Lucas di Grassi claimed his second Formula E win at an eventful Putrajaya ePrix, after technical issues robbed Sebastien Buemi of a potential back-to-back victory.
The win gives the ABT Audi Sport driver the championship lead by eight points, after Buemi missed out on the points in 12th after stopping twice in his Renault Z.E.15. Britain’s Sam Bird took second place for DS Virgin Racing, while Andretti’s Robin Frijns impressed on his way to securing the final podium spot.
Buemi was one of many drivers who struggled during the 33 Lap event in sweltering heat with humidity levels over 60%, as conserving energy and battery temperature proved the main concern throughout. Buemi’s Renault e.Dams team-mate Nico Prost also fell down the order with energy issues but survived a late hit with the barrier to take a point.
Stephane Sarrazin recovered from last place to take a superb fourth, after the Venturi driver caused a delayed start to the race having been unable to pull away from the dummy grid. Despite claiming a brilliant front row start in qualifying, Sarrazin was forced to begin from the very back of the grid. The Frenchman handled his energy levels efficiently in the early stages and that proved a decisive factor in his late resurgence.
Mahindra’s improving form continued as Bruno Senna finished fifth, ahead of Antonio Felix da Costa in an impressive sixth and Daniel Abt in seventh. Late problems for both Dragon drivers – who at one stage looked good for a double podium – aided reigning champion Nelson Piquet Jr, who came home to take a morale-boosting eighth place for Team China Racing. Other beneficiaries included Nick Heidfeld who finished ninth and Prost in 10th.
Buemi was left unchallenged as the lights went out and was able to maintain the lead from pole position, as Loic Duval held onto second and Felix da Costa moved into third. As Jacques Villeneuve, Jean-Eric Vergne and Heidfeld went three-wide into Turn 1, Vergne was squeezed into Villeneuve’s Venturi and bounced into Heidfeld, sending the latter into a spin and Vergne into an early retirement.
Andretti’s Frijns was an early mover and slotted past Jerome D’Ambrosio into sixth, while at the front Buemi had already pulled two seconds clear of Duval by Lap 5. Behind, a three-way squabble began over third, with da Costa marginally ahead of both Prost and di Grassi.
An early safety car was scrambled when Oliver Turvey veered off into the Turn 5 wall as Team China Racing’s woes looked set to continue in Malaysia. Racing resumed after just two laps behind the Qualcomm Safety Car, with Buemi holding his lead while Senna had an issue at Turn 10 and plummeted down to 16th and last, bringing out brief yellow flags.
Aided by the safety car, Sarrazin began his fightback into the points with a pass on Piquet Jr, before moving past Simona De Silvestre’s Andretti for 13th.
Following a relatively processional opening to the race, the pendulum swung on Lap 15 as Buemi slowed out of a comfortable lead with technical issues – allowing Duval into first – before the Swiss driver got going again as Renault e.Dams took the decision to pit both of its drivers to swap cars.
The majority of the field pitted between laps 16 and 18, with Piquet staying out until Lap 20, resulting in the defending champion briefly boasting the race lead. Team Aguri’s da Costa leapfrogged Duval, who dropped two places with a slow pit stop as he lost over six seconds, allowing Di Grassi into the top three.
Di Grassi then made what proved to be a crucial move on Lap 19 by storming around the outside da Costa at Turn 4, before snatching the lead from Prost with 10 laps to go. A better drive out of the final corner allowed the Brazilian to draw level along the start/finish straight, completing the race-winning overtake into Turn 1.
Having overcome his first lap spin, Heidfeld survived another hairy moment when the back end of his Mahindra M2Electro stepped out and brushed the wall, allowing Bird through into seventh.
Da Costa disposed Prost of second place with a late lunge, before grinding to a brief halt on the exit of Turn 2. Despite this, the Team Aguri driver was still able to record a solid points haul. Prost’s return to second place lasted only a matter of corners, as he plummeted down the order in his ailing Renault.
A frantic finale saw D’Ambrosio, Frijns and Prost all have separate excursions with the Putrajaya Street Circuit walls, before Duval stopped on the penultimate lap and brought out a late safety car. That aided Frijns, who somehow managed to get his Spark SRT_01E Andretti across the line to take his maiden Formula E podium.