Former F1 driver Sébastien Buemi led from pole position to chequered flag in the first of two FIA Formula E Championship races at Battersea Park in south London today.
Victory put the Swiss driver right back into contention for the inaugural title in the all-electric single-seater series. Buemi now lies just five behind points leader Nelson Piquet Jr ahead of Sunday’s season climax around Battersea Park.
With overtaking difficult around the tight and bumpy circuit, Buemi was able to control the race from the front after converting his pole position into an immediate lead.
The e.dams-Renault driver established an advantage of more than two seconds in the early laps, and stayed at the front until the mid-race pitstops to change cars.
Once those had been completed, he hit the front again, and stayed there despite a safety car period that allowed the chasing pack to close on him.
Second place fell to Dragon Racing’s Jerome D’Ambrosio who, like Buemi, didn’t face any serious threats once the opening-lap skirmishes had sorted out the order.
The battle for the final spot on the podium was more spirited. In the early laps, Lucas Di Grassi held the place, but had to perform some stout defensive moves to keep bitter rival Piquet Jr at bay.
The two title protagonists almost came to grief on lap three when Piquet Jr got a good run and drew ahead, but Di Grassi had the better line for the next corner and after some rubbing of bodywork managed to hold the place.
The attempted move cost Piquet his momentum, and a super-quick Jean-Eric Vergne capitalised, diving down the inside into a tight right-hander.
Vergne’s progress in his Andretti Autosport car didn’t end there; on lap seven he pulled a late-braking, tyre-locking move on Di Grassi at the same corner to seize third.
The order at the front remained the same through the mid-race car changes, but on lap 17 Daniel Abt suffered a suspected technical failure on his car and nosed the crash barriers, necessitating a safety car period.
As the race restarted, fifth-placed Piquet was in a feisty mood and again attacked Di Grassi, who made his Audi Sport Abt car as wide as possible. Piquet Jr nudged the rear of his compatriot’s machine at one point, and fell away thereafter.
Di Grassi had enough power left for a late-race charge, and he latched onto the rear of Vergne’s bright orange car, but couldn’t quite mount a challenge. Also on a move was Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird.
A technical problem in qualifying had left him down the grid and effective ended his slim hopes of the title, but he raced sensibly and deposed both Loic Duval and Nicolas Prost in the closing laps to seize sixth.