An historic Formula E race saw Sebastien Buemi take his second win of the season, becoming the first driver to take the chequered flag on two separate occasions. He also became the first driver to win from pole. The race was marred by a large crash on the opening lap resulting in a pile up and Bruno Senna being launched into the air.
The e.Dams-Renault drivers had been quick all day, Buemi managed to take pole after finding a clear lap in the third qualifying group. He was joined on the front row by championship leader Lucas di Grassi. The Brazilian had been accused of holding up rival Nelson Piquet Jr. who lined up directly behind him on the grid with the pair split by Jerome d’Ambrosio.
The 47 lap race started with chaos. Going down into the first corner, Jaime Alguersuari managed to break his front wing as the drivers slowed to almost a stop with the track barely wide enough for three cars. The chaos continued as Daniel Abt was held up and smashed into the inside barrier at the exit of Sainte Devote. The car stopped suddenly as Bruno Senna was launched over the back of the Audi Sport ABT car.
Senna would come crashing down onto the track after almost flipping, finishing his race. He would later describe himself as ‘sore’ because of the lack of protection on the bottom of the car. This caused a pile up that also saw Jean-Eric Vergne, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Salvador Duran break their first car, while they all went out using the spare, it was clear their race was ruined.
The safety car period was inevitable with the officials later deciding to take no further action. While the middle of the pack had been shaken up because of the incident, the front of the field had not been affected as much.
At the restart on lap 4, Buemi lead from di Grassi, d’Ambrosio, Piquet and Stephane Sarraizin who had had an excellent start up from tenth.
There were prolonged yellow flags at the swimming pool section resulting in one less overtaking manoeuvre, with the cars funnelling through one by one. Despite this, Piquet used his fanboost to power past d’Ambrosio’s Dragon Racing car, into third.
On lap 7, it was clear that Buemi’s lead was not going to be safe for long as di Grassi set the fastest lap and pressured the French driver. This allowed the top two to break away as Piquet managed his fuel and tyres.
Scott Speed, like his team mate, had also got caught up in the first corner incident, but had not pitted for a new front wing in order to keep his points position. Over the course of the race he lost time and fell backwards, made worse after the remainder of his front wing snapped and shattered over the track at the swimming pool chicane. While another driver who had continued with damage, Loic Duval, pitted for repairs on lap 17.
By lap 18 it was clear that Piquet and the queue of cars going back to seventh had started to catch the leading pair as pace was steady. At the back of the train, Sam Bird managed to overtake Nico Prost for sixth place further demoting the e.Dams driver in what had been a troubled weekend.
By lap 23 the racers were low on power, especially Sarrazin, who was down to 7% battery as he made his first stop. He was joined by fellow front runners, di Grassi and Prost.
Most of the field came in within the next few laps. Excellent stops by many of the front runners meant that no major position jumps were seen throughout the field. The exception to these runners was Speed, who decided to wait an extra lap in order to make the most of the free track.
Di Grassi had clear air and managed to beat Piquet coming out of the pits, but had to brake sharply as Buemi retook the lead after his stop. Buemi had managed to set the fastest sector 1 and 2 on his in-lap doing just enough as di Grassi pulled to the outside on the second straight, failing to overtake.
Behind the battling front two was Piquet, Bird, d’Ambrosio and Prost. By lap 30 Bird had caught Piquet, who was not as quick as he was last time out in Long Beach, but the Brazilian held firm and defended his position with d’Ambrosio and Prost joining the train four laps later.
Meanwhile further back, Charles Pic had got himself up into eighth after the pit stops but soon lost out to Antonio Felix da Costa who dived up the inside into turn 1, he was folowed through by Speed, but da Costa would find this position short lived as he struggled for power towards the end of the race, dropping places. At the back, Vergne managed to set the fastest lap, collecting two points before going back into the pits.
On lap 42, with the race conclusion in sight, Piquet used his fanboost to launch his NEXTEV TCR Formula E car up the inside of di Grassi, unfortunately it didn’t work and was forced to try again going into the Nouvelle Hairpin a lap later, the two clearly touched as it was proof the rivalry from qualifying was not going away.
Unfortunately for Piquet he would not get another chance as Buemi extended his lead. The Frenchman would cross the line to take another victory ahead of the battling di Grassi and Piquet, with di Grassi extending his championship lead to 4 points while Buemi was only 10 behind the leader. While in the teams championship, e.Dams extend their lead over ABT to 45 points.
It was race that proved to be very chaotic as only thirteen drivers crossed the line. But it will provide an exciting race for the championship with only three venues left on the calendar. The next race will be the Berlin ePrix on the 23rd May.