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Heidfeld Penalty Gives da Costa Formula E Win

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 11 2015

Antonio Felix Da Costa beat out some bigger names to win Saturday in Formula E.

Nick Heidfeld’s pit-lane speeding violation with three laps to go gift-wrapped an improbable victory for Antonio Felix da Costa Saturday in the inaugural Buenos Aires ePrix, Round 4 of the fledgling FIA Formula E Championship.

Heidfeld, a veteran of 185 Formula One races, began the Formula E season on the wrong end of a last-corner, somersaulting crash involving Nicholas Prost in Beijing, China, last fall. On Saturday, Heidfeld was poised to give his Venturi team the win when stewards tagged the German with a pit lane miscue that resulted in a drive-through penalty.

Da Costa, driving for Amlin Aguri, inherited the point and paced home a podium that included runnerup Prost of e.dams-Renault and third-place Nelson Piquet Jr. of China Racing.

“I knew we had the pace,” said da Costa, a 23-year-old native of Portugal and former F1 test driver for Infiniti Red Bull Racing. “I had some issues in qualifying, so I’m really happy we managed to get through the field. I kept a bit of energy to be able to attack Heidfeld in the end but then it wasn’t necessary after he got a penalty.”

Da Costa, who missed the series’ opener in China, started eighth on the 20-car grid en route to collecting the full 25 driver’s championship points.

Pole-sitter Sebastien Buemi, of Switzerland, and e-dams-Renault and championship leader Lucas di Grassi of Audi Sport ABT recorded DNFs due to suspension failures after contact at the Turn 8-9 chicane. Buemi’s right front suspension pancaked after he clipped a curb through the tight complex while in the lead on Lap 24.

Round 4 of the all-electric series, played out in front of a sellout crowd of over 20,000, also saw the debut of American Marco Andretti with Andretti Formula E Team. The son of team-owner and former CART open-wheel star Michael Andretti, Marco finished 13th after qualifying 14th around the 2.407-kilometer/1.51-mile/12-turn Puerto Madero Marina Circuit.

A nine-year veteran of the Verizon IndyCar Series, Andretti’s race unravelled when his No. 28 Spark-Renault SRT_01E got caught behind the safety car for a lengthy period following a pit stop.

“As soon as I saw the yellow I came in, and in IndyCar we would have been right at the front,” Andretti said. “But for some reason they held me behind the pace car and we are yet to figure out why, so that was frustrating.” Still, Andretti quickly adapted to the technology and embraced its potential for consumers.

“It was an interesting weekend and the series is quite unique,” the third generation star said. “I enjoyed myself; it’s a great challenge coming from IndyCar, with very low grip, but I think that the technology is exciting. I think there’s a lot to improve on from my end as far as the conserve mode and the overall pace, so I’m not that thrilled with 13th for the first go-round. But hopefully we can build on that.”

The series’ Spark Racing Technology Spark-Renault SRT _01E is a carbon-fiber/aluminum monocoque chassis constructed by Dallara Automobili, the Italian-based company that also builds all Dallara chassis for the IndyCar Series. Weighing-in at 1,957.7 pounds (with driver), Formula E cars are powered by two motor generator units producing 200 kilowatts, the equivalent of 270 horsepower, with a maximum of 18,000 RPM. Top speed is 160 mph.

Drivers compete in two cars per race with a strict limit on the amount of energy used set at 28 kilowatts per hour.

Jean-Eric Vergne, Andretti’s teammate, started and finished sixth in a No. 27 car that began overheating on the 35th and final lap. JEV was racing in second at that point.

“It was a really eventful and good race until the last lap when I had some problems with overheating of the battery,” the Frenchman said. “The first car had some unexplainable problems so we had to stop one lap early and I had to be really slow so as not to use too much energy, so we have to investigate this problem.

“Nevertheless we were second on the last lap until I had a problem where I lost power. This was a long lap and quite frustrating to see everyone pass me by on the straight and I could not do anything about that. It’s a bit of a shame, but we have some more points.”

The nine-race season began in September and will continue into June with two spring stops scheduled in the United States. Brazilian di Grassi won the season-opening, 25-lap Evergrande Beijing ePrix in China; Englishman Sam Bird of Virgin Racing won the 31-lap Y Capital Putrajaya ePrix in Malaysia and Buemi prevailed in the 31-lap Julius Baer Punta del Este ePrix in Uruguay.

Andretti Formula E Team now is fourth in the championship with 41 points heading into Round 5 around Biscayne Bay in Miami on March 14. “If we can just tidy it all up for the States, we’ll have a good package,” Andretti said. Formula E also will compete on the Streets of Long Beach on April 4.

Di Grassi has a 10-point lead (58-48) over Bird in the driver’s championship, with Buemi third, 15 points down after his DNF on Saturday. Frenchman Prost’s second-place result gave e.dams-Renault an 11-point advantage over Virgin Racing in the team championship.

Roger Griffiths, team principal for Andretti Formula E, said JEV’s late-race battery gremlin capped a weekend that generated mixed reviews for the Indianapolis-based team.

“A day of highs-and-lows, from what was looking to be an exciting finish for Andretti Formula E with a lap to go,” Griffiths said. “Ultimately it was not to be, but on this occasion it was good to secure sixth place with JEV and fourth in the championship for the team.

“We were very pleased to see Marco adapt to the new environment. He came into this race with an open mind and no preconceived ideas. We are now looking forward to what will be the first of two ‘home’ races for us in America, starting with a visit to the cosmopolitan city of Miami, but have very much enjoyed our stay here in Argentina.”

During pre-race ceremonies the drivers, teams and FIA President Jean Todt gathered on the grid for a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the terrorist attack in Paris earlier this week.

FIA Formula E Championship/Buenos Aires ePrix Results (Round 4)

1. Antonio Felix da Costa, Amlin Aguri, 48-minutes, 52.100-seconds

2. Nicolas Prost, e.dams-Renault, plus-5.354s

3. Nelson Piquet Jr., China Racing, plus-8.552s

4. Jaime Alguersuari, Virgin Racing, plus-11.148s

5. Bruno Senna, Mahindra Racing, plus-11.535s

6. Jean-Eric Vergne, Andretti Formula E, plus-11.535s

7. Sam Bird, Virgin Racing, plus-13.617s

8. Salvador Duran, Amlin Aguri, plus-14.724s

9. Nick Heidfeld, Venturi, plus-15.464s

10. Oriol Servia, Dragon Racing, plus-19.334s

11. Stephane Sarrazin, Venturi, plus-28.973s

12. Ho-Pin Tung, China Racing, plus-37.858s

13. Marco Andretti, Andretti Formula E, plus-1 lap

14. Daniel Abt, Audi Sport ABT, plus-2 laps

15. Jerome d’Ambrosio, Dragon Racing, plus-2 laps

16. Jarno Trulli, Trulli, DNF

17. Lucas di Grassi, Audi Sport ABT, DNF

18. Sebastien Buemi, e.dams-Renault, DNF

19. Michela Cerruti, Trulli, DNF

20. Karun Chandhok, Mahindra Racing, DNF

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 11 2015
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