The dust has now settled on the first ever Formula E race, we give a quick roundup of all the action in case you missed it. Fortunately, Formula E have put highlights available on YouTube, so be sure to watch them if you weren’t able to watch the race as it was a bit of a blinder!
Firstly, the track. Brand new and decided upon by both Formula E and Beijing City officials, the long track features a large amount of straights interrupted by several imposed chicanes. Most of the corners are 90º left handers and so racing will be tight. Several drivers expressed their concerns over the height of the curbs before the race, and others claimed the track was a bit tight in certain places – particularly for the first lap where 20 cars would barrel into the first few corners nose to tail. Drivers relished the thought of a street race and looked forward to what the new circuit would provide.
Noise (and music). Formula EJ.
Much to the annoyance of most of the doubters before the race, who claimed that electric cars relative lack of acoustics would be a major problem – it wasn’t, at all! Far from a lack of noise, the cars provided their own distinct futuristic whine, accentuated by the grouping of the cars on track and the close proximity of the crash barriers. Tyre squeal, brakes locking, gear changes and much more were also apparent sounds not usually heard in other forms of racing where the exhaust note takes over from all. The addition of these new noises led to a sensation of watching a Hollywood style car chase rather than a bona fide Formula race series, and was all the better for it. Sadly, there must have been a noise doubter amongst the organisers of Formula E as they hired an “EJ” who provided a sound track in addition to the car’s natural noises. This gave an irritating beat to the entire event which was totally unnecessary, in our opinion and as music is so subjective, many people would either love it or hate it so we question the reasoning as to why it was implemented. Let’s hope it is dropped for the next race in Putrajaya.
Ahead of the event, there were a few driver announcements, inlcuding: Takuma Sato who replaced Antonio Felix Da Costa in the Amlin Aguri as Da Costa had conflicting DTM driving commitments. Oriol Servia who had a stake in the Dragon Racing team, stepped in to replace Mike Conway who dropped out of the competition altogether. Charles Pic was able to only achieve one day of testing prior to the Beijing ePrix and drives alongside experienced Franck Montagny in the second Andretti.
As the cars began to leave for their warm up lap, it was clear a few of the cars had issues. Mahindra Racing’s Karun Chandhok who placed 4th in qualifying, failed to leave the start grid for the formation lap as did two back markers, Jarno Trulli and Stephane Sarrazin, who had suffered gearbox changes due to earlier crashes prior to the race start. China Racing’s Ho Pin Tung started the race from the pitt lane as he too had a troubled car.
As the lights went green, focus was turned to Nico Prost, who qualified in pole position and got away with an excellent start creating an early lead. Bruno Senna was unfortunately taken out in the second corner, causing a yellow flag and safety car deployment for the first few laps. Jarno Trulli’s already troubled car also didn’t start and was pushed back to the pits from the grid. As Senna’s loss happened so early in the race, it didn’t disrupt proceedings too much since the cars were already well bunched. After the safety car pulled away, the race was on. As drivers battled for position throughout the pack, it was immediately clear the race series would be highly competitive. Man on the move award would have been given to Franck Montagny for Andretti, as he battled for position throughout the race. Never a dull moment was to be had and the television director appeared to find it difficult to know what to watch as there was just so much going on throughout the pack, with jostling for position and mini battles occurring all the way from pole to final position.
Half way through the race, the controversial car change occurred and caused precious little impact to proceedings. Unfortunately for Katherine Legge and Amlin Aguri, she was forced to do a drive through penalty as a result of her car change being outside the allotted time frame. The only real person to benefit hugely from the car change was Nick Heidfeld in the Venturi car who was able to promote himself to second place as the cars entered into the second phase of the race.
