Buemi bags Berlin victory

Spacesuit-Media-Shivraj-Gohil-Formula-E-Berlin-2016-Sebastien Buemi Lucas di Grassi Daniel Abt

Sebastien Buemi busted his five-month victory drought with a win in Berlin. The win, from second on the grid, moved him to within a single point of championship rival Lucas di Grassi, who started in P10 but finished in third place. 

At lights out, Buemi made a better start than pole sitter Jean-Eric Vergne, sweeping past the Frenchman into the first corner as the field bunched up through the hairpin. Bruno Senna and Rene Rast tangled, leaving both with damage, while Lucas di Grassi moved to make up for a poor qualifying by his standards, slipping into sixth place on the first lap. Vergne refused to back down in the fight with Buemi, forcing his way back past at the inside of T1 with a near-identical move to the one to which he had been subjected, allowing him to reclaim the lead.

Vergne was unable to pull away from Buemi, allowing the Renault driver to force his way back into P1 on lap six. This dropped Vergne into the clutches of Daniel Abt and, although the DS Virgin Racing driver was able to keep the German at bay initially, putting up a robust defence allowed Buemi to escape up the road. On lap 11, Abt forced his way past at the T1 hairpin before following Buemi’s example and ditching Vergne, who was left alone at the front for DS Virgin Racing after Sam Bird was ordered to pit for repairs after damaging his front-wing endplate.

As Buemi opened his lead over Abt to around five seconds, di Grassi continued to run in P5 tight behind Vergne and Prost. The ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport team told the Brazilian they would try to keep him out for an extra lap compared to his rivals. Just ahead of the car swaps, Vergne lost his front-wing endplate and then his front wing after clouting the kerb and bollards at the first chicane, allowing Prost to pass before they pitted.

ABT’s plan worked as di Grassi stayed out an additional lap and was able to leap frog Vergne for third place. Buemi had kept his cool to retain the lead ahead of Abt, while Frijns now found himself in sixth ahead of a charging Nick Heidfeld, who had started at the back after a tyre pressure irregularity led to his exclusion from qualifying.

With debris from Vergne’s car still strewn across the inside line at the first chicane, a full course yellow was called on lap 28 to allow the marshals to clear the track. The race quickly returned to green, and Buemi was able to retain his 10 second lead over Abt in second place, who in turn had Prost and di Grassi to contend with behind. The ABT team was now left with a dilemma: could it use Abt to back Prost into di Grassi and give its championship contender a points boost?

With eight laps remaining, di Grassi sold Prost a perfect dummy into T1 and then dived down the inside to seize third place. Abt now lay ahead of him in second place, but the race took another twist when the stewards announced that di Grassi was under investigation for speeding under the full course yellow. Just to add extra excitement, the safety car was deployed with five laps to go after Loic Duval hit the wall at T7, resigning himself to the second DNF in a row.

Despite Duval’s car being stuck in an awkward place for the marshals, they were able to clear it away quickly enough so the race could return to green with two laps remaining. Abt was told by his team that Di Grassi was faster with two laps to go. He attempted to let his team mate pass but di Grassi didn’t make the move. As Prost crept close to the pair, Abt realised swapping places with di Grassi could endanger a podium place and so the switch didn’t happen.

Buemi had managed to keep his cool under the late safety car to clinch his first victory since the Punta del Este race at the end of last year, while Abt crossed the line in second, cheering to his team over the radio after scoring his best ever finish in Formula E. However, di Grassi’s championship lead now stands at just one point, while the Brazilian remains under investigation with the stewards at time of writing.

Prost ended the race fourth ahead of Vergne, who was left to reflect on what could have been after starting on pole. Competing with the Renaults and ABTs would have been difficult, however, as the recogised powertrain leaders.

Robin Frijns finished sixth for Andretti ahead of Heidfeld, who fought back from near the back of the grid to finish seventh for Mahindra. Mike Conway followed in eighth, while Simona de Silvestro added another two points to her Formula E account in ninth. Stephane Sarrazin rounded out the points for Venturi despite starting from the pit lane due to an electronic issue.

Sam Bird fought back from his additional pit stop to end the race in P11 ahead of the NextEV TCR pair of Oliver Turvey and Nelson Piquet, who dropped back after an impressive qualifying performance. Ma Qing Hua finished P14, while Bruno Senna dropped to P15 after a spin shortly after the car swaps. Jerome d’Ambrosio and Rene Rast both finished multiple laps down in P16 and P17 respectively.

Luke Smith

FIA Formula E Berlin 2016 race results

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