Uruguay Formula E Review 2014
Punta del Este, Uruguay, saw the third round of the inaugural Formula E World Championship with a street circuit as close to the beach as it is possible to get without racing dune buggies.
The weekend started very well for series debutante Jean-Eric Vergne, stepping into Andretti and taking pole at the first attempt. His teammate for the weekend would be Matthew Brabham – Franck Montagny taking a weekend out for health reasons. Given the Frenchman's somewhat aggressive style in the opening rounds his absence might not be an entirely bad thing. Piquet put the China Racing car alongside the lead Andretti, with e.dams locking out row 2. Alguersuari's Virgin and Di Grassi's ABT took row 3 ahead of Trulli's eponymous car, Heidfeld's Venturi, Abt's ABT and Chandhok's Mahindra. Servia headed up the second half of the field for Dragon, followed by the lead Aguri car in Da Costa's hands. Sarrazin put the second Venturi 13th, Garcia 14th for China [replacing Ho-Pin Tung], Duran 15th in what would normally be Legge's Aguri, Cerruti 16th in the second Trulli car, Bird having a dire start to the day with only 17th in the second Virgin car, D'Ambrosio 18th in the Dragon and Matthew Brabham rounding out the field with 19th place. I say rounding out the 20-car field in 19th because Bruno Senna technically qualified in 8th place but was kicked out of qualifying after it transpired his mechanics had been working on the car within 5 minutes of the session starting – contravening parc fermé regulations.
One potentially major change to the regulations was the removal of fan boost on the first lap – a power advantage off the line no longer something the FIA condones. Heidfeld, Vergne and Duran therefore all had to reassess how best to use this extra spurt of power.
The torque off the line caught me off guard as always. Vergne seemed to have the same problem, his wheels spinning as he lost the lead to Piquet. Everyone managed to safely negotiate the first corner on cold brakes and tyres. Buemi took 3rd from Prost, Alguersuari rounding out the top 5.
One observation I've been meaning to make is the similarity between the Trulli team's livery and the Benetton Formula livery of the mid 1990s. How I could see that through the drifting sand is anyone's guess, but there it is. Some of the on-board shots showed how thick the haze of sand was, akin in dynamics to the rooster tails in the rain any motorsport fan is familiar with.
Senna managed to jump to 16th place, but Abt was falling out of the race with another technical failure for the unfortunate German driver who was setting the world alight a year or so ago in GP3. This time the car seemed to sort itself out again, but he was at the back of the pack.
Talking of drivers who impressed in the junior formulae, Sam Bird piled into the wall at the first chicane after launching over the sausage kerbs and re-sculpting the suspension of his Virgin Racing car. The Safety Car was deployed.
Da Costa cut the first chicane after the Safety Car departed, most likely overshooting the braking zone like Bird before him. The Portuguese driver then retired, bringing the Safety Car back out again. Meanwhile, Vergne was complaining about a technical gremlin hampering his progress against Piquet. The fan boost seemed to be what wasn't working, although some fans may argue this is a good thing for racing. He did finally make the move on lap 13 but he and Piquet were both doing anything but conserving their power – running around 10% less power in their first car than those behind them.
Chandhok was the first to blink and change cars, giving a second element of the race for fans to focus on while Vergne absolutely romped away from Piquet, the Brazilian driver now holding up the e.dams pair.
Daniel Abt came to a halt but managed to get away once again, while Buemi and Piquet both cut the first chicane. Perhaps a case for the stewards to order Prost from 4th to 2nd?
Vergne was now the only driver under 10% power, Piquet barely under 20% as per the rest of the field. The latter was also behind BOTH e.dams cars.
Vergne pitted, while Sarrazin missed a corner, launched over a kerb and slammed into the wall. Safety Car deployed and Senna, with a destroyed suspension, raced back to the pit lane to swap cars.
Absolute chaos behind the Safety Car saw Vergne cut the chicane to stay 3rd behind Heidfeld and Buemi. Piquet narrowly missed out on clearing Vergne who was now a little short on energy, although fan boost was still potentially something he could draw on.
Heidfeld, continuing his terrible run of luck, was informed he had a penalty for taking too much power out of his car. Yet again a win was taken away from him by circumstances outside of his control. A drive-through penalty was the punishment levied by the stewards, while his pit stop time [apparently too short a time spent stationary] was still under investigation.
Salvador Duran's race seemed over as he sat in the pits alone, although he managed to rejoin in 17th and last place in an effort to gain experience and take advantage of any surprises later in the race. Meanwhile Prost received the same penalty as Heidfeld.
Abt managed to get the fastest lap, though whether that would stand for the final 10 laps was yet to be seen.
A drive-through penalty was awarded to Cerruti as well, this time for breaking the pit lane speed limit. D'Ambrosio was given the same penalty for the same reason.
Brabham had a huge shunt with only a few laps to go, bringing out the Safety Car yet again. The young driver was still sitting the other side of the fence on the restart, apparently crying in his helmet.
A two-lap dash for victory was all that stood between Buemi or Vergne and victory. The e.dams had a wobble on the restart and Vergne was all over the back of the blue car who missed the second chicane and would surely have to yield. That said, a few corners later Vergne suddenly slowed, giving the e.dams the lead more certainly from Piquet's China with one lap remaining.
By little short of a miracle Buemi took victory, Piquet hanging on to finish 2nd. Lucas di Grassi completed the podium, Trulli, Alguersuari, Senna, Prost, D'Ambrosio, Servia and Heidfeld completing the top 10. Daniel Abt took 2 points for the fastest lap. Garcia. Cerruti and Chandhok completed the finishing field, while Vergne headed the retirees followed by Abt, Duran, Brabham, Sarrazin, Da Costa and Bird.
This leaves Lucas di Grassi in the perfect position going into the Christmas break, leading the championship with 58 points from Buemi and Bird , Prost , Piquet and D'Ambrosio , Montagny and Chandhok  Servia and Alguersuari , Pic and Trulli , Senna , Da Costa and Abt , Vergne , Sarrazin and Sato  and Heidfeld .
In the teams' standings e.dams lead with 64 points by only 2 from Audi Sport ABT. Virgin sit 10 off the lead, but 18 ahead of Dragon. Andretti are 6 points further back on 30. Mahindra and China sit on 26 and 22 respectively, Trulli finally scoring to jump to 8th place with 12 points. Amlin Aguri have 6 points and Venturi only 3. After this race all teams have finally scored at least one point.