The third season of the FIA Formula E Championship reaches its finale this weekend with the double-header Montréal ePrix.
The Championship showdown
The race for both the Drivers’ and Teams’ Championship titles is still alive. Four drivers are still mathematically capable of winning the championship – Sébastien Buemi, Lucas di Grassi, Felix Rosenqvist and Sam Bird – but for Rosenqvist and Bird, their title chances are remote.
Bird is 57 points behind leader Buemi, with a maximum of 58 available in Montreal. The Briton, who claimed victory in both races at the New York ePrix a fortnight ago – needs to win both races, take both pole positions and the bonus points for fastest lap of both races, while the dominant driver of the year in Buemi cannot score a single point.
The tie-breaker for ending on equal points is a count-back of race wins, in which Buemi holds an unassailable lead over all his rivals. Bird would also need to score at least 47 points more than di Grassi (winning the title via a 4-1 count back of race wins in that case), and at least four more points than Rosenqvist.
At four points closer to Buemi than Bird, Rosenqvist’s challenge is barely any easier. While not requiring the bonus points for either of the fastest race laps, the Swede still needs to win both races from pole position without Buemi scoring all weekend. Additionally, the Mahindra Racing driver – who has enjoyed an impressive rookie campaign – requires at least 43 points more than di Grassi to take the title.
Given how slim their chances are, the reality for Bird and Rosenqvist is that one – and quite possibly both – will see their title challenge end in Saturday’s qualifying session.
The real title battle, for the second consecutive year, is between Buemi and di Grassi. With Buemi having missed the New York ePrix double header two weeks ago due to clashing race commitments in the World Endurance Championship, the Swiss driver holds a 10 point lead over di Grassi heading to Montreal.
If di Grassi wins both races from pole position he will win the title, regardless of Buemi’s performance across the event. Based on his statistics across the season to this point, Buemi has scored 19.6 points per race – a repeat of this in both Montréal races would require di Grassi to win one race and finish on the podium in the other at a minimum to snatch the title.
With these scenarios clear in his mind, di Grassi has openly admitted ahead of the final event to being the one under pressure to close the gap and win the championship.
“We are 10 points behind so the pressure is on me and I will do the best I can and try to do a good race – two good races,” he said. “To be honest the final is Sunday, tomorrow is just the 11th race of the season, so we are going to try to score as much points as possible and weigh up the risk and reward.”
Conversely, Buemi is clearly comfortable as the man being hunted.
“I try to prepare as normal not try to use energy thinking about my performance in the race. I try to look at it like the other race. We know that when we get things right we are normally up there in performance so my main objective is just to try to achieve that,” he added.
If results fall the right way, he could lock up the title in Saturday’s race, requiring 19 points more than di Grassi on the opening day of the event to do so. Even if he doesn’t do so, simply finishing one point behind his Brazilian rival (so long as di Grassi isn’t the winner of both races) will make Buemi the first multiple Formula E champion – and he has to be the favourite to achieve the feat this weekend.
The Teams’ Championship fight is also still alive, but in reality less competitive.
Buemi’s Renault e.Dams team has a 65-point lead over di Grassi’s ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport outfit – the only other team capable of lifting the trophy.
With Buemi having been so strong all year, and team mate Nicolas Prost having consistently scored points, it’s hard to see the French team lose its lead this weekend.
The real action in the Teams’s championship may in fact come in the battle for second. ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport are only 12 points ahead of the Mahindra squad, which seems to have become stronger and stronger as the season has progressed.
Outside of the four Drivers’ Championship combatants, there are a selection of drivers capable of springing a surprise and scoring a strong result in Montréal and potentially playing a spoiling role.
Prost one possibility to take the win from outside the top four championship runners. Similarly, Nick Heidfeld – Rosenqvist’s teammate at Mahindra – has found himself on the podium and has become more competitive as the season has rolled on. As one of the drivers who have competed in Formula E since its inauguration, the 40-year old German would love to round out season three with his first Formula E victory.
Jean-Éric Vergne was the ‘best of the rest’ behind Buemi early in the 2016/17 campaign, but incidents and failures in more recent rounds has seen the Techeetah driver fall to seventh in the standings. The Frenchman will be aiming to regain his early season form and round out his team’s first season in Formula E in style.
Like Buemi, José María López missed the New York ePrix to race for Toyota in the WEC, and is also back in the field for Montréal. López will be looking to consolidate his current eighth place in the championship with a front-running weekend at Formula E’s first event in Canada.
|Montréal Street Circuit|
|Location||Montréal, Canada||Circuit Length||2.75 km / 1.71 mi|
|Opened||2017||First Formula E Event||2017|
|Direction||Clockwise||Lap Record||Not yet established|
As has been the case for most Formula E events, the Montréal ePrix track is a street circuit in the heart of the city.
It is a new layout, and is a completely separate venue to the city’s famous Circuit Gilles Villeneuve – home of the Canadian Grand Prix. At 2.75 kilometres in length, the circuit is a longer course by Formula E standards, and runs clockwise through 14 turns. Of particular note is the elevation changes in the circuit, climbing from Turn 3, and descending from Turn 5.
Turn 1 will provide a strong passing opportunity at the end of the long start/finish straight, making the run through the Turns 11-14 ‘bus stop’ style chicane complex (which ends the lap) critical to either completing a pass or defending position.
The sweeping run onto the back straight out of Turn 5 will also see drivers looking to set up an overtake into the ninety degree, right-handed Turn 6, with the ninety-degree corners through Turns 7 (left handed) and 8 (right handed) likely to see passing duels continue through the Turn 9 kink and into the hairpin at Turn 10.
Both days of the Montréal ePrix follow the same program, commencing with the 45 minute opening practice session from 08:00 local time (UTC -04:00), ahead of Practice 2 running for 30 minutes from 10:30. The first qualifying group his the circuit at 12:00, while the green flag for each day’s race will be waved at 16:00.
|2016-17 FIA Formula E Championship – Montréal ePrix|
|Date||29-30 July 2017||Free Practice Session 1||Sat & Sun 08:00-08:45|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat & Sun 10:30-11:00||Qualifying||Sat & Sun 12:00-13:00|
|Race||Sat & Sun 16:00-17:00|
Session times quoted in Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -04:00)
Images via FIA Formula E Championship