FE - Prost wins in Battersea, but title still to play for

A Prost-Senna 1-2 in Battersea made for a headline writer’s dream, and sets up the di Grassi-Buemi season finale showdown on Sunday

Nicolas Prost secured his second Formula E victory at Battersea Park on Saturday afternoon with an assured lights-to-flag drive for the Renault e.dams team, bringing the French outfit one step closer to securing the team championship during tomorrow’s season finale.

While Prost and Bruno Senna experienced untroubled afternoons, hampered only by the brief appearance of the Safety Car in the closing stages of the race, the same cannot be said for championship rivals Lucas di Grassi and Sebastien Buemi, neither of whom made it onto the podium at the penultimate round of the season.

After a rainy morning’s qualifying, the first race in Battersea started under blue skies and bright sunshine, with Prost on pole. Di Grassi and Buemi had been hampered by the wet weather, and lined up in 10th and 12th places respectively.

A calm start saw no drama going into the first few corners, and the first two laps passed without incident. It was on lap 3 that the action kicked into gear, with Buemi passing the Dragon Racing car of Loic Duval and removing the one-man buffer that di Grassi had previously enjoyed. Di Grassi matched Buemi’s overtake with a move of his own, slipping past Nick Heidfeld’s Mahindra Racing car.

Up ahead, the next car on track was the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport teammate driven by Daniel Abt, an easy pass for di Grassi and theoretically a second buffer between the Brazilian and Buemi, had the Swiss racer not followed di Grassi past Heidfeld. The move was made on lap 5, but a lock-up from di Grassi nearly saw the position handed back.

With di Grassi ahead it was up to Abt to defend against Buemi for his teammate’s championship fight, and defend he did, to the extent that the German driver was issued with waved warning flags for excessive weaving on lap 8. The pair continued to battle until lap 16, when Buemi made it past the ABT of Abt and found himself 0.6 seconds behind his title rival on track.

The car swaps took place at the end of laps 16 and 17, and di Grassi exited the pits ahead of Buemi, with the pair hot on the tail of Robin Frijns, who had spent the first half of the race running in fourth with an ever-extending chain of cars behind him. But di Grassi made short work of passing the Dutch racer, slipping past the Andretti driver on lap 19, just as rain started to fall.

One lap later Buemi also made it past Frijns, who was quickly taken out of the race following contact with Abt, who was trying to make it past the Andretti when the two cars made contact and were both out of the race immediately, bringing out the Safety Car in the process. The Safety Car led the field until lap 23, setting the scene for a ten-lap battle to the finish.

Jostling for P4 were Jean-Eric Vergne, di Grassi, and Buemi, while Oliver Turvey was holding on gamely to third place despite having been the first man to swap cars and down on power as a consequence. While Vergne was taking a look at his chances up ahead, the DS Citroen driver was also defending from di Grassi behind. 

Lap 26 saw Vergne, di Grassi, and Buemi running side-by-side, minor contact damaging di Grassi’s front wing and leaving it stuck under his car, triggering fears that the Brazilian would be flagged as a hazard. But before that could happen the broken bodywork came loose on lap 27, and di Grassi immediately went on to set what was the fastest lap of the race at the time.

Stephane Sarrazin secured the fastest lap of the race on 29, while di Grassi was keeping Buemi in his mirrors despite the latter’s power advantage. The pair scuffled for the next two laps, with di Grassi remaining ahead, but on lap 31 the Swiss racer found himself immersed in a battle with the charging Sam Bird, just as Turvey put his car in the wall and brought out the yellows.

Bird and Buemi continued to eye each other under yellow flags, but at the end of lap 33 it was Prost who took the chequered flag, followed by Senna and Vergne. Di Grassi extended his championship lead to three points over Buemi, setting the scene for a dramatic fight to the finish.

With the drivers’ title still up for grabs, the second race at Battersea on Sunday afternoon promises to be unmissable.