Sebastien Buemi has remained undefeated after three rounds of the 2016-17 FIA Formula E Championship by taking victory in the Buenos Aires ePrix.
In doing so, the Renault e.Dams racer has become the first driver in Formula E history to win three consecutive ePrix and moves his tally of total wins in the series to nine. Combining the three wins scored by teammate Nicolas Prost over the first two seasons, this gives the Renault e.Dams team 12 race victories, exactly half of the 24 Formula E races held to date.
From the race start, the top three on the grid of Lucas di Grassi, Jean-Éric Vergne and Buemi moved away in order, however it was clear that the Renault powertrain in both Buemi’s factory car and the customer Techeetah of Vergne had the edge over the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport car of di Grassi.
It was not long before Vergne and Buemi were both past the Brazilian – less than three laps in fact – and not long after Buemi outbraked Vergne into Turn 1 to take the race lead.
The Swiss driver then set about building a comfortable margin to the field and was almost six seconds ahead of Vergne as the car swaps approached. Behind Vergne, di Grassi continued to struggle, progressively losing places to the NextEV NIO of Oliver Turvey and the second Renault e.Dams of Prost.
Buemi’s hopes of cruising to victory changed with his second car. A left-to-right braking imbalance made it difficult for the Swiss driver to pull his car up in a straight line, and while the pre-pitstop gap allowed some breathing space to manage the problem, the issue saw Vergne to begin to creep closer.
Turvey endured a slow pit stop to lose track position to di Grassi, ultimately falling well off the pace with overheating issues in his second car and winding up in ninth position. Having narrowly avoided a collision with Nelson Piquet Jr as he exited his pit box, di Grassi was far more competitive in his second car. The ABT driver re-passed Prost into Turn 1 to secure third place before setting his sights on the leading pair.
Ultimately closing the gap was a bridge too far for di Grassi, leaving Buemi to manage his lead and take the win by 2.996 seconds over Vergne, who claimed the first podium result for the new Techeetah team. Di Grassi took the final spot on the podium, despite coming under investigation for his pit stop release.
Post-race Buemi was ecstatic to take a third successive victory, highlighting the importance of managing his race from the front.
“At the start of the race, I took it pretty easy for a couple of laps to see where we were, and we had the pace to pass the other guys. I have to say I had everything under control and I got quite a bit of a margin,” he recalled.
“Then on the second car we had some more issues on the brakes, so it was quite difficult to actually drive the car – the car was not braking straight. At the end of the day, you know in this category there is no point in having a big gap, because if you use energy to create a gap and then you have a safety car, all the energy is gone. So the best thing is to have a little bit of a gap, that makes you feel safe, so if you made a little mistake you could get it back.”
Vergne lauded his team’s effort to come so far so quickly, reaching the podium in only the third ePrix for the Techeetah squad.
“Obviously I’m really happy, we are a new team and we came from very far away – and didn’t have any testing like all the other teams had. New beginnings, new engineers, new powertrain, new everything,” he beamed.
“We solved the struggles we had in Hong Kong and Marrakesh. I think the whole team did a fantastic job, working really, really hard, sometimes many hours overnight and in the end it paid off. I had a good car and I’m really happy – so a big thank you to the team and I think if we can have a weekend without a mistake, I’m sure we can put the focus into getting a win.”
Third place was seen as a consolation for a philosophical di Grassi, after the struggles with his first car placed his challenge on the back foot early.
“In the end, it was a good weekend and a good day for us. Clearly we are not on the pace of the Renaults,” he said, underlining his fears that the French squad had once again steamrolled the opposition.
“I had the opposite of what Seb had. My first car was a bit of a mess, going everywhere, oversteering much more than expected, it was quite low on grip overall and I couldn’t drive it. I just tried to carry it to the pits and then after the car change, the second car was good. I managed to catch back Nico and I overtook him, I opened a gap and caught JEV a little bit. It’s part of this championship, the cars – sometimes they change for very little reason or a very little change makes a big difference.”
Behind the top three, Prost crossed the line in fourth ahead of Piquet Jr. Loïc Duval placed sixth for Faraday Future Dragon Racing, while Daniel Abt moved into seventh – ahead of Jérôme d’Ambrosio – on the final lap of the race.
Turvey followed in the second NextEV NIO and local favourite José María López moved up from eighteenth on the grid following a disastrous qualifying session to claim tenth and the final championship point in his home ePrix.
The Argentinian benefited from a five-second penalty handed to Mitch Evans for passing under yellow flags, which pushed the Kiwi out of the top ten and back to thirteenth place – what would have been the first championship point for Jaguar since its return to international racing will now need to wait until at least the next round in Mexico.
Felix Rosenqvist set the fastest race lap in his Mahindra, with the bonus point providing some comfort to Swede who finishing three laps down after his second car failed to start readily.
Buemi (75 points) now holds a commanding 29-point lead over di Grassi in the Drivers’ Championship standings. This new gap is large enough that the Brazilian could win the next race and score the bonus points for pole and fastest lap and would still be – at absolute best – at least one point behind Buemi.
With the second Renault e.Dams of Prost sitting third in the Drivers’ Championship on 36 points, the factory Renault team are also dominating the Teams’ Championship with 111 points, 51 ahead of ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport.
The fourth round of the FIA Formula E Championship will be held at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City on Saturday April 1.
|2017 Formula E Buenos Aires ePrix – Final Classification (37 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.DAMS||37||45:45.623||25|
|2.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Techeetah||37||+ 2.996||18|
|3.||Lucas di Grassi||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||37||+ 6.921||18*|
|4.||Nicolas Prost||Renault e.DAMS||37||+ 8.065||12|
|5.||Nelson Piquet Jr||NextEV NIO||37||+ 9.770||10|
|6.||Loïc Duval||Faraday Future Dragon Racing||37||+ 35.103||8|
|7.||Daniel Abt||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||37||+ 35.801||6|
|8.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Faraday Future Dragon Racing||37||+ 36.335||4|
|9.||Oliver Turvey||NextEV NIO||37||+ 37.111||2|
|10.||José María López||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||37||+ 38.206||1|
|11.||António Félix da Costa||MS Amlin Andretti||37||+ 43.740|
|12.||Stéphane Sarrazin||Venturi Formula E Team||37||+ 44.243|
|13.||Mitch Evans||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||37||+ 44.918|
|14.||Robin Frijns||MS Amlin Andretti||37||+ 49.683|
|15.||Nick Heidfeld||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||37||+ 51.456|
|16.||Ma Qing Hua||Techeetah||36||1 lap behind|
|17.||Adam Carroll||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||36||1 lap behind|
|18.||Felix Rosenqvist||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||34||3 laps behind||1^|
|NC.||Maro Engel||Venturi Formula E Team||Not Classified|
|DNF.||Sam Bird||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||Retired|
* For claiming pole position (3 pts)
^ For posting the fastest lap of the race (1pt)
Image via FIA Formula E Championship