As the final few laps came within sight, the mounting battle between race leader Nico Prost and F1 veteran Nick Heidfeld took on a new urgency. The German driver was consistently hot on the heels of Prost who successfully kept him at bay for the entirety of the race. On the final lap and the final corner, Heidfeld had positioned his car to be able to overtake Prost and claim victory. Incredibly, Prost veered into his side, causing collision and Heidfeld’s front wheel to collapse, thus removing all possibility of him braking in time for the corner. The result was instant. Heidfeld’s car was launched up over the curb for the final corner and into the air and on its side. The car slammed into the crash barriers with an almighty thud, shattering splinters of carbon fibre everywhere. In testament to the car’s engineers, Heidfeld clambered out of the wreckage a minute or so later and was fit and able enough to run over to Nico Prost who was also taken out of the race. Several unfriendly gestures later, attention was turned to the subsequent race winner, Lucas di Grassi. Fortunately, there were no hard feelings after the race, with Nico Prost admitting fault after seeing the video and stating, “I just didn’t see him”. While that may not be too reassuring, in the heat of racing it is perfectly possible as Nico felt that overtaking on that corner would be impossible and so he did not expect it. Ever the gentleman, Heidfeld responded to Nico’s apology by stating, “Thx Nico. Know u and that u dont drive anybody of on purpose. [sic] Next week we fight together in Austin @RebellionRacing”
Lucas di Grassi was a worthy winner and although perhaps a hollow victory due to the default nature of his win in lieu of the crash between previous 1st and 2nd place contenders, Prost and Heidfeld, he drove a solid race without incident or hiccup and was well deserving of victory. He will go down forever-more as the winner of the first ever Formula E race. However, in no disrespect to his achievement, it is the crash that everyone will remember as being the opening highlight and something for which Formula E will gain notoriety. It is not in the sombre sense that people want to see crashes, but rather in what it represents – drivers at full throttle racing hard to the end. Formula E has proven itself a true race series and one which provides plenty of action, thrills and entertainment. Racing is naturally close, as the cars are all equal beneath their individual paint schemes and thus an emphasis on the skill of the driver is very much apparent. With the tracks new and the electric drivetrain a learning curve, it is difficult to foresee how the championship will play out and who will come out on top. Prior to the race start, many favoured the likes of Sebastien Buemi who had consistently shown great speed and capability in the electric race car during testing at Donington. He eventually finished 18th after a retirement on lap 13 – unlucky for some indeed. For full race results, see below.
|01||11||Lucas di Grassi||Audi Sport ABT||25||52:23.413||127.5||1:46.718||19|
|02||27||Franck Montagny||Andretti Autosport||25||52:26.280||+2.867s||127.4||1:46.640||24|
|03||2||Sam Bird||Virgin Racing||25||52:29.972||+6.559s||127.2||1:46.563||21|
|04||28||Charles Pic||Andretti Autosport||25||52:42.714||+19.301s||126.7||1:46.730||23|
|05||5||Karun Chandhok||Mahindra Racing||25||52:47.365||+23.952s||126.5||1:45.892||20|
|06||7||Jerome d’Ambrosio||Dragon Racing||25||52:55.077||+31.664s||126.2||1:47.313||24|
|07||6||Oriol Servia||Dragon Racing||25||53:05.381||+41.968s||125.8||1:47.361||21|
|08||99||Nelson Piquet||China Racing||25||53:07.309||+43.896s||125.7||1:47.819||18|
|10||66||Daniel Abt *||Audi Sport ABT||25||53:25.920||+1:02.507||125.0||1:46.551||17|
|11||3||Jaime Alguersuari *||Virgin Racing||25||54:24.026||+2:00.613||122.8||1:47.914||7|
|12||8||Nicolas Prost (P) *||e.dams-Renault||24||50:31.252||+1 Lap||126.9||1:46.227||24|
|13||23||Nick Heidfeld||Venturi||4||50:31.881||+1 Lap||126.9||1:46.214||24|
|14||18||Michela Cerruti||Trulli||24||52:41.375||+1 Lap||121.7||1:49.469||15|
|15||77||Katherine Legge *||Amlin Aguri||24||53:24.538||+1 Lap||120.1||1:48.753||21|
|16||88||Ho-Pin Tung||China Racing||23||53:58.750||+2 Laps||113.8||1:48.793||16|
|17||55||Takuma Sato (FL)||Amlin Aguri||21||50:52.279||1:45.101||21|
|20||21||Bruno Senna||Mahindra Racing|
Results source; FIA Formula E