Putrajaya ePrix: “Cool carnage” at the second Formula E race of the season

Lucas di Grassi takes victory in Malaysia amid chaotic Putrajaya ePrix

Lucas di Grassi celebrates his win at the Putrajaya ePrix
Lucas Di Grassi Putrajay Photo: Adam Warner / LAT / FE

What an incredible spectacle! After such a strong outing at the Beijing ePrix two weeks ago, Formula E managed the almost impossible – a sequel that matches the incredibly high standards of its predecessor. Putrajaya gifted us with heat, unpredictability, and chaos up and down the grid, leading to a three-lap showdown at the end of the race. Just as the race was settling into a rhythm, all hell broke loose and almost everyone was fighting an ailing car to the finish line.

Video courtesy of FIA Formula E

Qualifying recap

Di Grassi had a difficult qualifying, hitting the wall on his attempt to set the fastest lap, and could only manage sixth place on the grid.

Sam Bird also had a kiss with the barriers, resulting in him qualifying 14th in his DS Virgin Racing car.

Fellow Brit Oliver Turvey was 17th behind his team-mate, Nelson Piquet Jr. Simon de Silvestro had technical difficulties and struggled to get maximum power in the car; she qualified in last place.

Super Pole saw Sebastien Buemi, Stephane Sarrazan, Loic Duval, Antonio Felix da Costa and Nico Prost fight it out for pole position this time round, Buemi once again taking top honours and seemingly in for another dominant outing.

Trulli once again failed to make it to the grid as their car failed scrutineering for the second race in a row.

Race Review

Heightened temperatures meant heightened tensions as the Malaysian heat created a whole new set of challenges for the Formula E teams and their drivers.

Every car had to look after its battery temperature and tried to regenerate less energy in order to try to keep the problems at bay.

Stephane Sarrazan’s race looked over before it had even began, as he failed to get his car moving to the dummy grid at the start of the race. He was pushed back to the pits and by the time he made his way out onto the track, he was over a minute down on the rest of the grid.

This meant Sebastien Buemi started the race with no real challenger anywhere near him.

Jean-Eric Vergne had contact in the first corner with Nick Heidfeld, resulting in his retirement. Oliver Turvey’s sticking throttle sent him straight into the wall on lap 5; it was then announced he had won the FanBoost vote, along with Nelson Piquet Jr and Nick Heidfeld.

By lap 12, all the excitement appeared to be over and we looked set for another Renault e.Dams domination.

Disaster strikes for Buemi

Buemi suffered a software malfunction in his first car, causing him to slow down and be caught by the rest of the field, handing the lead to Loic Duval.

Renault e.Dams chose to pit both their cars early, spelling disaster for the team, as both drivers had to do some serious energy-saving to make it to the end of the race. Buemi finished in 13th, Prost in 11th.

Daniel Abt pitted from 5th place, however once he reached the end of his minimum pit stop time, his car failed to move. He eventually got going again but the damage was done and he eventually finished in 7th place.

The leaders of the race then pitted on lap 18; Duval was in from first position, followed by Da Costa in second and Di Grassi from 3rd. However, a disastrous pit stop time of 1.04 minutes meant that both Da Costa and Di Grassi jumped Duval, losing him effectual lead of the race (the cars in front still had to pit; Prost was the de facto leader but would be easily passed once his power became critical). Di Grassi then passed Da Costa whilst Prost managed to cling on to second place on the track. Nelson Piquet managed an impressive 20 laps in his first car, allowing him to complete the remaining 13 laps with more power to use than the rest of the field. He finished in 9th, scoring 2 points. Nick Heidfeld was given a drive through penalty after his pit stop was two seconds under the minimal pitstop time. He managed to finish in 10th place, and also showed Pastor Maldanado how to save a car that’s sliding at speed into a barrier.

The track was becoming increasingly slippery as the race got into its final stages; the track surface appeared to be breaking up under the heat and pressure from the tyres. Many drivers found themselves riding the small marbles that formed into the barriers.

Di Grassi managed to take the lead from an ailing Nico Prost, who at this point had 10% less useable energy than those around him. Da Costa then takes second place from the Frenchman, only to grind to a halt on lap 26. He is able to get going again, but his push for victory is over, and he finishes in 6th after a few more stop-starting incidents.

Final laps: hold on tight, it’s going to be a bumpy ride

Loic Duval then came into play, as did his team-mate Jerome D’Ambrosio, as both Dragon Racing drivers passed Prost to gain 2nd and 3rd position with 6 laps to go.

Duval then gets a bit too up-close-and-personal with a barrier, resulting in race-ending suspension damage.

Robin Frijns, who was running in fourth, had just made a pass on Duval when he made contact with the wall and broke his steering. Duval then passed him again, but the Dutchman managed to drag his car round the circuit, and was highly surprised to learn he had finished 3rd.

Duval was not so lucky; shortly after re-taking the place he lost to Frijns, he stopped in the middle of the track on the second-to-last lap, promoting everyone behind him up one place.

Good news for almost everyone, apart from Buemi, who’s afternoon only got worse as he also stopped out on track, though unlike Duval was able to get moving and make the checkered flag.

On the final lap, it looked as though the top three was set in stone; Di Grassi in 1st, D’Ambrosio 2nd, and Sam Bird 3rd.

However this ePrix was not yet done, and Jerome D’Ambrosio went straight on after hitting the barrier at turn seven, promoting Bird to 2nd and Frijns to 3rd.

Stephane Sarrazan had an incredible race to go from a pit-lane start to fourth.

You can see how difficult the conditions were. It was an extremely tough race, mainly determined by battery temperature, which is the same problem we had last year. But gladly we managed it better than others – Lucas di Grassi

I’m absolutely chuffed. This one’s for the boys at Virgin. I don’t think too many people know that before the race we were down in the dumps because I didn’t think I was going to finish the race, because we only had one battery in the car. The Virgin boys fixed the car so quick. If people don’t say Formula E’s exciting, then they didn’t watch that race. It was carnage, but cool carnage. – Sam Bird

Sam Bird celebrates on the podium
FIA Formula E Championship 2015/16. Putrajaya ePrix, Putrajaya, Malaysia.Race.
Sam Bird (GBR), DS Virgin Racing.
Photo: Adam Warner / LAT / FE

I felt like I was a rally driver [after breaking his steering]. I went just a bit too quick in and there were a lot of rubbles and dirt, so I was on it, had massive understeer, and I saw the wall coming and said ‘This is it. It’s over.’ The steering was totally not straight anymore – right corners were fine, but left corners, I really had to take it easy. I’m surprised how strong that Formula E car is. I kept on pushing and I brought it home and I crossed the line and they said I was P3, so that was a big surprise. – Robin Frijins

2015/2016 FIA Formula E Championship. Putrajaya ePrix, Putrajaya, Malaysia. Saturday 7 November 2015. Sam Bird (GBR) Lucas Di Grassi (BRA) and Robin Frijns (NLD) Photo: Zak Mauger/LAT/Formula E
2015/2016 FIA Formula E Championship. Putrajaya ePrix, Putrajaya, Malaysia. Saturday 7 November 2015.
Sam Bird (GBR) Lucas Di Grassi (BRA) and Robin Frijns (NLD)
Photo: Zak Mauger/LAT/Formula E

Things that had us buzzing

  • The unpredictability – nobody could have foreseen this race!
  • Stephane Sarrazan’s recovery drive
  • Antonio Felix da Costa – was having an incredible race until his technical issues
  • The final laps. Incredible.
  • Sam Bird having to run back to the pits as his car failed to finish the in-lap. Just as well the race wasn’t 34 laps.
  • Another season one powertrain being on the podium once again – fantastic they aren’t running at the back as we feared

Formula E returns on 19th December for the Punta del Este ePrix

Results

  1. Lucas di Grassi, ABT Schaeffler
  2. Sam Bird, DS Virgin
  3. Robin Frijns, Andretti
  4. Stephane Sarrazan, Venturi
  5. Bruno Senna, Mahindra
  6. Antonio Felix da Costa, Team Aguri
  7. Daniel Abt, ABT Schaeffler
  8. Nelson Piquet Jr, NEXT EV
  9. Nick Heidfeld, Mahindra
  10. Nico Prost, Renault e.Dams
  11. Jacque Villeneuve, Venturi
  12. Sebastien Buemi, Renault e.Dams
  13. Simona de Silvestra, Andretti
  14. Nathanael Berthon, Team Aguri

DNF: LOIC DUVAL; OLIVER TURVEY; JEAN-ERIC VERGNE

DNS: JARNO TRULLI, VITANTONIO LIUZZI

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