The first race of the season, took place outside the Birds Nest stadium in Beijing, China. Yes, all the Formula E races, will take place on the streets. Because, they are racing on streets, the whole event was to take place on one day. From FP sessions to qualifying and finally the race, all was to happen on the same day (Saturday) of the weekend. For a guide to how it all works, visit: http://www.fiaformulae.com/en/guide/overview.aspx
A dramatic race saw, Lucas di Grassi winning the race for Audi Sport Abt team, in the most unusual circumstances. Franck Montagny secured second position for Andretti Formula E team and Sam Bird took third for Virgin Racing. Mahindra Racing’s and our Indian driver Karun Chandhok finished a fine P5 while Bruno Senna suffered a DNF after a first lap contact. Full review of the weekend below:
Free Practice Session, FP1/FP2:
It was a start of a new championship, even after the pre-season testing, it was hard to predict anything. Everyone made some calculations, about their favourites though. Surprisingly, there were not many casualties during FP1. While in FP2, two drivers had off moments. Lucas di Grassi topped the morning session, as Bruno Senna topped the second session. There were host of drivers like Buemi, Bird, Abt, Chandhok, Montagny, Prost and Tung looking good for a top 10 finish, in qualifying.
Mahindra Racing was one of the team to beat, during testing. They continued their form coming into Beijing. The two sessions, was all about getting to know the car, the track and precisely check, as to how much they can push. It was two mixed sessions, as Chandhok finished a fine P5 in FP1 but was down to P13 in FP2. On the other hand, Senna finished a low P15 in FP1 but then topped in FP2. Both the drivers were looking on course for a top 10 qualifying position, even a pole position was possible.
The qualifying session was different from the normal procedure of F1. Here, four groups were decided on the basis of a lottery. Each group had five drivers, who would compete with each other to set their time. Each group gets ten minutes, to set their best timed lap. Naturally, the group going first had a disadvantage, because, by the time the last group is out, the track would be best for setting fast laps. Nicolas Prost set the quickest time, coming in the third group. With Prost, it was di Grassi and Abt for P2 and P3 respectively, both of the teammates, were in the same third group. Three drivers without any timed laps were Trulli, Senna and Sarrazin.
For Mahindra Racing, it was a mixed qualifying session. Chandhok qualified a superb P4; it was special all the more, because he was out in the first group. It meant, twelve drivers from the remaining four groups, couldn’t set a better lap time than the Indian. It was not joy for all though, as Senna after topping in FP2, couldn’t even set a lap time because of a problem on the car. He was to start P15 for the race, after penalties to other drivers.
After the two practice sessions and a qualifying session, it was time for the first ever Formula E race. It is unusual to see, everything happening on one single day but that’s the uniqueness of the series. The anticipation for the race was huge. Everybody had their fingers crossed, for the success of the event. Before the race start, it was made known that Senna, di Grassi and Legge will receive the Fan Boost during the race, after having being voted the top three by the fans.
The race would run for 25 laps, which included a mandatory pit stop, where drivers had to jump from one car to their second car, for the remainder of the race. This was largely done, because one battery won’t be enough, to complete the 25 laps. It was a dramatic start to the first race, as the safety car was out in lap two only. It was out for Mahindra Racing’s Senna; he was out of the race, after being bunched up between two cars. Prost led di Grassi and Abt in the front, while Trulli never started after stalling, at the initial start. Chandhok, the lone Mahindra car, was running a steady P5, as the field started to stretch.
It was a dramatic and sort of “what just happened”, finish to the race. On the last lap, Heidfled went for the gap, to overtake Prost. The French driver closed the gap, touching Heidfeld. The German’s car flew, over the kerb, on to the barriers and lay upside down. It was a scary incident, but thankfully he was all right. Amidst the accident, di Grassi took the win, becoming the first winner, of a Formula E race. He was followed by Montagny at P2 and Bird at P3. Abt originally finished third, but was demoted to tenth, after receiving a penalty. Chandhok, finished P5, after losing two places on the last lap. His car was on half power, during the last lap of the race and so they lost out on a podium finish.
The first weekend of the new championship, started on a good note. It was a horrific accident, to end the hard day’s work, but apart from that, most other things worked smoothly. It is still early days, as everyone gets to terms with the cars. Lucas di Grassi leads the drivers’ championship, while Andretti Formula E leads the teams’ championship. Mahindra Racing sits at P5 with 10 points, and so does Chandhok in the drivers’ standing. Karun Chandhok made history, as he became the first Indian driver to drive for an Indian team, in an International racing championship. It is a long break before the next event which is slated to happen on 22nd November, in Malaysia.
Thank you for reading.