Sam Bird produced a brilliant
performance to hold off the charge of Sebastien Buemi and claim the first
Formula E win for the DS Virgin alliance. Bird started the race from pole and
controlled the pack from the front, just using enough energy to keep Nico Prost
(Renault e.dams) and then Team Aguri’s Antonio Felix da Costa at bay.
Nick Heidfeld of Mahindra
racing came in seventh while his team mate Bruno Senna was palced 10th.
On his return to the series after his injury-enforced break, Heidfeld produced
a solid drive to take the seventh place. Meanwhile his Mahindra team performed
heroics to repair Bruno Senna’s damaged car from qualifying. The Brazilian
repaid their efforts by claiming the final point for 10th.
The Renault e.dams driver
pulled off an audacious four-wide move on the opening lap to ensure he vaulted
from 18th to 15th in one fell swoop. From there on he meticulously carved his
way through the pack, picking off his rivals one by one, so that he was into
fifth place when the unfortunate da Costa’s car ground to a halt.
The Qualcomm Safety Car was
deployed and bunched up the field, and meant Buemi was now a realistic
contender for victory. With Renault e.dams team-mate Prost running slowly as he
entered the pits for the mandatory car swap, Buemi jumped into third, behind
Bird and title rival Lucas di Grassi (Abt Schaeffler).
Di Grassi knew his best chance
of victory was to attack Bird right after the restart and set about chasing
down the Brit. But in his effort to exert pressure he made a small but critical
mistake. The loss of momentum allowed Buemi to get a run, draw alongside and
steal away second place. This initially afforded Bird some respite, but with
just two laps to go, Buemi homed in on the leader. Bird took the law of
defensive driving to its limits, but not beyond, and manged to keep Buemi
behind. Following a difficult start to the season, during which the DS Virgin
car demonstrated pace but not consistency, it was a very welcome result.
Bird said: “As everybody knows
we merged with a great manufacturer, DS, for this season and the hard work at
the DS Virgin Racing team has produced a really good car today. This is for the
boys and the ladies who have worked tirelessly since Punta [del Este] to give
me a better race car.” Buemi’s second place means he extends his championship
lead, but the way in which he was able to fight from the back demonstrated that
victory would surely have been his had he not made the mistake in qualifying.
Buemi said: “To be honest I’m
a bit sorry for my team because I think today I had a great car and didn’t get
the most out of it. But the race itself was great, it was hard because I think
apart from da Costa who stopped, I had to overtake all the other guys. It’s
good to be here and finish second. I was a bit lucky with the safety car, in
fact a lot. Without that it would’ve been a bit more difficult.”
In front of 17,000 passionate
fans, di Grassi was pleased to finish third, keeping up his record of taking a
podium position in every race this season and ensuring that he’s just four
points adrift of Buemi in the drivers’ standings. However, he felt it was the
team’s weakest performance of the season and urged the team to take strides
ahead of the next race, which takes place in Mexico City on March 12.
Di Grassi said: “We didn’t
have a good car here; I think it was our worst race in terms of pure pace.
Qualifying was not so good and the race also. To close the gap on them I had to
use more energy so I had to save it in the end. I think all the teams did a
step forward after Punta testing and we didn’t. Renault did a big step and it
was shown today that with a track you can overtake you can start at the back,
even if he was lucky with the safety car. They are very strong so if we want to
fight for the championship, we have to work much harder.”
Stephane Sarrazin continued
his strong form in qualifying with a solid run to fourth for Venturi, to equal
his best Formula E result to date. Front-row starter Nico Prost finished fifth
on the road, fighting back from eighth after a quick spin. Loic Duval was
sixth, capping a great performance from the Dragon Racing driver from a disappointing
12th on the grid. His team-mate Jerome D’Ambrosio was less fortunate and was involved
in a first-lap incident with Salvador Duran (Team Aguri), which caused the rear
wheel guard to rub against his right-rear tyre. After having to make an
unscheduled pitstop he was running in last, but used this to manage his energy
so that he could set the Visa Fastest Lap and claim two bonus points.
Robin Frijns continued his run
of scoring points in every race for Andretti with eighth place, while Oliver
Turvey came home ninth for NEXTEV TCR. Bird’s DS Virgin team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne
just missed out on the points in 11th. The Frenchman was suffering from chronic
food poisoning and was forced to miss both free practice sessions. Like Bird
and di Grassi he was the winner of FanBoost, and he used his additional energy
to help him climb the order but fell just short of a top-10 finish.
2016 Buenos Aires ePrix (Rd 4) – Race results
1. Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing,
2. Sebastien Buemi, Renault
e.dams, +0.716s (18)
3. Lucas di Grassi, Abt
Schaeffler Audi Sport, +7.525s (15)
4. Stephane Sarrazin, Venturi,
5. Nico Prost, Renault e.dams,
6. Loic Duval, Dragon Racing,
7. Nick Heidfeld, Mahindra
Racing, +16.444s (6)
8. Robin Frijns, Andretti
Formula E, +18.685s (4)
9. Oliver Turvey, NEXTEV TCR,
10. Bruno Senna, Mahindra
Racing, +22.456s (1)
11. Jean-Eric Vergne, DS
Virgin Racing, +24.482s
12. Nelson Piquet Jr, NEXTEV
13. Daniel Abt, Abt Schaeffler
Audi Sport, +27.998s
14. Simona de Silvestro,
Andretti Formula E, +36.171s
15. Mike Conway, Venturi,
16. Jerome D’Ambrosio, Dragon
Racing, +1 lap (2)
17. Antonio Felix da Costa,
Team Aguri, DNF
18. Salvador Duran, Team
Source: FIA Formula E
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