MONTREAL, Canada – The momentum in the Formula E championship battle took a huge swing in Lucas di Grassi’s favor on Saturday in Montreal as the Brazilian swept to his second pole position in the all-electric series.
Di Grassi arrived in Montreal trailing long-running rival Sebastien Buemi by 10 points in the drivers’ championship, but was able to reduce the gap by three with pole and the resultant bonus score.
The sweetest success for di Grassi was not of his own design, though. Trying to find the limit of a hot lap during practice, Buemi pushed too hard, crashing hard into the wall at the chicane and causing a significant amount of damage to his car.
A new battery had to be fitted by the Renault e.dams crew, triggering a 10-place grid drop that means Buemi will start the race 12th, having originally trailed di Grassi by just two-tenths of a second.
Stephane Sarrazin will join di Grassi on the front row after an impressive run for Techeetah, while Buemi’s teammate, Nicolas Prost, is set to start in third place – directly behind di Grassi.
Di Grassi may get some assistance from his ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport teammate Daniel Abt, though, given the German will start ahead of Buemi in 11th.
Felix Rosenqvist will start P4 for Mahindra ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne, while Jaguar racers Mitch Evans and Adam Carroll picked up the team’s best qualifying result of the year to secure P6 and P7 on the grid.
Oliver Turvey will start eighth for NextEV, while Tom Dillmann and Loic Duval will complete the top 10 for the start in Montreal.
RED HOOK, NY – Sebastien Buemi will head into the final double-header round of the third FIA Formula E season with his points lead intact despite missing last weekend’s races in New York City.
Defending Formula E champion Buemi was forced to skip the inaugural New York City ePrix due to his clashing commitments with Toyota’s LMP1 team in the FIA World Endurance Championship at the Nürburgring.
Despite late attempts from Buemi and his Renault e.dams team to try and take some part in the New York weekend, Toyota refused to budge, giving title rival Lucas di Grassi two races to try and cut down the 32-point gap.
Di Grassi struggled through qualifying, starting P10 on Saturday and P9 on Sunday, but was able to battle back through to fourth and fifth in the respective races.
Leaving New York with a haul of 22 points, di Grassi sits 10 back from Buemi in the drivers’ championship with two races remaining, but the Brazilian nevertheless feels good about his chances.
“I think 22 points, I’m not disappointed with it. We have to improve a lot if we want to win in Montreal,” di Grassi said.
“I feel more confident than ever. With the experience that I have with Formula E, you know that it can go from hell to heaven any weekend, any race. We just have to do our best, try and win both races and see how it goes.
“It will be difficult, but nevertheless, we’re going to try very hard. The championship is in my hands. If I win both races, I am champion – no mathematics to be done. To win both races, that’s the aim. Let’s see how it goes.”
Buemi’s race at the Nürburgring seemed to be over before it had begun when he suffered a fuel pump issue on the formation lap, forcing Toyota into a lengthy repair of its TS050 Hybrid car.
Alongside Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima, Buemi was able to battle his way back to fourth place, trailing the three other LMP1 hybrids.
Pierre Gasly will make his FIA Formula E Championship debut this weekend in the New York City ePrix after being confirmed to replace championship leader Sebastien Buemi, who will be on full FIA World Endurance Championship duty at the 6 Hours of the Nürburgring.
Gasly will step into Buemi’s Renault e.dams entry but only following a late arrival into New York following Red Bull simulator work. Apparent efforts to have gotten Buemi to only have to miss one of the two rounds of the NYC doubleheader have failed, and the Swiss driver will be in his usual Toyota TS050 Hybrid alongside Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima.
Although Gasly isn’t in a Formula 1 race seat this year he’s still been plenty busy in his Red Bull test role and with racing Super Formula in Japan, same as Felix Rosenqvist is.
No quotes were issued from Gasly in advance of the weekend but Renault e.dams principals Alain Prost and Jean-Paul Driot were less than thrilled at the much discussed weekend clash between the two championships.
“I deeply regret this clash between the WEC and Formula E which could have been avoided,” Prost said. “However, we have to move forward and we are very pleased to welcome Pierre Gasly. Racing in New York is going to be a challenge as he makes his Formula E debut at the end of the championship.”
