Sam Bird has won the 2014 Putrajaya ePrix, the second round of the 2014/2015 Formula E world championship. The British driver started from 2nd place and only overtook two drivers over the course of the race to take a comfortable win. Championship leader and winner last time out in Beijing Lucas di Grassi and eDams driver Sebastien Buemi took 2nd and 3rd despite having started from 18th and 19th place.
The Putrajaya circuit showed that it was a track to be respected early on during practice. Sam Bird topped the session for Virgin Racing by 6 tenths of a second over Jerome D’ambrosio after the session was interrupted twice. Nick Heidfeld was the first driver to stop after he crashed at turn 3. The German driver had destroyed the front left corner of his Venturi, with the team now under pressure to prepare the car for qualifying due to the unique one day event style of the championship. Michela Cerruti also stopped during the session thanks to a loose wheel-nut letting her left rear wheel run free.
Qualifying saw Nicolas Prost take pole position as he had done at the first round in China. However, thanks to causing the massive collision with Nick Heidfeld at the final corner of that race, he will start from 11th place after serving a 10 place grid penalty. This promoted Oriol Servia and Jerome D’ambrosio to lock-out the front row of the grid, but this changed once again as D’ambrosio was moved to the back for exceeding his power usage. Sam Bird was promoted to 2nd on the grid, with Daniel Abt starting just behind him on the grid.
Jarno Trulli put his first race woes behind him to take an impressive 4th on the grid ahead of Karun Chandhok and Nelson Piquet Jr. Nick Heidfeld lines up 7th ahead of Bruno Senna in the Mahindra Racing car, with the two drivers making their Formula E débuts, Matthew Brabham and Antonio Felix da Costa, completing the top 10.
With the second race of the championship looming, the results of the FanBoost – where the fans vote for their favourite driver to get a 5 second power boost for the race, – were announced. Bruno Senna and Katherine Legge were among the top 3 drivers to receive the boost for the second race in a row, with Nick Heidfeld the third winner for Venturi.
Servia and Bird got away brilliantly from the front row as the lights went out to start the race. Bird tucked himself into the slipstream of Servia and tried to get up the inside on the run to turn 1, but Servia squeezed him close to the pit-wall to deny him the chance. Daniel Abt got a good initial start from 3rd on the grid but then dropped all the way down to 16th.
As in Beijing, the race wasn’t long under-way before the Safety Car came out. Katherine Legge seemed to lose the rear of her car under-breaking and subsequently spun fellow female-driver Cerutti. The contact broke off Legge’s front wing, which necessitated the safety car. Brabham also spun on the opening lap into the hairpin and made very slight contact with Senna. The Andretti driver was able to get back going after not being collected by another driver as he lay in the middle of the track at the turn 10 hairpin.
The debris had been removed from the track before a lap had elapsed, but the BMW safety car picked up Brabham instead of leader Servia. This led to an extended 4 lap safety car period, with the race getting back under-way at the end of lap 5. Bird had a great start once again and was on the back of Servia down into turn 1. The Dragon Racing driver went defensive once again and forced Bird to the outside of the corner. This backfired however as now Servia had a tighter, slower line through the chicane, which allowed Bird to get a better exit onto the straight into turn 3. Oriol defended the inside once again but appeared to run deep at the 90 degree right hander, allowing Bird to get the undercut to take the lead of the race.
Servia appeared to not have the race pace as Karun Chandhok closed up to the back of him soon after. He made an aggressive move into turn 1 to take 2nd place. Then it was Piquet’s turn to put the pressure on Servia. He tried to get through at turn 5 but couldn’t manage it. The drivers behind him bunched up, giving Montangy an opportunity to pass Heidfeld. The Andretti driver had been excellent in Beijing at pulling off aggressive overtakes, but this time he clipped the kerb too hard which sent him slightly wide, pushing Heidfeld into the tyres and out of the race. The safety car was out again.
The safety car had come out too early for the drivers to consider pitting, as there were too many laps left for the batteries of the second cars to last without going too slow. This didn’t stop Daniel Abt however. The German had been at the back of the field after his awful start, so he decided to gamble and pit. The safety car would allow him to emerge from the stop and get to the back of the field and he would then be able overtake them all when they pitted for their car changes. But he would have to save a lot of power in the closing stages in order to finish the race.
The safety car came in with 20 laps to go. Sam Bird had a brilliant start as he took off at the exit of the hairpin. By the time he had rounded the final corner and crossed the line, he had a 2.5 second lead over Jarno Trulli, who was forming a famous train of cars behind him, which had been a feature of his Formula One career. Chandhok thought abotu a move into turn 1 but was too far back to make it stick. Once again, drivers bunched up behind, with Piquet momentarily looking control into the hairpin in 5th. This held up the cars behind and also caused Montagny to lose his front wing which brought him into the pits.
Senna used his Fanboost to try and pass Piquet on the start/finish straight. He drew alongside his fellow countryman but was unable to get it done on the outside. He then scraped the wall and slightly damaged his front right wheel. The damage mean that he had to turn a little to the right to keep his car in a straight line.
