By Noy Shani @NoyShani @TLE_Sport
This weekend a new champion was born and many more fans were won over as the inaugural season of Formula-E reached its culmination in a thrilling double bill in Battersea Park, London. The London Economic’s Noy Shani was there to report.
I have to admit – I am not a typical motorsport fan. Watching cars go round, over and over again, was never my thing, but the buzz that was created around the London ePrix and the final two rounds of the season really won me over.
There was something refreshing about it, different, much more than just a race. What a fabulous end to the season it was on and off the track.
Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jnr clinched the inaugural title with the narrowest of wins over Swiss contender, Sebastian Buemi, by only a point in the standings.
The event in Battersea Park was superb and a real family celebration with excited crowds who started flocking to the scene early on Saturday morning to watch the electric cars in action during the practice rounds.
By the afternoon they were enjoying a series of motorsport related activities from driving simulations, to an opportunity to have your photo taken next to a real Formula-E car and an autograph signing session with the drivers in the open-space E Village.
This weekend was about the final two races of the season, at the end of which, the winner would be decided.
Sebastian Buemi, who was third in the ranking prior to Saturday, won the round 10 race on Saturday in a convincing manner, to close on the 17 point gap from Piquet Jnr who was at the lead.
At the close of Saturday the gap between the two stood at merely five points, meaning in went to wire on the final day of the season.
Drivers went first to complain about bumps in the track after experiencing issues in the first corner and their requests were answered when the track was modified on at least two occasions on Saturday morning and overnight.
The second race was beyond thrilling. Stephane Sarrazin crossed the finish line first but was heavily penalised for overusing his energy allowance, seeing him drop to the 15th place.
The main beneficiary and British contender Sam Bird who finished just behind him after a tight race was awarded the first spot, only 24 hours after he told the London Economic: “I will do everything to win in front of my home crowd.”
The crowd was ecstatic as bird celebrated, splashing champagne on the podium.
Excited Bird told the media afterwards: “When I pulled in there was a space for first, so… I was, well, who’s the muppet who parked in the wrong spot?
“Amazing, I pushed him hard and obviously he ran out of energy so our strategy was good, we were very quick and I’m so happy to have a home win. Well done to Virgin and thank you for all the British fans to turn up to our first London Formula-E event, we hope that we come back here every year.”
The big winner of the season, NEXTEV Team China Racing’s Piquet Jnr could not hide his excitement: “Have I won the championship? Ah I don’t know what to say. I mean, Jesus, we tried so hard, oh my god I cannot believe it,” he said on his team radio.
Buemi who could have won the title by one point himself had he successfully overtook Bruno Senna in the closing lap, was left understandably disappointed finishing only sixth.
Senna’s block in the nick of time, coupled with Buemi’s unfortunate spin on lap 16, cost the Swiss the title as Piquet Jnr brilliantly closed the gap, finishing in the eighth place.
“Difficult to accept to lose it by one point, but it’s sports, it’s been a brilliant year, congratulations for him,” said Buemi.
Commenting on the incident with Senna, Buemi added: “Obviously I tried to overtake Bruno but he was worse than a snake, he was taking all the track, the circuit is so narrow that even with the fan boost I could not get side-by-side, if he drives in the middle I have no chance.”
This season that started with a spectacular crash in the final corner of the first race in Beijng last September, finished on the highest note so no wonder the Formula-E CEO, Alejandro Agag was thrilled.
He said: “Even in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have come up with an ending like that. This has been an amazing day and this is what we wanted to do, to bring great racing to the cities and we made it today.”
The series won itself many fans, including myself, who all cannot wait for the next season to come. Bring it on.