Driot added, “This situation is regrettable because even without this clash, the championship is not a certainty. Despite this unfortunate setback, I hope that with Pierre Gasly’s invaluable assistance, Renault e.dams will be able to defend its winning chances in Montreal.”
Buemi holds a 32-point lead over Lucas di Grassi heading into the weekend with a maximum 58 points possible during the pair of races (157-125). Rosenqvist, who’s third in points, is outside that gap to overtake on only 86 points scored, 71 back of Buemi.
In the team’s championship, Renault e.dams holds – fittingly – a 58-point lead over ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport, 229-171.
Sebastien Buemi’s one-day dip in luck took a swing back on Sunday in the second Berlin ePrix round of the FIA Formula E Championship season, as the Renault e.dams driver took his sixth win on the season in eight races.
Buemi was excluded from Saturday’s race owing to illegal tire pressures, after driving from 14th to sixth place on the road. That became fifth following a five-second time penalty assessed to Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne for an unsafe release from his pit stop.
Yet it was unsafe release that switched the outcome and the results around on Sunday, with race one winner Felix Rosenqvist issued a 10-second time penalty from the stewards for an unsafe release from his stop.
The Mahindra Racing driver had dominated the opening stage of the race from pole and led Buemi into the pit stops on Lap 23 of the 46-lap race, as he sought a repeat of his Saturday win.
But Rosenqvist was released into the path of teammate Nick Heidfeld, who was pitting from 13th place, which forced Heidfeld around the outside of Rosenqvist and nearly into another team’s pit gantry. Heidfeld stopped his car without contact while Rosenqvist, despite being held up, still exited the pits ahead of Buemi.
The penalty assessed to Rosenqvist meant he would need to push even harder to ensure a 10-second gap to then-third placed Lucas di Grassi of ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport was still there, even though he won on the road.
So while Rosenqvist was first across the line, it was Buemi who was the winner on the day.
“It was a bit on a plate (with the penalty) but I’m really happy,” Buemi told Formula E’s Dario Franchitti on the cooldown lap.
Di Grassi came third following a sterling move on Vergne for third into Turn 1 on Lap 33, aided in part by FanBoost but with Vergne unable to defend. It was a move Daniel Abt, di Grassi’s teammate, wasn’t able to repeat a lap later before Vergne started to fall further back in the later stages of the race.
Abt did make it through eventually with Jose Maria Lopez also doing so on Lap 40 in his DS Virgin Racing entry to complete the top five.
Sam Bird, Lopez’s teammate, was next to take a run at Vergne over the next several laps with Nico Prost of Renault e.dams having a front row seat to the battle. But Vergne held off Bird and Prost for sixth.
Oliver Turvey was ninth for NEXT EV NIO while Heidfeld ended 10th in the final points paying position.
Rosenqvist wasn’t the only one penalized on the day. Faraday Future Dragon Racing’s Jerome d’Ambrosio received a drive-through penalty for his pit stop not meeting the minimum required time on pit lane. That brought Heidfeld, who’d started last and risen as high as 10th in the first stint but used more energy doing so, back to the final points paying position in 10th.
In a cool touch of fan engagement, Formula E gave one lucky fan the chance to present the podium finishers with their trophies after the race.
The New York City ePrix from the Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn is next, July 15-16. Like Berlin this weekend, it’s a doubleheader weekend.
Buemi entered the day with a 22-point lead over di Grassi and will gain 10 points back with the 25-15 points score this race. The Swiss driver is not expected to race in New York, owing to his FIA World Endurance Championship commitments the same weekend at the Nürburgring with Toyota Gazoo Racing.
With di Grassi finishing second to first-time winner Felix Rosenqvist of Mahindra Racing, it brought the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport driver to within 32 points of Buemi (142 to 110) unofficially, with Buemi having scored 10 points and di Grassi banking 21 – 18 for second and three for pole.
Now though, with Buemi excluded, that is now a 21 to 0 points gap, and it has halved the margin from 43 points entering race one to 22 points going into Sunday’s race two.
And with Buemi set to miss the New York City ePrix next month, a doubleheader race, owing to his FIA World Endurance Championship commitments with Toyota Gazoo Racing, suddenly what looks like a foregone conclusion that Buemi would waltz to the Formula E season three title has been turned on its head.