Formula E

Buemi wins Formula E opener after inspired strategy call

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Reigning champion Sebastien Buemi got his title defence off to the perfect start by winning the inaugural Hong Kong ePrix.

It was a familiar look to the top of the order as he was followed home by his title rival from last year, Lucas di Grassi.

Both drivers were helped by an inspired strategy call mid way through the race.

When Jose-Maria Lopez stuffed his DS Virgin Racing in the barrier on lap 17 it brought out the safety car.

At this stage di Grassi was at the back of the pack having been called in by the race stewards to change his nose following a crash on lap one that had seen Ma Qing Hua forced to retire.

With nothing to lose, his Abt Schaeffler Audi team called him in to change car, hoping that the slow pace of the safety car would enable him to save enough energy to get his car to the end of the race.

This proved to be the case, with the safety car staying out until lap 22, and meant that once everyone had stopped it was the Brazilian who was miraculously in first place.

It took a while for the other teams to catch on to their strategy, and Buemi, Nick Heidfeld, Nico Prost all eventually pitted under the safety car.

It meant that they came out in second, third and fourth respectively, but while Heidfeld and Prost stayed in their positions, Buemi was able to use the better speed in his Renault e.dams to pass di Grassi and take the win.

Asked afterwards whether his race win was down to his strategy, Buemi said “Yeah, of course.

“It was not an easy race as we had a really long stint and I had to save a lot of energy. At the end I lost all of the regen with the battery over heating massively, so I think one more lap would have been impossible to do.”

Polesitter Nelson Piquet Jnr had already lost the lead of the race having been distracted by the crash of Lopez which happened directly in front of him, but he dropped even further down the field as he stopped a lap too late.

The race leader before the safety car was Sam Bird, but despite running his battery level to just 2% on his first car, he wasn’t able to pull out a big enough gap after the safety car came in to keep the lead.

It ended up not mattering anyway, as a technical fault coming out of the garage meant he dropped down to thirteenth.

The only team not to lose out from stopping too late where the MS Amlin Andretti cars, who stayed out as long as possible to give them more energy at the end of the race.

They used this to good effect with Antonio Felix da Costa and Robin Frijns pulling off some great moves to get up to fifth and sixth.

Jerome d’Ambrosio and front row sitter Oliver Turvey were behind them, followed by the Venturis of Maro Engel and Stephane Sarrazin.

That left no points for Piquet Jnr in eleventh, and despite crashing in his first car, Felix Rosenqvist was able to recover to the pits and set the fastest lap to earn his first championship points.

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Formula E writer for TCF since 2015-16 and fascinated by all things electric.
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