British driver Sam Bird claimed victory in the final round of the FIA Formula E Championship at Battersea Park in London today as Nelson Piquet Jr scooped the title in a thrilling showdown with rival Sébastien Buemi.
Piquet Jr, who was favourite to win the inaugural championship for the electric single-seater racing cars, left himself with a lot of work to do when he qualified his NextEV TCR entry a lowly 16th position on the grid for the final race.
Buemi, who had thrust himself right into contention in the points race by winning Saturday’s race, lined up sixth on the grid in his e.dams-Renault car, and with overtaking difficult around the bumpy, wall-lined track, appeared to have seized the initiative.
As the race got underway, pole sitter Stéphane Sarrazin swept into the lead, ahead of Jerome D’Ambrosio, Loic Duval and Bird.
Piquet made some good early ground, and took a chance by remaining on track for an extra lap when the rest of the field made their pit stops for car changes.
After the car changes and a short safety car period, he ran tenth, and made further places when team-mate Oliver Turvey ceded ninth and swiftly caught Salvador Duran napping to move up to eighth.
That was good enough for the title unless Buemi could make up further ground, and the Swiss man didn’t help his prospects when he had a quick spin shortly after changing cars.
He lost a place to Bruno Senna, and despite a heated, physical scrap over the closing laps, couldn’t do enough to regain the position he required to snatch the title from Piquet.
Up at the front, Virgin Racing driver Bird hunted down long-time leader Sarrazin, having leapfrogged D’Ambrosio’s Dragon Racing car during the car changes and then usurped Duval for second.
With Bird tucked under his gearbox, Sarrazin’s battery power ebbed to zero per cent on the final lap, but he just managed to keep his rival at bay until the chequered flag.
However, race stewards deemed that the Frenchman had exceeded his energy allocation, and a 49-second penalty dropped him all the way to 15th place.
Buemi and Piquet both benefited from Sarrazin’s demotion, rising to fifth and seventh respectively, but it had no bearing on the championship outcome, with the Brazilian beating his rival by a single point.
After claiming his second race win of the season, Bird said: “We worked hard to maintain our position in the first half of the race and after a great car changeover we jumped to third.
“I managed to conserve the car’s energy to enable a lap longer than Stephane before the second stint – that turned the race for me. To end the season on top of the podium in front of a home crowd is incredible.”