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2014 Putrajaya ePrix: Driver Review

Well, while most of this weekend was taken up with the finale of the Formula 1 world championship. Many forgot that another FIA single cockpit series was happening, and it was a lot more interesting than the F1 turned out to be with once again intense battles throughout the grid, featuring legends, young guns and veterans. Not to mention a couple of crashes and the witnessing of FanBoost actually working! So, here’s a breakdown of who shone, who didn’t and some of the best moments from the 2014 Putrajaya ePrix.

Driver of the Day: Sam Bird

Without a doubt the driver of the day is the race winner from Britain. The Virgin driver got off to a blinding start after being promoted to second on the grid post qualifying penalties, pulling a superb undercut on pole man Oriol Servia and controlling the race in a dominant manner until the finish. He was never challenged from that moment on, only having to overtake the slower Audi of Daniel Abt to retake his lead after the pitstop. An utterly sublime drive and dedicating his win to the injured Jules Bianchi was a touch of class, and one that was echoed throughout the paddock.

Most Exciting Drive: Bruno Senna

Now, it was quite hard to pick out who had the most exciting day, but after some thinking time, I’ve whittled it down to the the ever popular Mahindra driver Brazilian Bruno Senna. Starting in the top ten he had a decent start and was in a locked out battle just behind the podium places between Franck Montangny, Nick Heidfeld, Nelson Piquet Jr and the struggling Oriol Servia. A crash eliminated Heidfeld with Montagny slowing dramatically allowing Senna to slip through. A FanBoost attempt to pass his fellow countryman Piquet didn’t quite work and he entered the oncoming chicane at the wrong angle, hitting the wall. This damaged his steering and he consequently had to tilt his steering wheel slightly to the right on the straights. Nevertheless, even with this he managed to keep his pace up, eventually overtaking Piquet. The chaos of the pitstops saw Senna one of the last to come in but somehow, he came out in what was fifth position behind di Grassi, Buemi and Prost, who started from the back of the grid. It turned out a pit stop problem left teammate Chandhok who was third before his pitting, languishing in his garage for a while before he got going again. Then, the move everyone had been waiting for, with the aid of FanBoost, the commentators did not mind having to describe Senna’s overtake on Prost. It was sublime. Not long afterwards, Abt was overtaken and the battle for third was on with e.dams’ Buemi. Buemi had a bad exit from a corner allowing Senna to line up a move on the inside of turn 10. However, he carried too much speed, the marbles off line took control and Senna ended up hitting the wall in dramatic fashion. Gutting. Still, the speed is there, and Senna has the car to be a title contender. He just needs to get some points on the board now.

Surprise Drives: Lucas di Grassi, Sebastien Buemi

Starting 18th and 19th on the grid after crashing out in qualifying, it was looking bleak. However, off camera, after the pit stops and all the cars emerged, these two were suddenly second and third. Still it is not clear how they did it. Blistering pace combined with others pit stop woes may have played apart. Nevertheless, a remarkable recovery drive for each driver.

Most Disappointing: Jarno Trulli, Daniel Abt

Fourth on the grid was a feat on its own after qualifying last in Beijing for Trulli. Overtaking Abt immediately off the line as he had an electrical issue put him into third. Consequently Bird’s move on Servia allowed Trulli to get though as well, creating a Trulli train. Second place was there, but contact put him out of the race. Daniel Abt had great pace, out qualifying his teammate in fourth but a poor start put him plum last. An early pitstop led to him leading for a while but severe conservation of power meant he was easy meat but Senna’s last lap crash provided some consolation with a point for tenth.

Most Anonymous: Jerome d’Ambrosio, Antonio Felix da Costa

For me, once again it was Dragon Racing’s Jerome d’Ambrosio. Although qualifying third, an infringement meant he was forced to start from the back of the grid. However, he kept it clean and had great pace throughout the race and worked his way quietly up to fifth position, showing his reliance for the team and finishing ahead of his teammate who started on pole! It was da Costa’s first race in Formula E and not much was expected with the Amlin car not looking too great. He too had a quiet weekend, qualifying a respectable 11th and finishing in eighth and a solid four points. More than his teammate who has had much more time in the car. Therefore, although anonymous, both drivers had pretty good afternoons.

Collisions: Matthew Brabham, Katherine Legge, Michela Cerrutti, Nick Heidfeld, Franck Montagny

The turn 10 hairpin saw a lot of action over the race and right from the first lap. Legge appeared to be making a move on the inside of Cerruti, but lost the rear under breaking, colliding with Cerruti, causing both to spin out. Legge limped home but Cerrutti was forced to retire. A shame, she looked good for a possible points finish the way her teammate was going. Poor old ‘Quick Nick’. He’s been quick, but pretty unlucky since the beginning of the championship. First his clash with Prost, and now being punted into the wall by, the likeable, but in this race, the far too aggressive Montagny. He was out and Montagny never really recovered the ground he lost. Brabham in his first outing also collided with Heidfeld a little earlier on at the hairpin; he spun, but kept it going and came home a meagre 13th.

Overall, it was a much better outing for the Formula E concept as a whole. With such a competitive field, racing was happening all throughout the grid and what makes it even better is that the winner from the previous race, can easily qualify at the back of the field for the next, as we saw with di Grassi, outlining the high amount of talent throughout the field. However, it was always going to struggle with TV ratings this weekend with its early TV time to European audiences and of course being up against the F1 title deciding finale. Of course, there are still things to sort out, the first of which is the TV times, certainly in the UK with it being one of the biggest watchers of motorsport. What’s more, perhaps a split view is required when the pit stops occur, in order to see any dramas happening as well as seeing the racing as well. Still, it was more fun and interesting to watch than the last couple of F1 races and its connection with the fans is unrivalled. Formula E has arrived, and it’s here to stay.

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