Felix Rosenqvist took his first Formula E win and a double podium for Mahindra in Berlin, whilst Sebastien Buemi dive-bombed his way from the rear of the grid to take fifth, which later turned into a DNF due to illegal tyre pressures.
A shocking start from Jose Maria Lopez allowed Rosenqvist to tuck in behind pole sitter Lucas Di Grassi whilst series leader Sebastien Buemi was unable to make any progress from his grid 14 starting position.
Buemi appeared to have made contact with Nelson Piquet and was wearing some of the Brazilian’s bodywork as a result. The temptation to make up positions however needed to be measured against conserving energy in what was one of the longest races on the Formula E calendar.
Mitch Evans pitted early on lap five with suspension damage (the New Zealander eventually opting to switch early to his second Jaguar) whilst Di Grassi enjoyed a 1.2 second gap over Rosenqvist with 75% energy remaining. Meanwhile, Heidfeld was holding third ahead of the DS Virgin train of Lopez and Bird.
Buemi by now had made up two position, taking 12th from Stephane Sarrazin after telegraphing his move from as far back as the second airport! The Swiss driver would need all the luck he could get – and did so after receiving the #FanBoost vote Unfortunately so would his chief title rival Di Grassi along with team mate Daniel Abt.
Rosenqvist would require to gain another 1 or 2% battery charge to have any hope of gaining an extra lap over Di Grassi whilst the Amlin Andretti pair of Antonio Felix Da Costa and Robin Frijns gambled on aa late stop in the hope of leap-frogging the majority of the field and using the extra energy at the end to attack. Buemi meanwhile was up into 10th position and into the points with two thirds of the race remaining whilst Heidfeld had broken away from Lopez and Bird to the tune of 1.7 seconds.
Rosenqvist was beginning to take time out of Di Grassi’s with half a lap worth of extra energy with a mistake from Di Grassi allowing the Mahindra driver within four tenths of a second just as the pit window began to open. He didn’t wait for strategy and scythed down the inside of Di Grassi just before jumping into the pits – the top trio – including Heidfeld – arriving in the pits in a plume of tyre smoke and on the absolute limit.
The big loser in the pit-stop was Sam Bird who dropped to seventh – three spots behind his team mate – while Rosenqvist emerged with a one second gap over Di Grassi. Da Costa had now pitted from fourth and would re-emerge in 19th with a lot of work to do. Jean-Eric Vergne was the big winner, emerging in 5th after the stope but was under investigation over the time of his stop.
Buemi was now behind Daniel Abt, who was expected to make life difficult for the Swiss driver in the hope of assisting title rival Di Grassi. Abt didn’t get the change though, with Buemi making a quick and decisive move to seize 8th place and some crucial championship points. As it turned out, Buemi would come from a long way back to take Bird in what was becoming a signature move from the Swiss driver.
Into the final quarter of the race and Buemi was now right behind Sam Bird and Renault e.Dams Nicolas Prost. If he could pass the DS Virgin driver, Prost would no doubt provide an easy passage into 6th. Di Grassi meanwhile was now two seconds behind Rosenqvist and being forced into using #FanBoost to protect his 2nd place from Nick Heidfeld.
Having passed Prost, Buemi now settled behind Jean-Eric Vergne who appeared to have similar pace to Sebastien. With the next driver – Lopez – another two seconds down the road, Buemi’s run could be coming to an end as energy started to become a factor.
As it turned out, Vergne would receive a timed penalty for his short stop, effectively elevating Buemi to fifth, before his penalty was applied. The biggest result was the double podium for Mahindra, with Felix Rosenqvist taking the team’s first win in Formula E.
Images: FIA Formula E
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