Getty Images

Buemi’s Formula E title hopes set for red-eye test in Mexico

Leave a comment

Sebastien Buemi may have swept the opening three races of the 2016/17 Formula E campaign with wins in Hong Kong, Marrakesh and Buenos Aires, but the Renault e.dams driver is set to face his toughest challenge to date in Mexico this weekend.

Because as well as taking on the usual pretenders at the front of the Formula E field, Buemi will also battle against a foe arguably greater than them all: jet lag.

For while the majority of the Formula E grid ventures to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City on Friday to carry out the usual media duties and pre-race shakedown, Buemi will only arrive on Saturday, having flown overnight from Milan in Italy.

Buemi will be at Monza on Friday to launch Toyota’s new TS050 Hybrid car that will race in this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship ahead of the two-day ‘Prologue’ test over the weekend.

While Buemi himself will not be testing, he will nevertheless be making the jaunt over the Atlantic once his duties with Toyota are complete, getting in to Mexico City early on Saturday morning. Opening practice is due to start around 8am local time.

It will be the toughest test Buemi’s title challenge has faced thus far. The Swiss driver dominated proceedings in all three of the opening races, battling through to claim victory with great confidence. The Renault e.dams package is the class of the field in Formula E this year, and the same can be said of Buemi.

Quite how he battles the tiredness inevitable after a flight – even if he’s unlikely to be traveling in coach – will be of particular intrigue.

The circumstances of Buemi’s weekend could open up an opportunity for his chief rivals who have no WEC commitments to worry about at Monza, primarily Lucas di Grassi and Jean-Eric Vergne.

Di Grassi lost his place in WEC following Audi’s withdrawal from LMP1 at the end of last year, and although he is keen on appearing at Le Mans, it does not look like the Brazilian will be embarking on a full campaign in the endurance series.

The ABT Schaeffler team has been Renault’s closest challenger through the first two Formula E seasons, with di Grassi being in the title race at the final round in both years. After Buemi’s flying start to season three, Mexico offers a big, big opportunity for di Grassi to cut the gap.

The same opportunity exists for Vergne, who, despite signing up with Manor in WEC for 2017, will not be in Monza. The Frenchman may race for one of the leanest teams on the grid in Techeetah, but races with the same Renault powertrain as Buemi, making him a serious contender for victory.

Vergne finished second in Buenos Aires after setbacks in the opening two races, and arguably has his best shot yet at a breakthrough Formula E victory on Saturday in Mexico City.

For Buemi, there is the added concern that he will most probably have to miss the New York City double header in July due to commitments in WEC at the Nürburgring. His lead may already be a substantial 29 points, but with a possible loss of 50 to his rivals later in the year, every point in Mexico will be crucial.

Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

Leave a comment

Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”