The FIA Formula E Championship returned to Paris for a second ePrix around the iconic streets of Les Invalides today, 20 May, and it was points-leader Sebastien Buemi who secured a fifth victory of the season for the Renault e.dams squad.
Buemi had taken pole position earlier in the day, and fended off the challenge of Jean-Eric Vergne who drew alongside the pole-sitter on the run down to turn one. After this initial challenge, Vergne’s Techeetah car came under attack from DS Virgin Racing’s Jose Maria Lopez, giving Buemi just enough breathing space to manage the gap.
The opening stages of the race were high-pressure and close-quarters, with the top 14 drivers within just ten seconds of each other after five tours of Les Invalides. Behind the top three, Mahindra’s Nick Heidfeld repeated the rapid start he made a week ago during the Monaco ePrix, making up ground and challenging the front-runners.
Having qualified down in 14th place, ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport’s Lucas di Grassi had a lot work to do to try and score vital championship points. He didn’t make progress early on, however, and was battling for 15th with Andretti Formula E’s Antonio Felix da Costa. As the two were swapping places on the narrow city streets, contact was made at turn eight and both cars spun into the run-off area. While di Grassi was able to continue, it was the end of da Costa’s race, and as the marshals recovered his stricken car there was a Full Course Yellow period, prompting almost all the drivers to dive into the pits and make their mandatory stop and car change.
Brazilian driver di Grassi was then hit with a drive through penalty for not respecting the minimum pit stop time, which dropped him to last place on the circuit.
There was another disruption on lap 30 with a safety car deployment, as Vergne, who had been matching Buemi’s pace throughout the middle phase of the race, crashed into the barriers on the exit of turn 14 as he tried to close the gap.
The Frenchman’s retirement promoted Mahindra Racing’s Heidfeld to a podium position, and he crossed the line in third for the second consecutive race. It was also a strong race for Heidfeld’s stablemate Felix Rosenqvist, whose fourth-placed finish brought the team its strongest points haul to date.
Nico Prost was the highest-placed French driver in fifth, rounding out a strong showing for Renault e.dams who now lead the team standings by an impressive 75 points.
Andretti’s Robin Frijns enjoyed his best result of the season in sixth, while Nelson Piquet Jr was seventh having benefitted from last-lap heartache for Daniel Abt who was forced to retire with mechanical issues after having made up a lot of places from his starting position.
Tom Dillman gave the French fans more to cheers about with an impressive Formula E debut in eighth, with Mitch Evans and Stephane Sarrazin rounding out the top ten.
For the second year running, the ePrix ended behind the safety car, as an attempt at setting the fastest lap ended in the barriers for Lucas di Grassi, who after this weekend now has a 43-point deficit to Buemi.
Sebastien Buemi said: “The most important thing for me was to pull away after the grid positon we got. You know when the brakes are cold, the first few corners are a bit of a guess for everyone and Jean-Eric Vergne was very aggressive and tried to pass me, so I tried to delay the braking as late as I could, just to stay ahead. I consumed maybe a little bit more energy than I was expecting to use, just to make up a little gap. I lost a bit of time in the Full Course Yellow and obviously in the restart when he [JEV] crashed I was having a nice time as he was putting me under pressure. Then we had the Safety Car and Jose [Maria Lopez] had a great race today, he was really, really quick and I had to push quite hard at the end of the race just to make sure I could build up a bit of a gap.”
Jose Maria Lopez said: “You can see from the beginning of the year that we had a good car, but my experience was not enough to be competitive. But we worked hard in the race, it was a circuit I liked, the city and everything and I think that played a part as well.”
Nick Heidfeld said: “The start in Monaco was about taking the outside line and just braking late, but here the car off the line was just fantastic – it was like a rocket! It was a lot closer here than in Monaco where I couldn’t keep up with the top two guys, but here I could. There were a couple of backmarkers who got between us as the restart and that meant unfortunately I could not get near them, but we had the same pace and more energy.”
The FIA Formula E Championship will be racing again in three weeks’ time, with the double-header Berlin ePrix coming up on 10-11 June.