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Formula E – Title fight to go to the final race as di Grassi wins Montreal opener


Sebastien Buemi puts in impressive drive through the field but is disqualified for a technical infringement

FIA, Formula E, Montreal ePrix, 2017

The first race of the double-header finale to the 2016/17 FIA Formula E Championship season was full of excitement and drama, as the two title protagonists, Sebastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi had very different race days.

Renault e.dams’ Buemi came into the event with a ten-point advantage over his Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport despite having missed the last race in New York City, however his day didn’t begin well with a heavy crash in the second free practice session. As a result of the incident, the team was forced to change the battery, landing the reigning champion with a ten-place grid penalty meaning he would start in 12th.

Di Grassi, meanwhile, had a faultless morning, setting the fastest time in the first practice session and then putting his car on pole position to secure what could be three vital championship points.

As the lights went out, the Brazilian covered off a fast-starting Stephan Sarrazin, with the Techeetah car slotting into second place. From that point on di Grassi progressively pulled away from the field, while further down the order, Buemi was putting in an impressive comeback drive despite contact on the opening lap resulting in damage to his car.

A Full Course Yellow period at almost half-distance – caused by a coming together between Mahindra’s Nick Heidfeld and Faraday Future Dragon Racing’s Loic Duval which left the Mahindra car stranded on the circuit – saw the majority of the field dive into the pits for the mandatory car change. When racing commenced once more Buemi’s charge continued, punctuated by a fierce battle with di Grassi’s team-mate Daniel Abt.

The Renault driver wasn’t the only one on the move, as both DS Virgin Racing cars started well down the order but were carving their way into points-paying places. While Sam Bird would go on to cross the line in sixth, his stable-mate Jose Maria Lopez lost the rear end of his car and collided with the barriers. The position of his stranded car meant that the safety car was deployed, closing the hard-fought gap built up by di Grassi to almost nothing.

By this point, the Techeetah car of Jean-Eric Vergne had made its way by both Sarrazin and Mahindra’s Felix Rosenqvist into second place, and as the final few laps unfolded he put immense pressure on di Grassi, who held his nerve to take the chequered flag.

A mistake from Rosenqvist and contact with the wall left him to limp across the line in tenth, while in what was a thrilling final lap, Buemi went side-by-side with Sarrazin for three consecutive corners to try and snatch third place. The Techeetah driver wouldn’t yield, however, and made it a double podium finish for the team.

Post-race scrutineering then saw Renault and Buemi’s hard work go unrewarded, as the car was found to be underweight. The FIA stewards took into consideration the difficult circumstances Renault e.dams was forced to work under, but ultimately the penalty was disqualification.

This means that the lead of the championship has changed for the first time this season, and di Grassi now goes into the final race with an 18-point advantage. As today proved though, every round of the FIA Formula E Championship is unpredictable, and with qualifying and a 37-lap race around the impressive Montreal circuit to come, the championship is far from decided.

Behind the intense battle for the podium, Abt was classified fourth, Bird following in fifth with the Renault e.dams driver Nicolas Prost rounding out the top six. Mitch Evans brought home a strong result for Panasonic Jaguar Racing in seventh, ahead of Andretti’s Robin Frijns and Rosenqvist’s Mahindra. Tom Dillmann would take home the final point for Venturi in tenth.

Lucas di Grassi said: “Today, we had our best day in Formula E. I stand here with 28 points at the right moment. So I think the secret is very easy, just keep it calm, try to do the best you can, try to motivate everyone around you, try to push them for the last two races of the championship. In Formula E it can go from good to bad with one decision, so you never know. Today we did the job, tomorrow is a completely different day, completely different environment but we are going to try to do the same as we did today.”

Jean-Eric Vergne said: “I’m so happy for the team and it was brilliant that Stephane was there with me [on the podium. We are getting stronger and stronger and it is a great sign for next season.

“I am very happy with this race I think it was a fantastic one. I’m very happy with this track, it’s amazing. I love the city and the atmosphere is amazing, there were a lot of fans that I could see under the Qualcomm Safety Car period, so a massive thank you to the city of Montreal and all the fans for coming and watching the race, I hope they enjoyed the show.

“As for my race, the start was a bit chaotic, I got hit on the outside and the inside, I lost quite a lot of positions and a lot of ground but I think the speed was absolutely amazing. I thought the car was just perfect and was able to push really hard. I was catching everyone in front, using less energy than them, so I think the strategy was really nice.”

Stephane Sarrazin said: “It’s amazing. I’m new in the team at TECHEETAH so to be back on the podium again is really good. In the race I was missing a bit of pace and JEV [Vergne] was flying and Lucas was really fast at the front. I saw Buemi coming in my mirrors, he braked really late. We were side by side and he touched me a bit, but it was the last lap and I had to defend my podium. I know he’s fighting for the title, but I had to give my best for the team.”

2017 Montreal ePrix (Rd 11) - Race results

  1. Lucas di Grassi, ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport, 56:55.592s (28)
  2. Jean-Eric Vergne, TECHEETAH, +0.350s (18)
  3. Stephane Sarrazin, TECHEETAH, +7.869s (15)
  4. Daniel Abt, ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport, +8.592s (12)
  5. Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing, +8.913s (10)
  6. Nico Prost, Renault e.dams, +10.058s (8)
  7. Mitch Evans, Panasonic Jaguar Racing, +10.457s (6)
  8. Robin Frijns, Andretti Formula E, +15.836s (4)
  9. Felix Rosenqvist, Mahindra Racing, +16.764s (2)
  10. Tom Dillmann, Venturi Formula E, +19.320s (1)
  11. Jerome D'Ambrosio, Faraday Future Dragon Racing, +20.229s
  12. Maro Engel, Venturi Formula E, +22.314s
  13. Nelson Piquet Jr, NextEV NIO, +23.145s
  14. Antonio Felix da Costa, Andretti Formula E, +34.786s
  15. Oliver Turvey, NextEV NIO, +46.996s
  16. Adam Carroll, Panasonic Jaguar Racing, +49.612s
  17. Loic Duval, Faraday Future Dragon Racing, DNF (1)
  18. Jose Maria Lopez, DS Virgin Racing, DNF
  19. Nick Heidfeld, Mahindra Racing, DNF
  20. Sebastien Buemi, Renault e.dams, DSQ

Driver standings

Lucas di Grassi, ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport - 175
Sebastien Buemi, Renault e.dams - 157
Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing - 110
Felix Rosenqvist, Mahindra Racing - 106
Jean-Eric Vergne, TECHEETAH - 92
Nico Prost, Renault e.dams - 92


Team standings

Renault e.dams - 267
ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport - 234
Mahindra Racing - 184
DS Virgin Racing - 163
NextEV NIO - 59
Andretti Formula E - 34
Faraday Future Dragon Racing - 31
Venturi Formula E - 29
Panasonic Jaguar Racing - 27