Prost wins in style as di Grassi inches closer to title

LONDON, UK (July 2 2016) – Nico Prost scored his second FIA Formula E Championship win in style at the Visa London ePrix, but it was the action that played out behind him that captured the imagination of the enthusiastic crowd in the penultimate race of the season.

Prost drove a faultless race, leading away from pole, establishing a commanding lead before easily defending it when a late-race Qualcomm Safety Car period closed up the pack. It was his first win of the season, in fact his first since Miami in season one. But it was a stunning performance nevertheless.

“It’s been an up and down year for me, so it’s really nice," said Prost. “I was very confident coming here as in the last few races we’ve been very competitive and to be honest the team gave me a fantastic car all day long. It’s the kind of race you want to have. When I see Bruno’s helmet in the pitlane I get goosebumps. It’s really nice, he’s a friend and it’s nice to be on the podium with him here."

In second place Bruno Senna gave the headline writers plenty of ammunition by delivering his best performance to date, and securing second place for Mahindra Racing sealing the first Prost/Senna podium in Britain since Donington, 1993. While he was never really close enough to challenge Prost, equally he was never really under threat from behind, and duly delivered his first podium finish.

“Today I finally got to second place," said Senna. “There’s always one more if you’re in second, but today I had no chance against Nico. He was faster, I was trying to keep up with him but also at the same time I had to do my race. Ultimately the safety car put things on the back foot, especially because the guys behind had a bit more energy. Today was all about being safe on the track, and we did a good job. The team did a great job. The team was working well with the car and I had no issues. Qualifying, we finally got to Super Pole without being disqualified as well! Everything went to plan and here is the result."

The dominance of the lead duo meant that the focus of the race was the battle for third. Oliver Turvey appeared set to give NEXTEV TCR a first podium of the season, but with just a couple of laps left to run he hit the wall bringing his great drive to an end.

This promoted Jean-Eric Vergne into third. The DS Virgin driver had an entertaining race, with his mirrors full almost throughout. At first it was his team-mate Sam Bird applying the pressure, but after the pitstops it was the title protagonists Lucas di Grassi and Sebastien Buemi.

After catching the worst of the fickle weather in qualifying, they lined-up 10th and 12th, but despite the difficulties of passing around the Battersea Park circuit, they pulled off a series of great overtakes to put themselves in the mix for a podium spot. At one point di Grassi managed to get fully alongside, but JEV refused to yield and there was contact, which removed the right front wheel fairing of the Abt Schaeffler car.

“I’m really happy but I owe this one to the team," said Vergne. “I have to say that I have been very unlucky in the past few years but today I had a huge amount of luck. I had a crash and then the rain came, and no one could beat my time that I did on 170kW, I got lucky. The team has done an amazing job to fix the car on time."

Despite the damage di Grassi managed to come home fourth. Going into the final lap Bird was sandwiched between the title rivals, having pulled a great move on Buemi after the Swiss driver had initially passed him. But with the finish almost in sight the Brit ran out of energy and slowed, which caused some contact with Buemi who was in his slipstream at the time. All this meant Buemi finished fifth and means there’s just three points separating the two top with only tomorrow’s race left to run.

From 14th on the grid, Antonio Felix da Costa drove a great race to take sixth place for Team Aguri. Two of those places came after Daniel Abt and Robin Frijns banged wheels as they fought for position. This sent Abt bouncing into the wall and back into the path of the Andretti entry.

Bird coasted home for seventh, just ahead of Nick Heidfeld. The Mahindra driver once again was a FanBoost vote winner, as were Buemi and di Grassi, but used the additional power boost twice and picked up a penalty. Jerome D’Ambrosio was promoted to eighth for Dragon Racing while Mike Conway moved to ninth for Venturi, as his team-mate Stephane Sarrazin kept up his record of scoring in every race in 10th. At the scene of his title joy in 2015, NEXTEV’s Nelson Piquet Jr had the consolation of collecting the two points for Visa Fastest Lap, but was left ruing the technical issue that meant he started from the back at what was the team’s most competitive showing of the season.

The season concludes tomorrow with the second Visa London ePrix. With the weather once again expected to be predictably unpredictable, there’s literally everything still to play for.

2016 Visa London ePrix (Rd 9) – Race results

  1. Nico Prost, Renault e.dams, 53:56.653s (28)
  2. Bruno Senna, Mahindra Racing, +5.244s (18)
  3. Jean-Eric Vergne, DS Virgin Racing, +8.195s (15)
  4. Lucas di Grassi, Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport, +8.914s (12)
  5. Sebastien Buemi, Renault e.dams, +10.052s (10)
  6. Antonio Felix da Costa, Team Aguri, +10.908s (8)
  7. Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing, +10.986s (6)
  8. Jerome D’Ambrosio, Dragon Racing, +12.106s (4)
  9. Mike Conway, Venturi, +12.456s (2)
  10. Stephane Sarrazin, Venturi, +15.918s (1)
  11. Ma Qing Hua, Team Aguri, +38.400s
  12. Nelson Piquet Jr, NEXTEV TCR, +52.028s (2)
  13. Nick Heidfeld, Mahindra Racing, +1:01.264s
  14. Simona de Silvestro, Andretti Formula E, +1:01.079s
  15. Oliver Turvey, NEXTEV TCR, +3 laps
  16. Loic Duval, Dragon Racing, DNF
  17. Robin Frijns, Andretti Formula E, DNF
  18. Daniel Abt, Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport, DNF

Driver standings

Lucas di Grassi, Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport – 153

Sebastien Buemi, Renault e.dams – 150

Nico Prost, Renault e.dams – 90

Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing – 88

Jerome D’Ambrosio, Dragon Racing – 68

Stephane Sarrazin, Venturi – 60

Leave a Reply