LONDON (Reuters) - Brazilian Nelson Piquet junior became the first Formula E champion on Sunday as the new electric series wrapped up its debut season with a race that had the crowd making more noise than the cars.
Piquet, whose father and namesake was a triple Formula One world champion, finished seventh in the final race in London’s Battersea Park to beat Switzerland’s Sebastien Buemi by one point overall.
The final race winner was Britain’s Sam Bird, a former Mercedes F1 test driver, for Virgin Racing after Frenchman Stephane Sarrazin took the chequered flag first but was then demoted to 15th for excessive energy use.
Three drivers, all of whom have competed in Formula One, were in title contention going into the finale on a wet Sunday before Team China Racing’s Piquet prevailed.
“I only knew I had won the championship when the commentator went onto the radio and said, ‘Can we interview the champion?” said Piquet after the uncertain ending. “The team didn’t tell me.”
Piquet, who was helped by British team mate Oliver Turvey letting him through, raced in Formula One with Renault in 2008 and 2009.
He subsequently triggered a major scandal after revealing to the sport’s governing FIA that he had crashed deliberately into a wall in Singapore in 2008 to help team mate Fernando Alonso win. After that he raced in NASCAR and rallycross.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s long, long away,” Piquet said when reminded of that 2008 F1 incident at a post-race news conference.
Sunday’s ePrix brought motorsport to the capital, the cars racing on fenced off park roads just south of the Thames while locals walked their dogs and enjoyed picnics without being troubled by noise.
Apart from the squeal of tyres around the tight corners, the cars made a whistling sound less intrusive than the roar of passing airplanes overhead.
“Being in a park in London is a strong message,” said Belgian driver Jerome D‘Ambrosio, the runner-up in Sunday’s race, of a series that began in Beijing last September and included races in Monaco, Miami and Moscow.
“In two days nobody is going to be able to see that Formula E was here. And that’s great. I think it’s going to just grow and grow.”
The e.dams Renault outfit, backed by retired four times Formula One champion Alain Prost, won the team title.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis and Ken Ferris