Buemi wins Formula E title despite crashing with di Grassi in London decider

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LONDON, UK – Sebastien Buemi has been crowned the second FIA Formula E champion after a dramatic deciding race in London that saw him collide with title rival Lucas di Grassi on the first lap at Battersea Park.

Di Grassi started third behind pole-man Buemi and his Renault e.dams teammate Nico Prost in P2, but a good start saw him get a run on the pair heading towards Turn 3.

Di Grassi failed to stop his car in time for the corner, though, punting into the back of Buemi in a move that sent both into the wall and appeared to end their races. Tied on points, both retiring would have handed the championship to di Grassi on countback.

However, both managed to get going again, returning to the pits to switch to their second cars before engaging in a bizarre – at times, farcical – game of cat and mouse in a bid to set the fastest lap of the race, three points on offer for the fastest man.

In a bid to gain track position, both drivers spent extended periods in the pits, with di Grassi even laying in wait to try and compromise Buemi’s lap at points.

However, when Buemi managed to find some space, he produced the fastest lap by 1.5 seconds, leaving di Grassi with an enormous challenge to fight back and take the title away.

Di Grassi found some space after a trio of safety car periods, but fell 0.05 seconds short of Buemi’s lap time. The Swiss driver then put the final nail in the coffin by finding a further four-tenths of a second, leaving di Grassi – sat in the pits, watching his rival – to get out of his car and declare: “It’s over”.

Bizarrely, neither di Grassi nor Buemi were classified, yet with the fastest lap, Buemi had done enough to secure the title by two points. After being met by his team, he burst into tears as the enormity of the achievement sunk in.

The Buemi-di Grassi scrap aside, there was still a race to be won. Coming off the back of his victory on Saturday, Prost managed to double up for Renault e.dams, finishing seven seconds clear of Daniel Abt in second place. The result also secured a second straight teams’ championship for Renault e.dams.

Jean-Eric Vergne finished the race third on track ahead of Nick Heidfeld and Antonio Felix da Costa, only for the trio to be hit with a post-race penalty for hitting 0% power on the last lap. As a result, Jerome d’Ambrosio was promoted to third place in the final results (having finished sixth on track) ahead of Dragon Racing teammate Loic Duval and Venturi’s Stephane Sarrazin.

Vergne, Heidfeld and da Costa were therefore demoted to P7, P8 and P9, while outgoing champion Nelson Piquet Jr. rounded out the points in P10. MS Amlin Andretti drivers Robin Frijns and Simona de Silvestro both retired early on, as did Sam Bird at his home event.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

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Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

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Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
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Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.