Lucas DiGrassi emerged victorious in round two of the Formula E 2015/2016 season in what appears to be the toughest race in Formula E history. The high attrition rate due to track degradation and various mechanical gremlins haunted drivers in this 2.56km street track in Putrajaya. Last year’s winner Sam Bird emerged in second place while Formula E rookie, Robin Frijns, rounded up the podium finishers in third place.
Prior the race, the Renault-powered e.dams ruled qualifying with Sebastian Buemi securing his second consecutive pole position. Venturi’s Stephane Sarrazin who had qualified in second, was forced to start in the pitlane due an electrical issue. On lap one, chaos emerged at the first corner involving drivers Jacques Villeneuve, Nick Heidfeld, and Jean-Eric Vergne. The Frenchman emerged the biggest loser with a damaged front-right section, sending him into retirement.
The safety car was triggered in lap five, courtesy from a collision caused by Oliver Turvey. Despite that, Buemi managed to hold the lead and things were all favouring the Beijing ePrix winner. However, disaster struck Buemi on lap 15 when his car came to a halt, presumably due to a software glitch. The Renault e.dams team subsequently scrambled Buemi into the pits, ending an otherwise home-run of a race.
Teammate Nicholas Prost was also forced to pit early due to temperature issues, a clear drawback of the hot and sulking heat Malaysian heat which caused both Renault drivers some really valuable championship points. Prost took the lead after Buena’s unfortunate incident, but both Renault e.dams drivers were forced to conserve battery power until the end of the 33 lap race. That spells opportunity for Lucas Di Grassi, and the Brazilian easily overtook the hapless French on lap 24. Eventually, both Renault e.dams drivers fell behind the field.
The drama did not end there as Felix da Costa’s Aguri car repeatedly shut down, each time diminishing his podium chances in the process. Meanwhile, Di Grassi was challenged by the Dragon Racing duo – Loic Duval and Jerome D’Ambrosio. Malaysia’s notorious heat caused both of team Dragon’s cars to suffer in the process. Duval lost control due to lack of road traction and ran into the wall just three laps before completing the race, followed by D’Ambrosio who suffered the same fate on the final lap.
With that, Sam Bird, who started 14th on the grid, drove a trouble-free race to inherit second place. Andretti’s Robin Frijns had battled a severely bent steering after his car brushed against the sidewall – an incident which took place three laps before the chequered flag was waved. The young Dutch’s perseverance paid off and he finished in third place. Stephane Sarrazin finished the race in fourth, followed by Bruno Senna and Antonio Felix da Costa, who had earlier encountered electronic issues in his Aguri. Last year’s Formula E champion Nelson Piquet Jr on the other hand, settled for an eighth place finish.
All was not well for the Trulli squad after the team failed mandatory scrutiny a day before race day. This means the Italian squad have missed two consecutive races in this season. Di Grassi’s victory moves him up the championship standings with 43 points, and following behind the leader is Sebastian Buemi with 35 points. The next race will see the Formula E contingent travel to Uruguay for the Punta del Este ePrix in December.
Overall, Putrajaya never fails to deliver excitement and drama just like last year’s edition – a delight to both race organisers and fans. However, much has yet to be done to increase the number of visitors at the stands. Perhaps roping in a Malaysian driver (Jazeman Jaafar maybe?) and employing a more aggressive marketing tactic should spice things up a little. Also, this has to be done as soon as possible as more cities are keen to host the increasingly popular Formula E Series.
Below are the current driver and team standings: