Di Grassi, Buemi fired up as Formula E title fight nears conclusion

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BERLIN, Germany – Lucas di Grassi and Sebastien Buemi are cut from a very similar cloth. Both are seasoned racers. Both enjoyed stints in Formula 1 before going on to enjoy greater success in the FIA World Endurance Championship with major manufacturers.

And both are now preparing for a final scrap for the second Formula E title.

Di Grassi and Buemi have been here before. Last season, they were in the running for the championship until the very last race before Nelson Piquet Jr. edged the pair of them in a tense finale at London’s Battersea Park.

This time around, it’s just the two of them who can realistically clinch the title. DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird is their nearest challenger, but with 44 points separating him from di Grassi in the lead, and given the added weight his car carries due to the twin-motor powertrain design, it seems unlikely that the Briton will bridge the gap.

Di Grassi arrives in Berlin not only as motorsport’s man in form. He has crossed the line first in the last three Formula E races, winning two given his disqualification in Mexico, and picked up his first FIA WEC victory for Audi at Spa two weeks ago. Arguably, only Nico Rosberg (F1), Simon Pagenaud (IndyCar) and Kyle Busch (NASCAR) can boast a similar record of late.

Combining this with an 11-point lead over Buemi in the championship, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is di Grassi’s title to lose. The ABT Schaeffler Audi driver does not see it that way though.

“The championship title is completely open and I don’t do calculations,” di Grassi said. “We just try to optimize the weekend.

“Every Formula E race is a completely different race. It’s a very short day for free practice, qualifying and race. One small mistake or one small problem can lead to a bad weekend.

“Of course we try to optimize and get the most amount of points possible. But because there are 90 points still on the table, everything is very open.

“Being in front of the championship or behind or here or there, we just try to get a good weekend.”

Buemi started the season as the overwhelming favorite thanks to the speed of his Renault e.dams powertrain during testing and the dominant victory he enjoyed at the opening round in Beijing.

However, he has not won a race since the Punta del Este ePrix at the end of last year, with qualifying proving to be an Achilles heel for the Swiss racer so far this season. The loss of the planned Moscow race in June gives Buemi one race less to catch di Grassi, but he is not overly concerned.

“To be honest, whether we have one more race or one less doesn’t really matter. Either way, it could be good or bad for one more race,” Buemi said.

“London, everything could happen with the weather and the track is so special. Here, obviously we want to win, we want to do the maximum like Lucas said.

“But you don’t really think about the championship. You want to focus on small details on the build up to the race, to make sure you have a strong car for the race. And then we’ll see.

“We’ll fight hard, we want to score more points than them, but it’s still very open.”

The track in Berlin will be new for all drivers following the move from the old Tempelhof Airport – currently housing thousands of refugees – to the city centre near Alexanderplatz.

It features a mix of short straights, slow corners and quick kinks, with the slower nature of the track posing more of a challenge to drivers in terms of energy management.

“The amount of energy saving here is similar to Mexico, so you guys have an idea in terms of how much it is, which is one of the highest of the season and probably the highest of the season,” di Grassi explained.

“Like I said many times before, I think Renault came for this year with the best package. As you all know, you have to homologate your hardware at the beginning of the year so you cannot change. You have to race what you homologate at the beginning of the year.

“I think they still have the best drivetrain package. They have a lot of know-how. We also have a very good package and we managed to improve in all the areas that we could during the year to try to match them. I think it all goes down to details. Every race is a different race.”

With temperatures set to be higher in Berlin than they were in Paris, the heat issues that cost Buemi with his tires last time out should no longer be a concern, making him more of a threat to di Grassi.

“I think we should be better, clearly. Looks like we will have to do a lot of saving in the race as well,” Buemi said.

“This is good for us to be honest. We will see in qualifying what happens. Paris was difficult because overtaking was difficult.

“If you were not starting at the front, it was making it a bit more difficult, where here I think it’s a bit more open to pass.

“Here we focus as much as possible during free practice and qualifying to make sure we get a good starting position.”

Buemi and di Grassi may be rivals in two series, but they enjoy a strong mutual respect that is often hard to find in racing. This was clear in a thrilling, hard and fair battle during the 6 Hours of Spa when the two went wheel-to-wheel at some of the circuit’s fastest and most notorious corners.

“When we were fighting them, there was one time when Sebastian was overtaking me and I overtook back, and then he overtook me back again very quickly at Blanchimont,” di Grassi said with a smile.

“Racing is about this, it’s about fighting. Everybody has respect for each other, everybody is fighting. It doesn’t matter if we’re fighting with 1,200 horsepower hybrid machines or 300 horsepower electric cars, the fight is always interesting.

“It’s always fun when you have similar equipment and a very high level of drivers. That’s what I like about racing, being able to fight. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

“The respect and the fairness and the fairplay is always important.”

The Berlin ePrix takes place on May 21.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.