Almost 100 days have elapsed since Sébastien Buemi won in Marrakesh to take the second round of the 2016-17 FIA Formula E Championship season.
With this huge gap between events that rivals some off-seasons in length now over, the championship season resumes for its third event – the Buenos Aires ePrix – on Saturday February 18.
|2016-17 FIA Formula E Championship – Buenos Aires ePrix|
|Date||18 February 2017||Lap Length||2.480km|
|Free Practice Session 1||Sat 08:00-08:45||Free Practice Session 2||Sat 10:30-11:00|
|Qualifying Group 1||Sat 12:00-12:06||Qualifying Group 2||Sat 12:10-12:16|
|Qualifying Group 3||Sat 12:20-12:26||Qualifying Group 4||Sat 12:30-12:36|
|Super Pole||Sat 12:45-13:00||Race (37 laps)||Sat 16:00-16:50|
Session times quoted in Argentina Time (GMT -03:00)
Buenos Aires becomes the first city to host three Formula E events, as competitors once again take to the twelve-turn, 2.48-kilometre Circuito de Puerto Madero.
Both previous trips to the Argentinian capital have produced intense races for different reasons. In the inaugural event, António Félix da Costa took what would be the only victory for Team Aguri by winning a race that due to a range of crashes, failures and penalties for the leaders seemingly no-one wanted to win.
Last year we saw a lights-to-flag victory for Sam Bird, but it was not without its challenges. A storming drive from the back of the grid by Sébastien Buemi saw the Swiss driver pressure Bird in the closing stages, but the Briton held on for his third Formula E win.
Being late summer in South America, the ever-present heat plays a part in racing at Circuito de Puerto Madero. This not only affects the drivers, but also the performance of the cars – especially energy management and regeneration – as Bird described in his experience of last year’s event.
“Last year was difficult not only for the energy, but the battery temperature,” he recalls, “because when we go there it tends to be quite hot. If we lose regen, boy this race will be really, really tough in terms of energy, so you need to manage that. The best and easiest areas to manage your energy are Turn 1, 4 and a bit at Turn 7; everywhere else is just a little topping it up.”
Being the major braking points on the circuit, those corners not only provide the key energy regeneration points, but also key passing locations on the circuit.
These three corners – along with the Turn 5 hairpin – were the locations where Buemi made his way through the field during last year’s race, while Bird used his mid-corner speed advantage through the ‘follow my leader’ Turns 8 to 12 to manage the gap to the chasing pack over the rest of the lap.
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Having won both of this season’s races so far, Buemi has to be seen as the favourite once again this weekend. Whilst Buenos Aires has not featured in any of his previous eight Formula E victories, both years have shown the Renault e.Dams driver has the pace to win here – as well as last year’s drive through the field, Buemi crashed out of the lead after taking pole in the inaugural race here. Victory this weekend will also make Buemi the first driver to win three consecutive ePrix.
Being the third Buenos Aires ePrix, for the first time historical statistics can be used to get a feel of who else may contend. This points to both Bird and the second Renault e.Dams of Nicolas Prost being at the front of the pack. Both drivers have the equal highest average finishing position (fourth place) over both previous races around the Circuito de Puerto Madero, ahead of Venturi’s Stéphane Sarrazin, NextEV NIO’s Nelson Piquet Jr, and Mahindra’s Nick Heidfeld. In qualifying, Bird has the best grid average of 2.5 across both Argentinian events.
Beyond the drivers with previous success in Buenos Aires, both Audi Sport ABT cars of Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt are likely to challenge yet again, while there will also be focus on two newcomers to the series.
Mahindra’s Felix Rosenqvist scored his first Formula E podium in only his second event at the last race in Marrakesh and will likely be aiming towards more of the same in this event.
Reigning three-time World Touring Car Champion José María López – who scored his first Formula E point last time out – will compete in his home ePrix for the first time.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, the Argentinian local hero is focused on a solid result in a category he is still acclimatising to.
“My expectations are high, for sure I want to get my best result so far in Formula E but I know my limitations,” he said in the pre-ePrix media press conference. “I’m still not 100 per cent in the car, I’m still understanding things. Things are not coming to me naturally yet, I think I have prepared quite a lot for this weekend. I have much more experience than I did in Marrakesh and Hong Kong.”
Championship organisers have made tweaks to the FanBoost process ahead of Buenos Aires, with the voting period being shortened by a week, now having opened on the Monday of the race week. The ability to vote via Instagram has also been removed.
The 2017 Buenos Aires ePrix will commence with opening practice at 08:00 local time (UTC -03:00), with race start scheduled for 16:00.
Images via LAT Images