Formula E: Action-packed Paris ePrix sees multiple crashes as Robin Frijns makes history

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Saturday’s ePrix was victim to dramatic changes in weather, testing the drivers like never before in the sport’s previous 52 races.

Rain lashed down and wind whipped through the circuit in the lead up to the race, leaving the shady sections of the track perilously slippery as the lights went green in Paris.

But just as the sun began to dry most of the track, the heavens opened once again, subjecting drivers to the first wet race in Formula E’s four-and-a-half year history.

Pole-sitter Oliver Rowland — who inherited his place at the front of the grid after Pascal Wehrlein was relegated for a tire pressure infringement — crashed out on lap two, locking up into turn 10 and slamming head-first into the barricades.

It was a taste of what was to come in an action-packed race as several drivers struggled to keep their cars on track in testing conditions.

No less than five yellow flags were called throughout the race, forcing the drivers to slow down for the debris which littered the track following multiple collisions.

Five drivers had to retire with BMWi Andretti’s Alexander Sims suffering the most dramatic crash, spinning right across the track and ploughing into the barriers.

The field was forced to complete most of the final lap under yet another yellow flag, allowing a delighted Frijns to take his place in the history books by becoming Formula E’s first Dutch ePrix winner.

He waved his country’s flag from the cockpit, given to him by a Dutch steward — a fitting outcome on the same day Holland celebrates its national King’s Day.

“Just crazy,” was fourth-placed Lucas di Grassi’s assessment of the race.

Iconic venue

The miserable conditions did nothing to dampen the mood of the thousands watching in Paris’ city center, quite the opposite. Audible gasps rose from the stands following crash after crash and fans winced every time drivers got a bit too close for comfort.

This course is one of the most spectacular on the calendar, weaving its way past the gold dome of the iconic Invalides and the Eiffel Tower visible above the trees.

Home favorite Jean-Eric Vergne, reigning Formula E champion and winner in Paris last time out, impressively fought his way back from 12th on the starting grid to finish sixth.

In the lead up to the race, the Techeetah driver spoke of how he and all his fellow Parisians were affected by the events of two weeks ago when the city’s iconic Notre Dame cathedral was ravaged by a fire.

He had hoped the solidarity shown by his countrymen would motivate him to a positive result, and it certainly did that after a difficult start.

“Obviously that (fire) touched all of us French people, but as well people from all around the world,” he told CNN.

“Everybody came together for this very sad event which was incredible to see and it just goes to show that seeing this French monument go up in smoke was something that really hurt a lot of people, not only Christians.

“It’s a figure of Paris, for the French people as well, for Catholics but the good thing is it didn’t collapse and there are a lot of French billionaires and a lot of people putting lots of money in to help restore it and that’s the positive.”

Vergne was moved by the people who had pledged to rebuild the cathedral and not only the wealthy donors.

“All French people have helped give, even my parents and my sister,” he said. “Everybody gave maybe €10, €20. People that don’t have a big salary all gave a little bit, which is great to see. We are 60 million people in France, so it’s very positive.”

‘Shocked the country’

Sat on the grass opposite the paddock, hundreds began to gather hours before the race had started — and long before there was any indication of the downpour to come.

Pierre Pichaud, a fan of motorsport for 25 years and follower of Formula E since its inception, traveled from Orleans to Paris just for the race.

“The Notre Dame event is not only linked to Paris, but to the whole country,” he said. “It’s a way not to forget, but to think about something else for a few days.

“It happened in Paris of course but it shocked the whole country. For Paris it’s a way to think about something else, of course.”

Robin Frijns celebates victory with the Dutch flag.

Xavier Denous had traveled even further, coming from the east of the country to watch his first ever ePrix.

“These kind of events are great to bring people together and meet people which is a great experience,” he said. “It’s completely different from our daily lives.”

CNN Supercharged presenter Nicki Shields added: “Having any kind of event isn’t going to take away from the awful events of Notre Dame, but at the same time it has been amazing to come to Paris and see so many of the Parisians getting together and showing solidarity and enjoying their weekend, getting together, celebrating Paris and how great it is as a city.”



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