Formula E: Prost/Heidfeld crash gives di Grassi victory

Lucas di Grassi

Lucas di Grassi inherited victory in the inaugural race of the new Formula E Championship in Beijing when leader Nicolas Prost and second-place Nick Heidfeld collided at the final corner.

Prost had led the race from pole position and was seemingly well on course to complete a lights-to-flag win having controlled the pace at the start and then extended his advantage further with a quick pit-stop.

However, it was during those stops – which feature a mandatory car change – that Heidfeld had leapfrogged to second, the experienced ex-F1 driver duly hunting down his rival in the closing stages to launch an attempt to pass at the final tight left-hander on the last lap.

With Heidfeld going for the inside, Prost appeared unprepared for the attack and moved to defend his position too late, culminating in the duo making front-end contact. Both cars sustained damage in the impact, but Heidfeld's Venturi car was sent sideways across the high curb and pitched onto its side before slamming cockpit-first into the barriers and spiraling several times.

Coming to rest upside down, fortunately Heidfeld was able to extricate himself unaided, but both he and Prost – who are teammates in the World Endurance Championship with Rebellion Racing – would be out on the spot with substantial damage having been on course for a certain 1-2.

Their exit would duly promote Audi Sport ABT's di Grassi into the lead and on to an unexpected victory, the Brazilian inheriting the honor as the first winner of a Formula E race.

Lucas di Grassi

Behind di Grassi, Franck Montagny arguably provided the race's entertainment, the Frenchman starting eighth after a penalty following qualifying, but planting several smart overtakes – including a tight one on his Andretti Autosport team-mate Charles Pic at the start – to jump to fourth, before rising to second at the expense of the incident ahead.

Though third across the line, di Grassi's teammate Daniel Abt was penalized for an infringement and demoted back to tenth place, elevating Sam Bird to the podium for Virgin Racing, with Pic – who only confirmed his place on the grid on the eve of the Beijing ePrix – being classified in fourth.

Mahindra's Karun Chandhok completed the top five, ahead of Jerome d'Ambrosio, Oriol Servia, Nelson Piquet Jr, Stephane Sarrazin and the penalized Abt.

A new era for motorsport, though the element of energy conservation was aided by a slow paced five lap safety car period during the early stages, the race did see notable overtaking maneuvers, while the car change format during the pit-stops would serve the purpose of shaking the order up.

However, it was a disappointing start to the season for some notable names, with Bruno Senna exiting on the first lap after damaging his car against Takuma Sato, while niggling issues saw Sato, Jarno Trulli and Ho-Pin Tung finish down and out.

Pre-season favorite Sebastien Buemi also endured a day to forget, the testing pace setter crashing twice during practice before losing bodywork in the race, forcing him to pit. Though he was able to gain a point for fastest lap, the Swiss driver wouldn't reach the checkered flag, concluding e.dams' frustrating day.

Some 40 million are believed to have watched the race worldwide on television with 75,000 attending on site and one billion social interactions recorded around the race.

Lucas di Grassi said: "Firstly, I'm happy Nick [Heidfeld] is ok and it shows how safe these cars are. I didn't see what happened myself but it's like a dream come true. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. The team did a great job all through practice and qualifying, yes we made a few mistakes but overall I'm extremely happy to be the first ever winner of a Formula E race."

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E said: "Two years ago the FIA had a vision of creating a championship which has close racing, entertainment and sustainability at its heart. This weekend, that vision became a reality. To see 20 fully-electric cars racing towards the first corner was a very special moment for me and for everyone involved. We truly believe this weekend marks a new era of motorsport that embraces sustainable mobility and we are incredibly grateful to all our investors, teams, drivers, partners, event operators, personnel, and of course the FIA, for helping us make this such a success. Of course, I'd also like to congratulate Lucas di Grassi on being the first Formula E winner."

He added: "What is more important to us is that Formula E is the biggest digital race in the world with real racing. We're proud to announce that during this ePrix we've had a live worldwide television audience of 40 million, 75,000 people on site and more than one billion social interactions."

Round two of the new Formula E series takes place in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on November 22 2014.

Beijing ePrix – Race results
1. Lucas di Grassi BRZ Audi Sport ABT 25 laps
2. Franck Montagny FRA Andretti Autosport +2.867s
3. Sam Bird GBR Virgin Racing +6.559s
4. Charles Pic FRA Andretti Autosport +19.301s
5. Karun Chandhok IND Mahindra Racing +23.952
6. Jerome d'Ambrosio BEL Dragon Racing +31.664s
7. Oriol Servia ESP Dragon Racing +41.968
8. Nelson Piquet Jr BRZ China Racing +43.896s
9. Stephane Sarrazin FRA Venturi +43.975
10. Daniel Abt GER Audi Sport ABT +1m 02.507s
11. Jaime Alguersuari ESP Virgin Racing +1m 03.613s
12. Nicholas Prost FRA e.dams Renault +1 lap
13. Nick Heidfeld GER Venturi +1 lap
14. Katherine Legge GBR Amlin Aguri +1 lap
15. Michela Cerruti ITA TrulliGP +1 lap
16. Ho-Pin Tung ARG China Racing +1 lap
Not Classified
17. Takuma Sato JPN Amlin Aguri 21 laps completed
18. Sebastien Buemi SUI e.dams Renault 12 laps completed
19. Bruno Senna BRZ Mahindra Racing 0 laps completed
20. Jarno Trulli ITA TrulliGP 0 laps completed

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