Thursday, April 2, 2015

2015 Long Beach ePrix Preview

The sixth round of the inaugural FIA Formula E Championship takes place on the streets of Long Beach this Saturday, April 4th. This is the the second round to take place in the United States.

Through the first five races there have been five different winners. Three weeks ago at Miami, e.dams driver Nicolas Prost took his maiden victory and in doing so took the championship lead. Prost is the only driver to score points from all five races and has 67 total. Seven behind the Frenchman is the winner of the inaugural Formula E race, Lucas di Grassi. The Brazilian Audi Sport ABT driver had finished on the podium in the first three races but retired at Buenos Aires and finished ninth at Miami. Virgin Racing's and Putrajaya winner Sam Bird is third in the championship, 15 points behind Prost. The Brit salvaged points at Miami after nearly not having enough power to make it make to the pit lane while leading. Nelson Piquet, Jr. has yet to win but is fourth in the championship driving for China Racing. Piquet, Jr. finished second at Punta del Esta and third at Buenos Aires and is 18 points behind Prost.

Prost's e.dams teammate and Punta del Esta winner Sébastien Buemi trails by 24 points while Buenos Aires winner, Aguri driver António Félix da Costa is 30 points back, sixth overall.

Long Beach is the second home race for Los Angeles-based Dragon Racing and Indianapolis-based Andretti Autosport. Dragon's Jérôme d'Ambrosio is seventh in the championship and has finished in the points in four of the five races with the Belgian scoring his best finish (fourth) at Miami. He will be joined for the second consecutive race by FIA WEC World Champion, Le Mans winner, Formula Nippon champion and Super GT champion Loïc Duval. The Frenchman finished seventh on debut. Scott Speed returns with Andretti Autosport for his second race. Speed finished second on debut. Jean-Éric Vergne will be making his fourth start with Andretti has won pole position for two of his first three starts and in each of those starts he failed to finish.

Virgin Racing's Jaime Alguersuari and Audi Sport ABT's Daniel Abt are eighth and ninth in the championship. The Spaniard has 26 points while the German sits on 19 and finished third at Miami, his first career podium. Mahindra Racing's Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna each have 18 points. Senna has won the fan boost in four of five races. Trulli GP returns with an all-Italian driver line-up. Jarno Trulli will be joined by Vitantonio Liuzzi for the second consecutive race. The team's only finish in the points came at Punta del Esta when Trulli finished fourth. Venturi Grand Prix drivers Nick Heidfeld and Stéphane Sarrazin have only combined for eight points through the first five races. Heidfeld was a corner away from being the inaugural winner in Formula E history before being taken out by Prost. The team's best finish is eighth.

Charles Pic and Salvador Durán round out the entry list for Long Beach. Pic is driving for China Racing. He finished fourth in Beijing driving for Andretti. Durán has run the last three races, all for Aguri. He finished tenth at Miami, securing his first points in Formula E competition.

In the Teams' Championship, e.dams has 119 points and leads Audi Sport ABT by 31 markers and Virgin Racings by 32 points. The American teams are fourth and fifth with Andretti having 62 points to their name and Dragon Racings sitting on 56 points. China Racing has 49 points with Aguri nine behind them. Mahindra has 36 points while Trulli GP has 12 and Venturi sits on eight.

Long Beach will mark the first time Formula E will have an unchanged driver line-up from the previous race. As well as having five different winners from the first five races, there have been five different drivers to have set fastest lap in the five races. Takuma Sato took the inaugural fastest lap at Beijing. Alguersuari, Abt, Bird and Piquet, Jr. took fastest lap in the subsequent races. Every Formula E race has had at least one driver score their first career podium. The driver to lead the first lap of a Formula E race has never won a Formula E race. Miami marked the first Formula E race to not feature a safety car period.

The Long Beach race will take place on a modified course compared to the one IndyCar will use a fortnight afterward. The Formula E course is 7 turns and 1.302 miles in length. The cars with have a chicane on the front straightaway before making a right hand turn at what is normally the IndyCar, left-hand turn six. The course is identical to the IndyCar one from that point forward as the cars will run the famed turn nine (which is turn five on the Formula E circuit) and hairpin sections of the course.

Qualifying will take place at 3:00 p.m. ET with the race starting at 7:00 p.m. ET. Fox Sports 1 will have live coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. ET. A replay of the race will be aired on Fox Sports 1 the next day at 11:00 a.m. ET, Easter morning. The race is scheduled for 39 laps.