The pit-stops began soon after, with Trulli, Chandhok, Servia and Piquet pitting on lap 17. Buemi, di Grassi, Prost, Brabham and Senna followed them in a lap later, with both Brabham and Senna going off on their in-lap. Meanwhile at the front, Sam Bird had stayed out for 2 extra laps. The British driver had a 7 second lead prior to the other drivers pitting and was cutting it close as he pulled into the pits with just 3% battery left. All this allowed Daniel Abt, who had already pitted, to get into the lead, but it would be almost impossible for him to stay there as his car was already at 50% charge.
Bird emerged from the stops in 2nd ahead of Trulli who had formed a ‘Trulli Train’ behind him consisting of di Grassi, Piquet, Buemi, Prost, d’Ambrosio and Senna. Unfortunately for Trulli, he would have to serve a drive through penalty for exceeding the maximum energy usage. The Italian stayed out on track for a few laps before his stop. On lap 23, Piquet made a great move behind him to get past di Grassi and then set about passing Trulli. He got alongside him on the start/finish straight, but Trulli seemed to edge too far over to him, pushing him into the wall and forcing the Brazilian to retire. Jarno finally served his drive through at the end of that lap.
With the race reaching it’s closing stages, Bird was eating into Abt’s lead and was now 3 seconds a lap faster than him. By lap 27, Abt had just 20% battery left and was conserving massively. Bird cruised up to the back of him into turn 3, with the German letting him pass on the inside for the lead. Soon enough, the drivers battling for 3rd caught up to him in the final few corners of the circuit. Abt continued to let them through as he tried his best to get to the finish. Senna used the final few seconds of his Fanboost to pull of a rather surreal move on Prost. He was now into P4 and wasn’t far away from Buemi who was in the final podium spot.
Sam Bird started the final lap and was just cruising to the finish, his lead evaporated down to 4 seconds as he weaved his away across the line to win the Putrajaya ePrix for Virgin. Lucas di Grassi and Sebastian Buemi crossed the line to take the final two spots on the podium despite starting way down the field.
Bruno Senna had been all over the back of Buemi on the final lap. The Brazilian was looking like he was going to get a strong finish until he tried to set-up a move into the turn 10 hairpin. As he rounded the fast left hander of turn 9, the rear of the car seemed to step out, sending him hard into the outside wall. The rear right corner of the car was destroyed, but he got out uninjured. The crash promoted Prost into P4, with Jerome d’Ambrosio completing the top 5 despite starting from last place.
Karun Chandhok finished in 6th place for Mahindra ahead of Servia who had started at the front of the grid. Antonio Felix da Costa had a strong first race after finishing in 8th ahead of the Virgin Racing car of Jaime Alguersauri. Jaime also secured 2 points for setting the fastest lap of the race with a 1:24.429; just 2 hundredths faster than Montagny’s best lap. Daniel Abt’s gamble appeared to have not paid off as he fell outside of the points on the penultimate lap. However, Senna’s crash promoted him into the final points paying position of 10th.
Nick Heidfeld was disqualified from the race despite having finished down in P19. The stewards deemed that his pit-stop had taken place outside of the permitted area. The disqualification means that the poor finish will not count for his drop-score round at the end of the season.
2014 Putrajaya ePrix results:
|1||Sam Bird||Virgin Racing||25||2nd|
|2||Lucas di Grassi||Audi Sport ABT||18||18th|
|4||Nicolas Prost (P)||e.dams-Renault||15||11th|
|5||Jerome d’Ambrosio||Dragon Racing||10||20th|
|6||Karun Chandhok||Mahindra Racing||8||5th|
|7||Oriol Servia||Dragon Racing||6||1st|
|8||Antonio Felix da Costa||Amlin Aguri||4||10th|
|9||Jaime Alguersauri (FL)||Virgin Racing||4||17th|
|10||Daniel Abt||Audi Sport ABT||1||3rd|
|11||Ho-Pin Tung||China Racing||0||15th|
|14||Bruno Senna||Mahindra Racing||0||8th|
|16||Katherine Legge||Amlin Aguri||0||16th|
|18||Nelson Piquet Jr.||China Racing||0||6th|
(P) – 3 points for pole position. (FL) – 2 points for fastest lap. Italics – FanBoost winners.
Race winner, Sam Bird: “The weekend went really well, we were quick from the first outing and we were quickest in practice. Qualifying didn’t quite go our way as I think we were not in the best group for doing a fast lap time but we put that right in the race. The first stint I was able to get a very good gap which meant we could take it easy and not make any silly mistakes, do some lift and coasting, and coast to the finish. I have to dedicate this win to a good friend of mine who is very ill. It’s very sad what’s happened to him and this one is for Jules [Bianchi].”
2nd place, Lucas di Grassi: “For sure this was beyond my expectations. Everyone is here to win, everyone is pushing to the limit as this track has proven once and for all this car is very tricky to drive even if you have done all the testing. The tiniest margin can ruin your whole weekend and that’s what happened in qualifying from my side and then to come all the way from the back of the grid on a street track to second is an amazing feeling. I felt I had a much better race than in Beijing where I won.”
3rd place: Sebastien Buemi: “We were really good in testing and then when we came to the first race it just didn’t go well. It went bad today in the qualifying which is quite strange, we did some set up changes that didn’t work so well but I felt the strongest in this car and finished third.”
Lucas di Grassi’s 2nd place means that he leads the championship having won the first race in Beijing. Sam bird is just 3 points behind after his win today.
The next round of the championship sees the teams head to Uruguay on December 13th.