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Buemi opens Formula E season three with Hong Kong victory

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HONG KONG – Defending FIA Formula E champion Sebastien Buemi started his title defence in confident fashion with victory in Sunday’s Hong Kong ePrix for Renault e.dams.

Buemi headed up a podium that also featured long-term rival Lucas di Grassi and Mahindra driver Nick Heidfeld, in a repeat result of the top three from last year’s season-opener in Beijing.

However, the race that led to the result was a far cry from the procession in China last fall, with Buemi’s win the result of a perfect strategy call.

Qualifying sprung a surprise as season one champion Nelson Piquet Jr. took his first pole position in Formula E, heading up a front-row lock-out for NextEV as teammate Oliver Turvey qualified second.

While Piquet was able to retain his advantage in the early stages, Turvey slipped back behind Sam Bird and Buemi, who began to reel in the race leader as the car swaps approached.

A crash for rookie driver Jose Maria Lopez turned the race on its head, slamming into the chicane that had caused issues for a number of drivers through qualifying. Piquet was the first driver to arrive at the crash site, and was forced to take to the run-off area so he did not hit the DS Virgin Racing driver. This caused him to slip back to third, handing the lead to Bird.

A safety car period was called as a result of Lopez’s shunt, prompting Renault e.dams to bring Buemi in. DS Virgin kept Bird out, hoping that he could forge a lead by going longer when the race resumed. The Briton pushed until he had just 1% energy left to use in his car before coming into the pits, where an issue meant he could not get away immediately, ending his hopes of victory and points.

This handed Buemi the advantage up front, who now had di Grassi for company. Di Grassi had been caught up in a melee at Turn 2, forcing him to pit for repairs early before coming in a second time for his car swap. The safety car played into the ABT driver’s hands, allowing him to rise to second. Although he could not catch Buemi, the Brazilian was nevertheless pleased after starting way down in P19.

Heidfeld rounded out the podium after following Buemi’s lead on strategy, while Nicolas Prost was fourth in the second Renault e.dams car.

Andretti enjoyed its strongest points haul in Formula E since the Long Beach round in season one as Antonio Felix da Costa and Robin Frijns finished fifth and sixth, the latter bouncing back from a crash in qualifying that left his car in need of a re-build.

Jerome d’Ambrosio was another driver to perfect his strategy, finishing seventh for Dragon after starting down in 18th. Oliver Turvey salvaged some points on a tough day for NextEV, finishing eighth while teammate Nelson Piquet Jr. was P11. Maro Engel finished as top rookie in ninth, with Venturi teammate Stephane Sarrazin following in P10.

Jaguar’s debut did not yield any points, with Adam Carroll its sole finisher in P12, while Felix Rosenqvist scored a point for the fastest lap despite finishing as the last classified driver in P15.

Dutch Grand Prix becomes fourth Formula 1 race canceled this season

EM VAN DER WAL/ANP/AFP via Getty Images
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ZANDVOORT, Netherlands — The Dutch Grand Prix became the fourth Formula One race canceled this season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, after organizers decided Thursday they didn’t want to play host to an event without spectators.

It was to be the first Dutch GP since 1985, but F1 wants to start the season with no spectators at races.

“We would like to celebrate this moment, the return of Formula 1 in Zandvoort, together with our racing fans in the Netherlands,” race director Jan Lammers said in a statement. “We ask everyone to be patient. I had to look forward to it for 35 years, so I can wait another year.”

The race in Zandvoort was set for May 3 and initially postponed. Fans who bought tickets can use them next year.

The coastal circuit has been redesigned, with some corners banked to facilitate faster racing.

The other races canceled this year were the season-opening Australian GP on March 15; the Monaco GP on May 24; and the French GP on June 28.

Another six have been postponed.

F1 organizers still hope to reschedule those and hold 15 to 18 races this season, starting in July with back-to-back races at the Austrian GP.