Miami ePrix organizers got what they wanted as far as Saturday’s race: a sexy racing name, Nicolas Prost driving for father and four-time World Driving Champion Alain Prost, winning a race with passing for the lead in front of a crowd that packed stands and standing room areas.
Prost got around Audi Sport Abt’s Daniel Abt then held off Andretti Formula E’s Scott Speed for the win in the 39-lap race by 0.433 seconds in 46 minutes, 12.349 seconds. Abt finished 5.085 seconds behind Speed, who started 10th after getting obstructed during qualifying, to take third.
Electric race cars make managing power sacrosanct. None of the current race batteries can last an entire race. Each driver’s crew prepares two cars and drivers switch at some point during the race.
“At the beginning I saw I was quite fast, but couldn’t overtake. So I thought I’m going to try to go longer [in the first car] with the strategy,” Prost said. “It was really difficult because I was really on the edge with energy, so I had to lift a lot on my in-lap. When we got out, Daniel and I got out side by side. Then, I knew he had to do one more lap so I was still saving energy and thinking at the end I might get a shot.”
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Prost passed Abt for the lead and, “Everything looked really under control. But I was only focusing on [Abt]. Suddenly, I saw Scott coming back. I was like, ‘Who’s that guy? He’s coming back really fast.’ ”
Off the track, rookie mistakes cramped the fun for some fans.
The smattering of fans who arrived for the 8:15 a.m. practice session found little traffic on the surrounding streets but no traffic on the track. Construction on the course hadn’t been finished. Practice got pushed back to 9:15, then to 10 then started around 11 a.m. Qualifying and the race went off on time.
By the time the race went green, the number of fans jammed the two walking bridges. The afternoon heat hit. The lines for the bridge over Northeast Eighth Street and the ones for the bridge over Biscayne Boulevard moved so slowly, you would be excused for thinking fans just decided they would stay at their current spot until the checkered flag.
“You spend 20 minutes getting over each bridge,” Davie’s Cory Rossiter said. “When you get over the bridge, you’ve got to do more waiting. And you have a bunch of people cutting in front of you. It gets really annoying.”
After the race, just as tired, angry voices raised in protest of line jumping on the east side of the Biscayne Boulevard foot bridge, a pedestrian walkway was opened across the track’s south straightaway. A stream of people left the line and the track through this opened valve, preventing the violent boil over that seemed imminent.
Formula-e and Andretti Sports Marketing organized the race. Formula-e CEO Alejandro Agag dismissed any suggestion the problems soured Formula-e on Miami.
“On the contrary, I loved it. This was a fantastic event,” Agag said. “We will stay in Miami, for sure.”
(Informed of the foot bridge problem, he instantly said there would be more next year).
“When there’s a first time, it’s difficult to assemble things,” Agag said. “I think the people did a great job to put it together in time. So, no worries at all. The important thing is we had a great race, great crowd, the rest is fine. Free practice doesn’t matter because it doesn’t go on worldwide television. Qualifying and the race go on television. That’s what matters.”
The compressed practice further chopped at the limited time drivers have to acclimate to the track. But when the podium drivers snickered like teenagers with a secret at a question about the delayed practice, they revealed a concern more common to adolescents.
“I would’ve liked to sleep one more hour, honestly,” Abt said.
Speed laughed, “I wake up at 5:50 as well. We wait six hours to hit the track. The waiting was difficult.”
One adjustment that’ll probably be made on the course next year – moving the finish line. Now, the start and the podium occur in full view of the fans on Biscayne Boulevard. Those seated on the west side could follow the race on the giant American Airlines Arena entrance screen usually flashing Heat highlights and sponsor commercials.
But the finish line was placed on the east side, away from spectators.
“I really loved it,” Prost said of the course. “A lot of really interesting corners, big breaking zones. I thought it was the best track so far (in the Formula-e series). A bit bumpy, but that makes it interesting.”
The braking on the hard left off Biscayne Boulevard onto Northeast Eighth Street on the north side of the arena often produced brake squeals as loud as the engines, which sounded like small planes taking off the in distance. More difficult than that, Prost said, were the next two turns, a tight right that took you behind the arena and the right turn onto the arena’s south side.
Prost started third after Andretti Racing’s Jean-Eric Vergne knocked him off the pole with a lap of 1:05.953. China Racing’s Nelson Piquet Jr. then cranked off a lap only five hundredths of a second slower, 1:06.003, to join Vergne on the front row.