Chandhok fifth, Senna unlucky at inaugural Formula E race

India’s Karun Chandhok took Mahindra Racing’s first points in the new FIA Formula E Championship today, at the inaugural race in Beijing, China. Chandhok finished a strong fifth following some close racing around the Olympic Park street circuit. Team mate Bruno Senna, who failed to post a qualifying time earlier today due to a battery issue, hit more misfortune after suspension damage on lap one forced him to retire early.

Following this morning’s qualifying session, Chandhok lined up fourth for today’s race with Senna 19th. Once the track had cleared of dignitaries and guests, including Mahindra Chairman Anand Mahindra, the cars completed their formation lap.

As the lights went out for the first ever Formula E start Chandhok got away well, but was passed by a fast starting Nick Heidfield from behind. Senna meanwhile was pushing hard to make up positions but in the melee of the first few corners was pushed onto the kerbs which proved too much for his front left suspension that collapsed putting him out of the race.

The safety car was brought out on lap three with Chandhok still running fifth place. After Senna’s car had been recovered, the racing action resumed on lap five, with Chandhok holding onto fifth at the restart. A few laps later Chandhok was still pushing and keeping fifth place to stay ahead of Franck Montagny. Montagny was charging though and passed Chandhok on lap 12 to take fifth place.

Chandhok made his car change on lap 15, switching to a fresh car with full battery charge to complete the remainder of the race. Emerging back on track, Chandhok had lost a position to Sam Bird, but the Mahindra Racing driver was on a charge and a few laps later put in one of the overtaking moves of the race to claim back sixth place on lap 21.

An overheating battery hampered Chandhok’s progress at the end of the race though, the Indian racer lost several seconds which allowed Bird and Charles Pic past putting Chandhok down to eighth. A dramatic final lap however for leaders Nicholas Prost and Nick Heidfield, which saw both drivers out of the race, elevated Chandhok to sixth at the flag. The Mahindra Racing driver made up an additional position after the race when third placed man Daniel Abt was handed a time penalty for undisclosed issue which dropped him to tenth.

Chandhok reflected, “It was a good race; I was comfortable staying with the leading pack and passed Sam and was catching Daniel but then the battery over heated and I lost a handful of seconds in the final laps which lost me two places. We were quick though, our pace overall has been with the leading pack. There’s lots of positives to be taken away and some lessons learnt too.”

Team mate Senna added, “This is racing, sometimes these things happen. Hopefully we are getting all our bad luck out of the way early. We’ve learnt a lot though and I think we’ll be well prepared for Malaysia. The aim will be to be quickest in practice again, but next time follow it up with pole position and a win. That is what we have to aim for.”

Team Principal Dilbagh Gill concluded, “We have mixed feelings really. It’s fantastic to see Karun take our first points as a team in Formula E, but we know what potential we had for both cars to be right up there challenging for the podium and possibly the win, so it’s frustrating that Bruno encountered so many issues today. Nevertheless we will come back even stronger for Malaysia which is already our focus.”

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