and his China Racing team implemented a superb strategy in Miami – pitting at least two laps after most of their rivals – which would almost certainly have brought victory but for a delay in the pits. In the end he came home in fifth, setting fastest lap in the process.
At the start of the race in Long Beach the Brazilian caught Daniel Abt by surprise into the tight chicane on lap one and from there he was in control of the race. His early lead was wiped out twice due to the safety car but Piquet was able to build the gap again at each restart. He also survived a mid-race scare when he misunderstood a radio message telling him to coast more into corners; however, he thought he was being told not to coast so started pushing, putting more strain on his battery.
Ultimately it was a touching and notable race victory, taking the win 35 years after his father’s maiden Formula 1 victory at the same venue.
3rd Nico Prost (e.dams-Renault) – 69 points, 1 win (Miami)
Having set pole position, Prost headed into the first race of the year at the top of the standings, however a last corner collision with Nick Heidfeld resulted in a dramatic crash that quickly went viral – but more importantly, in terms of the race itself, cost him a certain podium position.
As a result of his misdemeanour, he received a 10-place grid penalty, which meant he would have a lot of work to do when race two came around. He managed to minimise the loss in the best possible fashion, claiming pole position, meaning he started only 11th once the penalty was applied. He managed to work his way through the field during the race to finish fourth.
Prost had yet another difficult race at Punta Del Este where he was penalised for excessive energy usage; regardless of this, six points for seventh place was his final result.
At Buenos Aires, Prost was out qualified by teammate Sebastien Buemi for the first time. In his arguably least competitive showing of the season, luck came his way in a dramatic race in which he managed to stay out of trouble to take second place; his first Formula E podium.
The Frenchman was back on form in Miami by qualifying on the front row once again. Although he lost out to Sam Bird early on, his strategy won out for him in the end. In the closing stages he passed Daniel Abt, before defending from debutant Scott Speed over the last few laps to claim his maiden Formula E victory.
Prost had a race to forget in Long Beach which completely fell apart when he was given a drive through penalty for hitting Jerome d’Ambrosio at the hairpin on lap 21. It completed a bad day for Prost who started on the front row, but was bullied down the order after the first restart. He complained after the race of a lack of powe; something that was backed up by team-mate Buemi, who said that battery issues robbed him of straight-line speed.
4th Sebastian Buemi (e.dams-Renault) – 55 points, 1 win (Punta Del Este)
Having dominated pre-season testing, Buemi went into the first race as favourite; only for it to be a race to forget, as crashes and technical issues meant he was an early retirement.
These struggles carried over to Putrajaya where his team unwittingly sent him out to qualify underweight, condemning him to a last row start. However, his true form emerged for the first time as he battled his way up the order to take third.
Having fought race long with Jean-Eric Vergne in Punta Del Este, Beumi benefitted from his rival’s late retirement to take victory. This feat should have been repeated in Buenos Aires, where Buemi was fastest in every session as well as dominating the race, until he misjudge a corner and hit a wall – breaking the suspension in the process.
Juxtaposing this, he was a rather anonymous figure in Miami, finishing out of the points in 13th.
Buemi had claimed pole position for Long Beach but was demoted after a qualifying infringement and started the race from 10th. Like team-mate Nico Prost he too complained of a lack of power at the end of the race.
5th Sam Bird (Virgin Racing) – 52 points, 1 win (Putrajaya)
After marking the start of his campaign with a slightly fortunate third place in Beijing, Bird underlined his championship credentials in style in round two. An excellent move on Oriol Servia took him into the lead and once ahead he simply drove away from the field in the most dominate performance of the series’ short history.
His luck seemed to have run out dramatically in Punta Del Este. After a crash in qualifying, he started on the back foot and his race ended in the wall too.
He was back amongst the frontrunners in Buenos Aires, but unfortunately lost time during the safety car period – he did set the fastest lap as he charged to seventh by the flag.
In Miami, a great start allowed him to pass Prost for second place on lap one and chase down leader Jean-Eric Vergne before pulling another great move. However, his race was all but ruined when communication problems meant he did not pit as planned and he was forced to limp around for one more lap with his battery flat. He managed a recovery drive to finish eighth.
Bird was hit by the e-dams of Buemi on turn one of lap one in what was a wheel-to-wheel section of the race, leaving Bird with no room to avoid the action. Suffering damage to his front suspension he boxed immediately to change into his second car and push for the fastest lap of the race with his first car left irreparable. Using his FanBoost, Bird did achieve the fastest of the race, but had it snatched away from him by Prost towards the end. Ultimately technical problems saw him having to retire.
6th Antonio Felix da Costa (Amlin Aguri) – 43 points, 1 win (Buenos Aires)
Da Costa’s DTM commitments meant he missed the season-opener in China, but when he finally got behind the wheel in Putrajaya he took the team’s first top-10 finish with eighth place.
In Punta Del Este a suspension failure ended his outing early, but the team was confident that at the subsequent test it had made a breakthrough.
This was confirmed when he went on to win the Buenos Aires ePrix, admittedly benefitting from Buemi and di Grassi’s retirements, but nevertheless it was a strong performance by team and driver.
This good form was backed up by fifth place in Miami and seventh place in Long Beach. But the return of DTM on the horizon means that a clash with concluding double-header in London will result in da Costa missing the final rounds – alluding to the idea that he is fighting for wins rather than the championship.
Written by: Chloe Hewitt
(photo’s in this post courtesy of www.fiaformulae.com)
Stay tuned to our website for Part 2 of our FormulaE Driver Midseason Review, which will be looking at this seasons ‘nearly men’.
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