Sebastien Buemi recovered from a torrid outing in Mexico to re-assert his dominance in Formula E.
You can’t keep a good man down. Sebastien Buemi seems well versed with this saying. He withstood enormous pressure from Lucas di Grassi to claim his fourth FIA Formula E Championship win of the season in Monaco, and extend his points lead to 15.
From his first Julius Baer pole position of the season, Buemi made a perfect start and soon established a comfortable lead over his title rival, who in turn was easing away from Nelson Piquet Jr. in third.
Piquet, driving for the NextEV NIO team had no such luxury, as the TECHEETAH of Jean-Eric Vergne was swarming all over him. The Frenchman was clearly anxious to make a move and stop the front two from getting away, and in his desperation, he tried an ambitious move around the outside of the Turn 3 hairpin.
The cars were completely side-by-side and as they banged wheels, Vergne was sent crashing into the Tech-Pro barriers. Remarkably, Piquet survived having only lost third place to the Mahindra of Nick Heidfeld, but Vergne’s car was heavily damaged and the Qualcomm Safety Car was deployed as it was recovered.
After the success of the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport’s tactical gamble in pitting di Grassi early last time out in Mexico, all the teams opted to follow the Brazilian into the pits for the mandatory car change during the caution period.
This was the prelude to a sensational finish that had the more than 18,000 fans who packed the grandstands on the edge of their seats. After using his FanBoost to briefly open up the lead to 1.6s, Buemi could only watch his mirrors as di Grassi homed in over the closing stages.
The advances in Formula E technology mean that not only are the cars faster this year than they were in season one when the first Monaco ePrix was held, the races are now significantly longer. Indeed, the race in Monaco was a full four laps longer than the 47 it was run over first time around.
As they crossed the line to start the 51st and final lap, Buemi’s lead was down to just 0.4s, but despite having the leader in his sights, di Grassi couldn’t quite get close enough to attempt a passing move, and Buemi duly notched up his 10th win in the all-electric racing series, defending his Monaco ePrix crown in the process.
Second place for di Grassi meant that he minimised the amount of points lost to his main title rival – in fact the championship already appears to be a two-horse race as there is more than a 40-point gap to Buemi’s Renault e.dams team-mate Nico Prost who’s third in the standings.
After making a superb start and perfectly picking his way around three cars through the first corner, Heidfeld had a relatively lonely run to third place. It was his first podium finish since the season-opener in Hong Kong back in October.
For almost the entire second half of the race, Piquet was locked in an intense battle for fourth place with Venturi’s Maro Engel, the second Mahindra of Felix Rosenqvist and di Grassi’s team-mate Daniel Abt. The quartet were never more than a couple of seconds apart, but the tight nature of the track meant that overtaking was almost impossible.
Andretti’s Robin Frijns was running eighth, but ran out of usable energy on the final lap and dropped out of the points. This promoted Esteban Gutierrez into eighth place and a second points finish in as many races for TECHEETAH.
Antonio Felix da Costa charged up the order in the early stages and crossed the line ninth, but later received a 33-second time penalty for an unsafe release. This meant that, after running off the road in qualifying, Prost was promoted to ninth and the final point when to Mitch Evans for Panasonic Jaguar Racing.
It was a tough race for DS Virgin Racing, with Jose Maria Lopez sustaining front and rear wing damage in the opening lap contretemps, while Sam Bird was running seventh when he clipped the wall on the exit of the swimming pool. He limped his car back to the pits and finally re-joined three laps down with the aim of earning the bonus point for setting the Visa fastest lap, which he duly did.