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Buemi takes Hong Kong win

podium

Reigning FIA Formula E Champion Sebastien Buemi got his chance defense off to the perfect start with victory in the Hong Kong ePrix.

With 30,000 people attending the event, the new Formula E season began with one of the most unpredictable races so far.

Buemi hit the front in the second half of the race when Sam Bird pitted for his mandatory car swap. But the DS Virgin Racing car failed to pull out of the pits, allowing Buemi, who had made his stop under the safety car, to take over out front for his seventh Formula E win.

hongkong_2“We had identified a window when we knew we could pit,” said Buemi.

“I was surprised that Sam did not come in. But I’m happy with how it went, it was very tough. In the first car I didn’t have the pace to go much quicker, but in the second car was much more competitive.”

Nelson Piquet Jr who led into the tight first corner from pole, and the Brazilian held a comfortable lead over his team-mate Oliver Turvey in the early stages.

Turvey had his hands full defending from Bird and Buemi, while behind them bumping and barging resulted in numerous contact; local hero Qing Hua Ma retiring and both Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport cars of Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi being shown the black and orange flag, ordering them to pit for mechanical repairs.

During this period there was also some contact between Bird and his DS Virgin racing team-mate Jose Maria Lopez. The damage to Lopez’s car had made it a real handful and he finally lost the fight and crashed into the barriers at the chicane.

The next car along was race-leader Piquet, and unsighted, he had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the Argentine. As his brakes locked he sailed down the escape road before gently touching the barrier. His car was undamaged, but he had dropped to third by the time he rejoined.

Bird led from Buemi, but with the Qualcomm safety car deployed so that Lopez’s car could be extracted, the Renault e.dams team opted to pit their man. This proved to be the decisive moment of the race. DS Virgin kept Bird out, while NextEV chose to stop Piquet just as the race was going back to green.

hongkong_3These two errors – compounded by a technical problem that delayed Bird in the pits – sealed the win for Buemi. He still had to put a move on di Grassi, who following some amazing pitwork by the team in replacing his damaged nose and a very aggressive energy strategy finished second from 19th on the grid!

“It just shows that the Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport never give up. We had a pretty good start and first lap, but then I think Ma crashed into someone and then I crashed into the crash,” di Grassi said.

“The nose was broken and I had to come in and I thought the race was finished. But the mechanics did a fantastic job to keep me on the lead lap. I thought I was just going for fastest lap but the team said ‘no, no, no’ we keep pushing and then the Safety Car came out…”

A stunning first lap, which took him from 10th to sixth, played a major part in Nick Heidfeld taking third place for Mahindra Racing. Like his fellow podium finishers, he had to work hard to make his energy last. He did it perfectly, crossing the line as he hit zero per cent.

“I made up one position on the launch and then I braked very late into the first corner and passed a couple more cars and just hoped that nobody would squeeze me on the exit and I managed to make it stick!” Heidfeld said.

“It was quite tough at the end because I had Nico behind me and when I came across the line the man was holding the ‘Last Lap’ board and not the chequered flag and I thought ‘oh no’ but luckily it worked.”

The championship now moves to North Africa for the first time, with the Marrakesh ePrix on November 12.

 

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