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Très cool: di Grassi celebrates dominant victory in Paris

Formula E took on the streets of Paris for the first time this Saturday and were able to celebrate an incredibly successful inaugural Paris ePrix. Lucas di Grassi emerged as the race winner ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne and Sebastien Buemi.

The race in words

The long-awaited first ever ePrix on the streets of Paris got the fans clued to their TV screens as the race developed as a real nail biter during the start. Pole-sitter Sam bird (DS Virgin Racing) experienced a rather weak start to his race, with ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport driver Lucas di Grassi could instantly get into a position to attack the Briton. The championship leader then was the first going into the first corner, establishing his lead.

The two Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Virgin Racing) and Nicolas Prost (Renault e.Dams) both got away when the lights went out, securing P2 and P4 respectively. After an unfortunate qualifying, Antonio Felix da Costa (Team Aguri) moved up to P7 during the early moments of the Paris ePrix until he was overtaken by Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.Dams). Simona de Silvestro witnessed a less lucky beginning to her race, as she was demoted to P15.

During the first lap, di Grassi was already able to build up a big gap between him and the battling DS Virgin Racing duo in 2nd and 3rd. The real action was happening further down the field anyway as the top-5 quickly settled into their respective positions. Team Aguri rookie Ma Qing Hua showed an impressive debut, first bravely overtaking Venturi’s Mike Conway and then passing de Silvestro in a similarly courageous way, moving up to P14. The race developed less fortunate for Dragon Racing driver Loic Duval who already struggled with the set-up of his car during the previous sessions. His rather dark weekend on home soil ended in technical problems which forced him to retire from the race on lap 6, causing a Full Course Yellow.

Nevertheless, most drivers maintained their positions at the end of the FCY but NEXTEv TCR driver Oliver Turvey became an easy target for a handful of drivers within the next few minutes. Robin Frijns (Amlin Andretti) was moving up the field, first overtaking da Costa and then making a brave move on Turvey only a few moments later. Buemi had pushed past Turvey earlier on thus slowly making his way towards the top-5.

Most drivers had found their rhythm during the first ten laps of the inaugural Paris ePrix, so the times started to drop. The DS Virgin Racing duo was slowly able to gain on race leader di Grasso but could not yet bring themselves into a position to attack the Brazilian. Buemi nevertheless managed to overtake local hero Stephane Sarrazin (Venturi) and thus found himself right behind his team mate Prost. Wheel-to-wheel action was provided aplenty by da Costa and Turvey who were involved in an intense fight for P8.

Reaching half-time, the drivers slowly had to make their ways to the pits for the mandatory car swap. Nelson Piquet Jr (NEXTEV TCR) was the first driver to complete his stop, followed by da costa, Conway and Ma who all stopped earlier than the majority of the field that arrived in the pits one lap later. It was especially close between the DS Virgin Racing duo and the two Renault e.Dams drivers who were already piled up when they turned into the pitlane. Race leader di Grassi experienced a problem-free stop and could regain his lead when Nick Heidfeld (Mahindra Rcing) and Daniel Abt (ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport) completed their stops one lap and two laps later respectively. Meanwhile, Buemi was able to pass his team mate when exiting the pits and showed ambitions to challenge the two DS Virgin Racing drivers for their places on the podium.

Buemi continued his pursuit during the last third of the race and was able to put pressure on Bird in P3 which allowed Vergne to establish a gap between himself and his team-mate. The battle for P3 got more and more intense in the cause of the race and eventually brought Buemi into a position to pressure Bird into a mistake. The Brit spun but was able to recover from his mistake, nevertheless losing a lot of time and dropping to P6 overall.

The last few laps of the race saw Buemi catching up with Vergne while Sarrazin was closing the gap top Prost in P4. Yet their battles were brought to a quick end when Ma brought the Qualcomm Safety Car onto the track. He lost control of his car but was luckily able to leave his car healthy. The unfortunate incident brought an early end to Ma’s so far strong debut in the Formula E championship.

The Safety Car did not leave the track in time for the drivers to restart the race therefore writing a rather unique history with the first ever Formula E victory under the Safety Car. Lucas di Grassi emerged as the first ever Paris ePrix winner with local hero Vergne in P2 and Buemi as 3rd. The top-10 was completed by Prost, Sarrazin, Bird, Frijns, da Costa, Senna and Abt.

The race in numbers

  • Lucas di Grassi
  • Nick Heidfeld
  • Daniel Abt

Lucas di Grassi took the lead at the start of the race and was able to maintain it for the entire race. Only during the pit stops, he lost the lead to Nick Heidfeld and Daniel Abt respectively who managed their battery better than the rest of the field which allowed them to stay out longer.

  • Lucas di Grassi
  • Jean-Eric Vergne
  • Sebastien Buemi

Lucas di Grassi received 25 points for the victory. Local hero Jean-Eric Vergne secured 18 points for his so far best result of the season while Buemi was the third best point scorer this weekend with 15 points in total.

Jean-Eric Vergne
Sebastien Buemi
Nicolas Prost

After not scoring any points during the Long Beach ePrix, Jean-Eric Vergne was able to celebrate his best race finish so far this season, scoring 18 points overall. Nicolas Prost also left Long Beach without any points to add thus gaining 12 points compared to the last ePrix and only one point less than his team mate Buemi. The Swiss only took away two points for fastest lap in Long Beach and secured 15 points in Paris, therefore gaining 13 points in comparison.

Nick Heidfeld
Sebastien Buemi
Bruno Senna
Daniel Abt

Thanks to his battery management, Nick Heidfeld was able to move from P18 to P12, recovering well after his mistake in qualifying. Third-placed Sebastien Buemi gained five positions all in all, making him the second best driver in terms of positions won in the Paris ePrix. Bruno Senna and Daniel Abt both moved up four places, completing this statistic.

Nelson Piquet Jr
Oliver Turvey
Sam Bird

After qualifying it looked like NEXTEV TCR was finally moving into the right direction after showing their strongest performance so far this season. Nevertheless, both Nelson Piquet Jr and Oliver Turvey dropped seven and six positions respectively in the course of the race due to several problems. Sam Bird experienced a similar bad end to his race after an error caused him to drop to P6.

The fastest lap was set by Nick Heidfeld with an impressive 1.02.323.

Jerome d'Ambrosio
Ma Qing Hua
Jean-Eric Vergne

Based on their free practice 1 performance and their quickest qualifying lap, Jerome d’Ambrosio, Ma Qing Hua and Jean-Eric Vergne showed the biggest performance improvement throughout the day. D’Ambrosio gained 4.555 seconds in comparison, while Ma was 2.277 seconds quicker in qualifying. Vergne improved his performance by 1.870 seconds.

Lucas di Grassi
Sebastien Buemi
Sam Bird
Renault e.Dams
Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport
Dragon Racing

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Image courtesy of Rajan Jangda