Round 6 of the Formula E championship returned the series to Les Invalides in Paris, France, where one of the championship contenders dominated from the front, whilst the other had an utterly fruitless day and walked away with nothing.
Sebastien Buemi took pole position for the 2nd time in a row by a narrow margin of 0.006 over local Parisian Jean Eric Vergne. At the start Vergne attempted to brake his Techeetah late around the outside of the Swiss driver’s Renault e.Dams, but was unsuccessful.
Esteban Gutierrez started a best ever 4th but was quickly dispatched by Mahindra’s Nick Heidfeld before the first corner, who was even challenging 3rd place Jose Maria Lopez’s DS Virgin.
Guttierrez lost another place to the other Mahindra of Felix Rosenqvist on Lap 8 of 45, meanwhile Lucas Di Grassi, 15 points down on Buemi in the title race, after an awful qualifying and a lacklustre start found himself stuck behind the Venturi of substitute driver Tom Dillman, who he couldn’t pass.
Dillman, in his first ePrix in front of his home crowd, bullishly forced his way past Nelson Piquet Jnr. on Lap 14 with some contact dropping the Brazilian down behind Di Grassi. Then Antonio Felix Da Costa in the Andretti lost out to Di Grassi, but the Abt driver clipped the rear of Dillman, allowing Da Costa to take advantage and regain 14th place; but could not pass either as Dillman defended aggressively.
Di Grassi became frustrated trying to pass the Portuguese driver. On Lap 20 Di Grassi tried another move into the fast right-hander of Turn 8 with a better run onto the back straight and was able to briefly pull two wheels ahead on the outside as Da Costa defended on the inside; the Brazilian turned in early for the corner into the space that the Andretti was occupying.
It ended in tears with Da Costa’s car squashed into the wall and Di Grassi being spun around in the chaos. A Full Course Yellow was called on Lap 21 and most of the field pitted immediately to swap cars.
Felix Rosenqvist and Oliver Turvey opted to pit later on Lap 22 as the Virtual Safety Car was ending. Mike Conway stayed out in the lead and didn’t pit until Lap 27, which meant he was quickly lapped and unable to use his extra energy compared to those around him.
Di Grassi’s race was then given the killer blow; he had made up huge ground to 8th place after the pitstops but it turned out he’d been released 8 seconds too early by the Abt team. He received a drive through penalty along with Adam Carroll, who was only released under a second too early by Jaguar.
Guttierrez and Robin Frijns, who was right behind him, were also penalised later on with a 5-second penalty for not slowing down for the full course yellow.
On Lap 29 Frijns caught Gutierrez napping at Turn 1 to take 6th place, and the Mexican began to haemorrhage places to Prost and Abt as he struggled with pace.
On Lap 34 Vergne’s steering failed whilst in 2nd place and went straight into the wall at the penultimate corner, continuing an atrocious run of misfortune for the Frenchman and triggering a safety car.
Mitch Evans lost out badly during the full course yellow but was now on the attack, out-breaking Stephane Sarrazin for 11th place, and with Gutierrez’s penalty that was set to become 10th.
With 2 laps to go Di Grassi binned it at Turn 8 after a vain attempt to steal fastest lap from Sam Bird, thereby ending not only the race under safety car but arguably the worst day of Di Grassi’s life as he inadvertently sealed victory for Buemi.
Further pain for the team followed as on the last lap Daniel Abt lost 6th place to a Battery Management System error shutting the car down; but it took a while for Gutierrez to realise he had an issue and could overtake under safety car. This helped soften Frijns’ penalty and meant he finished 6th, only losing out to Prost. Piquet Jnr. was 7th followed in the points by the debutante Dillman, Evans and Sarrazin.
Buemi now leads the championship by 43 points, Lopez took his first podium with 2nd and Mahindra achieved their best ever result with 3rd and 4th.
This sets Buemi up very well for the Berlin ePrix on the 10th and 11th of June as he seeks to build a gap for the New York ePrix, which he plans to miss in favour of WEC.