Audi ABT’s Lucas di Grassi made history as the first ever FIA Formula E winner at the Beijing ePrix, taking victory following a spectacular final lap incident involving Nico Prost and Nick Heidfeld.
Franck Montagny and Sam Bird completed the podium in a thrilling start to the world’s first all-electric racing series championship.
The inaugural Formula E ePrix, located within the grounds of the iconic Olympic Park began as Prost maintained his lead ahead of di Grassi, whilst Heidfeld pulled a great move around the outside of Karun Chandhok for fourth.
One of the three FanBoost benefiters Bruno Senna retired early on due to a damaged front left tyre following contact with Takuma Sato and Jerome D’Ambrosio – whilst Montagny got the better of the French drivers at Andretti, passing team-mate Charles Pic on the opening lap. Sam Bird moved up three places with a storming start as he made his way up to eighth from 12th on the grid.
One of Formula One’s most experienced drivers, Jarno Trulli encountered a disappointing start to his Formula E venture, stalling as the lights went out which subsequently put him out of the ePrix. Lap 2 saw the safety car deployed as a result of Senna’s stranded Mahindra, allowing the field to save energy.
The safety car returned to the pits on lap 4, as racing resumed once more. Montagny squeezed up the inside of Jamie Alguersuari, allowing the Spaniards Virgin Racing team-mate Bird through up to sixth. Debris flew off the rear wing of Sebastien Buemi’s car on lap 6, with the Swiss driver returning to the pits as his mechanics inspected the damage further. An exciting wheel-to-wheel battle commenced between Nelson Piquet and Sato over 11th, before Piquet found a way through into the points passing Oriol Servia on lap 8.
A queue began to form behind the top three, separated by 1.3 seconds, with Heidfeld now leading the Andretti of Montagny who found a way up the inside of Chandhok at the final corner for fifth. Yellow flags came out on lap 11 for Amlin Aguri driver Sato, who stopped on the exit of the first corner. Stephane Sarrazin and Alguersuari became the first drivers to stop on Lap 13 to change cars before the top five all entered the pit lane in frantic style, allowing Sam Bird the honour of leading an ePrix for the first time.
Prost came out ahead of his rivals Heidfeld, di Grassi, Montagny and Abt following a quick car change to re take the lead of the race as Bird stopped at the end of the lap. Heidfeld was one of the biggest winners as he gained two places in the pit window. Buemi received a drive through penalty for crossing the pit exit line before retiring from the race, as Bird returned to the action in sixth.
The closing stages of the race allowed the fans to witness an enthralling final 10 lap sprint to the flag. A drive through penalty for a pit time infringement for Michela Cerruti compounded a miserable day for the Trulli team, as she rejoined towards the back of the field.
Chandhok moved up to sixth with five laps to go with an opportunistic move, using the inside line to get past Bird, who missed the apex of the corner. Servia took ninth from Piquet with only a few laps to go, before Sarrazin and D’Ambrosio also took advantage and Legge was another recipient of a drive through penalty for crossing the pit lane exit line as she ran in 14th. Japanese racer Sato went on to take two points for the fastest lap of the race which he set on the penultimate lap dispatching previous holder Buemi, whose day went from bad to worse.
As the race entered its final lap, Heidfeld closed onto the back of Prost as he shaped up a move for the lead. As Heidfeld moved alongside heading into the final corner, Prost’s aggressive defending launched the German into the barriers in a terrifying accident. Heidfeld thankfully escaped uninjured as Prost’s car came to a halt.
This gifted di Grassi the opportunity to make history and take the first ever Formula E win. Montagny’s fantastic race pace, combined with an ability to manage his car’s energy earned him a well-deserved place on the podium. Daniel Abt crossed the line third but was demoted to 10th for failing to take a drive through penalty for using more electric energy than allowed, meaning that it would be Virgin Racing’s Bird who claimed the final podium place.