Russia and the United States might be geographically and politically poles apart, but for Nelson Piquet Jr the performance was the same.
Just as he did in Long Beach back in April, he jumped into the lead of the Moscow ePrix at the start before going on to build up a commanding gap that he simply maintained after the car swap.
“We got really prepared coming to Russia,” he said. “We knew it would be an important race for us after, I would say, not a very strong performance in Berlin. I think everything was important – practice, and especially qualifying well was really important here. I think if I hadn’t qualified at the front it would have been close to impossible to win the race. Track position was very hard, you could see there was not much action in the back of the race, so I am glad I qualified very well, and had a great start. I think our procedure is a mixture of a bit of luck, good reaction, and I think set-up helps a little bit. We just did a great job, everything worked perfectly, and we did our homework.”
Piquet’s second win for the NEXTEV TCR team increased his championship lead and ensures he heads into the season finale double-header in London with a 10-point lead.
It was a mixed race for his title challengers. Lucas di Grassi closed his fellow Brazilian down in the second half of the race, reducing the gap from six seconds to 1.6s at its smallest. But the charge had taken the Audi Sport ABT car’s battery to its maximum temperature and he was forced to slow to let it cool down.
Who knows what the race would have been like if he had found a way by poleman Jean-Eric Vergne before the pitstops, but with overtaking extremely tricky around the Moscow street track he had to bide his time. Still after the disappointment of Berlin, he was pleased to show he and the team still had good pace.
“For everybody that was in doubt that our car was illegal for some reason, or we had any advantage by the wing we had in Berlin, it just shows that we had a very fast car today,” he said. “Track position is very important, and if we were in front we might not have been like in Berlin, but we showed everyone that we had again a fast car. It does not matter we had a small repair which was deemed illegal in Berlin which cost us 25 points, one podium and leading the championship. In the end it was something that, for me, was a decision which was not in the right way.”
For Sebastien Buemi the race was even more fraught. Stuck behind Vergne and di Grassi from the start, he was able to conserve energy and stay out a lap longer than his rivals. It could have been a winning strategy, but amazingly his e.dams-Renault team mistook the minimum pitstop time and held the Swiss driver in the pits for 68 seconds rather than the mandated 58.
Having lost 10 seconds, Buemi was on a charge late on, and went wheel-to-wheel with Vergne – Buemi cut the chicane and slowed to let the Frenchman back through. But Vergne also slowed, which allowed Nick Heidfeld to take full advantage of the confusion to nip into third. All three cars touched through the Turn 11 hairpin and they were covered by fractions as they crossed the line.
“We did a mistake at the pitstop,” he confirmed. “We lost close to 10 seconds there so I had to push hard. Obviously I did a lap more than the others in the first car so I could go flat out in the second car. I was catching JEV and he was often cutting the chicane, so it was difficult in the last few laps to catch him because he was gaining an advantage. Then in the last lap I used the FanBoost, and ran a little bit wide in Turn 3 and then had a bit of a contact with him. Then we had another contact in the last chicane, we had to cut the chicane, and then Heidfeld caught us.”
Buemi also collected two additional points for the fastest lap after his quickest time was disqualified for not respecting track limits.
Daniel Abt had a welcome trouble-free run to sixth for ABT, while Salvador Duran scored his best ever Formula E result with a convincing drive to seventh for Amlin Aguri. Team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa had to produce a battling drive to get to eighth, fighting his way past an obdurate Jarno Trulli in the process.
The Italian spent much of the race defending his position until finally his resolve was punctured by a late-braking Loic Duval who rammed the rear of the Trulli with his Dragon Racing machine as he was actually battling Justin Wilson. It had been a strong drive from the back for the Frenchman, whose qualifying was ruined when the car went into neutral.
Trulli’s race was over, which meant Wilson picked up a point for 10th place on his Formula E debut. Ninth place for Nicolas Prost pretty much ends his title challenge, while a pitstop problem for Jerome D’Ambrosio means there’s now effectively a three-way fight for the title.
Find out which one of Piquet, Buemi or di Grassi prevails at the Visa London ePrix on June 27 and 28.
To view the results in full click here.