LONG BEACH, Calif. — It was a historic day on the Streets of Long Beach. Fans filled their seats for this free event. Twenty drivers stepped inside their cars for the very first FIA Formula E electric race. Headphones weren’t even necessary as decibels were about 80 dB (just about the same as your car). Instead of getting new tires and fuel, drivers swapped cars during their pit stop.
The only American driver in the race was knocked out early. Andretti Autosport’s Scott Speed went off into the barriers at turn two and was out of the race after just three laps. Later, Charles Pic collided with Jamo Trulli to bring out the second caution flag. Daniel Abt kept the third spot up until lap 32 when he was required to make a pit stop for excessive energy usage.
China Racing’s Nelson Piquet Jr. took the checkered flag after starting second. It was bittersweet because his father, Nelson Piquet, won his first FormulaOne race at the 1980 United States Grand Prix West on the very same race track 35 years ago.
“As soon as I got the lead, it was just a matter of taking control, staying calm and not making any mistakes,” said Piquet Jr. “The most crucial time for me was the pit stop and just having a clean exit. I managed to stay with the lead and that was it. I was just contolling Jean-Eric behind me, making sure he didn’t get too close. I just brought it home, you know.”
France’s Jean-Eric Vergne finished in second position for Andretti Autosport with Brazilian Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT) rounding out the podium. Swiss Sébastien Buemi ended up in fourth place for Team e.dams Renault while Brazilian Bruno Senna finished in fifth for Mahindra Racing.
“I think it’s been four years since I’ve been at a podium, I didn’t think it was possible,” Vergne explained. “I’m very happy to be back at the podium. I should have been earlier, but it’s racing and you don’t know what can happen. It’s good points for the team . The team is pushing hard into the championship. They did a good job with the car and got it on time for the race. Overall, I’m quite positive. This was the first time that I had FanBoost that was working so thank you to my fans.”
During the weeks leading up to a FIA Formula E race, fans have the opportunity to vote for their favorite drivers in something called Fan Boost. The top three drivers who receive the most points have the opportunity to deploy extra power during a race. The only pitfall is that the extra power can’t be used at the official start of the race.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t use Fan Boost,” Piquet Jr. admitted. “We’re not allowed to use at the start, otherwise I would have. Honestly, I wound up not using it because I just didn’t want to mess things. I just didn’t want to add one more variable to the car. I know I should have used it because that’s what it’s there for. With our batteries overheating a little bit, I didn’t want to have a chance of something going wrong. If Jean-Eric would have been pushing me, I would have used it once or twice. I didn’t have the need of using it.”
Nicolas Prost had the fastest lap time during the race of 58.973 seconds or a speed of 130.1 Kph or about 80.84 mph.
“It’s an honor to be back on the lead of the championship,” di Grassi said. “We should have had a very good result in Buenos Aires and a good result in Miami. To finish here third was the main target. It’s the fourth podium in six races, but we didn’t score enough points in the last two races. To score enough points in this one was crucial. We go back to the European part of the championship back on the lead with a full crew motivated. We have a lot to work on, a lot to improve. I think this was a good result for the crew to step up.”
The FIA Formula E Championship features 10 teams, 20 drivers and 40 cars (each team has two drivers and four cars). Electric race cars accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in just three seconds with a max speed of 140 mph. Noise decibel levels are much lower than gasoline-powered race cars. With an ordinary car producing 70 dB of noise, Formula E cars make 80 dB of noise. Races are about 45 minutes in length with practice in the morning, qualifying in late morning/early afternoon and the race shortly thereafter.