Sebastien Buemi has extended his lead in the FIA Formula E Championship standings to 15 points having just managed to stay ahead of main title rival Lucas Di Grassi around the narrow streets of Monaco following a high-pressure fight to the flag.
The Renault e.dams driver secured an impressive pole position, and led the race from lights to flag, mirroring his victory at the same venue two years ago. The Swiss driver made a good start and pulled a relatively comfortable gap in the first stint, but after the pit stops, ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport’s Di Grassi edged closer and closer to the back of the championship leader, eventually crossing the line just over three tenths behind.
Nick Heidfeld made a welcome return to the podium for the first time since the opening round of the season. He piloted his Mahindra Racing machine to a distant third having made a strong start to gain three places in the opening laps.
Another driver to make up places of the line was DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird, however the British driver’s fortunes were soon to change as he lost the rear of the car exiting turn nine and swiped the barrier. After a lengthy pit stop he was able to rejoin the race and still picked up a point for fastest lap.
For the first half of the race Nelson Piquet Jr had been running in third position for NextEV NIO, but the TECHEETAH car of Jean-Eric Vergne clearly had more pace and was trying to find a way past. After attempting a move into the tight turn three on lap 20, he made an identical attempt the next time around and almost made it stick. The pair went side by side, but as the track tightened up Vergne made contact with the barrier which put him out of the race. Heidfeld was able to get through as the pair in front clashed, opening the door to his podium finish.
The incident brought out the safety car, prompting almost all the teams to make their mandatory pit stop and car change. During the flurry of stopes, an unsafe release for the #28 car of Antonio Felix da Costa meant that a 33 second time penalty was applied to his finishing time after the race, dropping him from eighth down to 11th and out of the points.
Despite the contact, Piquet held on to fourth place to the flag, fighting with Venturi’s Maro Engel, the second Mahindra of Felix Rosenqvist and di Grassi’s team-mate Daniel Abt who finished fifth, sixth and seventh respectively. Gutierrez, Prost and Evans rounded out the top ten.
Around the famous Monaco streets it was an intriguing ePrix which culminated in an intense final few laps. The battle now heads to Paris in just one week’s time for round 6 of the 2016/2017 season.
Sebastien Buemi said: “In the first stint I managed to pull a little gap, but Lucas was using a bit less energy than me. When the safety car came out we knew we had to try to learn from them [Abt] after what they have done in Hong Kong and Mexico by stopping very early, so that was the right call and then we knew it was going to be very difficult because to finish we would have to save quite a lot of energy. I managed to build a bit of a gap just to be safe and he played with me a bit because when we were passing the guys who were a lap down he consumed a little bit more than expected so I had to do the same. Then he did two laps where he kind of backed off, which was good for me, but in the end we both finished with nothing left.”
Lucas Di Grassi said: “On the first stint the pace was not really there but we were saving much more energy. In the second stint I was trying to keep up with him. I had around one per cent more than him, so I knew if I had the right strategy I could attack him in the end. The problem is here in Monaco there is nowhere to overtake and if you’re an experienced guy like Seb you know how to close the door. Also I would never go for a gap where you cannot overtake or I would risk all the race. If he’d left any door open, or any of the straights were longer than 360 metres, for sure I would have had a go.”
Nick Heidfeld said: “It’s good to be back on the podium especially as we have been unlucky in the past two races. I tried to go through the start in my head and I knew there might be a train on one side and this could be a chance to overtake a lot of cars and obviously we know from two years ago how it can pan out in Turn 2 with cars flying over each other, so it was very important to get clear to get back into the line and it worked verY well and I managed to take three cars there. We’d discussed a lot about strategy and I said we just follow Lucas and that’s what we did and it was a good strategy!”