Lucas di Grassi won Formula E's inaugural race in Beijing after Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld crashed while battling for the lead at the final corner.
Prost - son of four-time world champion Alain - had led from the start but moved to his left aggressively when Heidfeld made his move on the run down to the final corner, bringing the pair to blows. Heidfeld was launched into the corner by the sausage kerbs, coming to rest upside down, but thankfully walked away unharmed and remonstrated with Prost as the pair walked down the pit lane. It was a controversial end to what had otherwise been an impressive debut for the all-electric series.
The last-corner drama meant Di Grassi, who had driven a solid if unspectacular race to that point, inherited the win having held off the charging Franck Montagny for final stages of the race. Daniel Apt crossed the line in third but immediately after the race he was demoted to tenth for failing to take a drive-through penalty, meaning Sam Bird took the final spot on the podium. It later emerged Abt had used 0.2kwh too much energy due to a radio failure during his second stint.
Prost had led away from pole at the beginning of the race as the pack slithered through the tight confines of the street circuit, with Montagny turning in a wonderful move on team-mate Charles Pic in the opening corners but inevitably there was a safety car required after the first lap. While squeezing through the tight second corner Bruno Senna - one of the three drivers to have won the Fan Boost, a five-second power boost voted for by fans - was eliminated after contact with Takuma Sato.
The slow safety car period lasted five laps, giving viewers the first real experience of the accompanying music being played by the series official DJ - the Formula EJ. After the restart it looked like a five-car battle for the lead was emerging but the entire group pitted at the same time at mid-distance. The pit stop process in Formula E requires drivers to climb out of one car and into another, during which time Heidfeld jumped ahead of Abt and Di Grassi to take second.
Prost retained his lead after the pit stop and looked in control, though Heidfeld soon pulled away from Di Grassi, who had Montagny all over his mirrors behind. But Heidfeld had saved much more of his energy allowance than Prost and started making big gains on the leader in the final four laps, setting up a grandstand finish. But when Heidfeld finally made his move, Prost moved across - later admitting he did not see the German - to the right and eliminated both men from the race, leaving a grateful Di Grassi the man to take the chequered flag.
Mahindra's Karun Chandhok rounded out the top five, ahead of Jerome d'Ambrosio, Oriol Servia, Nelson Piquet Jr, Stephane Sarrazin and Abt. Elsewhere, Sato and Jarno Trulli endured a frustrating opening day and both retired before the conclusion of the race. Sebastien Buemi, considered a championship favourite during pre-season, gained a point for fastest lap but did not reach the chequered flag after losing bodywork during the race.
The next round will be in Putrajaya, Malaysia on 22 November. After the race, Prost and Heidfeld - who are team-mates in World Endurance Championship - made amends over Twitter.
I feel very bad about the incident and after looking at the videos I understand that I am responsible. I just did not see him, feel very bad— Nico Prost (@nico_prost) September 13, 2014