Another stunning pic by the Master. Image: MANUEL GORIA.
SEBASTIEN BUEMI has made Formula E history by becoming the first driver to win three races in a row.
Victory for the Renault e.dams ace continues the perfect start to his title defence – his ninth win in the all-electric street racing series, and the 12th for the team. Renault e.dams have now won half of all the Formula E races that have taken place.
But, in front of 21,000 enthusiastic fans, Buemi had to work hard for his victory. From his first-ever Julius Baer pole position, Lucas di Grassi (ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport) led away at the start, while Jean-Eric Vergne slotted his TECHEETAH into second.
Di Grassi was struggling with his car and was passed, in quick succession, by Vergne and then Buemi. TECHEETAH uses the same powertrain as Renault e.dams, but there was nothing Vergne could do to stop Buemi charging by into the lead.
Further back di Grassi had slipped behind the impressive NextEV NIO of Oliver Turvey and the second Renault e.dams of Nico Prost, as his struggles intensified.
By the time of the mandatory car change pitstop, Buemi was almost six seconds to the good and seemingly set for an easy win. But the brake balance of the second car was far from his liking, and struggling to slow the car in a straight line, his pace dropped off, allowing Vergne back into the hunt.
Di Grassi too was now a contender. A slow stop for Turvey dropped him out of the podium fight, while an aggressive pass on Prost moved di Grassi back into the top-three. With the car handling much more to his liking he was closing in on both Buemi and Vergne, but the gap was too big for him to overcome.
Three wins in a row has increased Buemi’s lead to a huge 29 points. And after two previous disappointments at the Puerto Madero track, he was delighted to take another win.
“Today, with the heat, there were many other things to manage,” said Buemi. “Especially the temperature of the battery. So 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.
“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.”
Despite never getting close enough to pressure Buemi for the win, Vergne was very pleased to take second – the first podium finish for the new TECHEETAH team.
“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,” said Vergne. “New beginnings, new engineers, new powertrain, new everything. 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.”
Another podium for di Grassi – his 15th in total – keeps him in second place in the championship, but he knows he and his ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport team will have their work cut out to overthrow the dominant Buemi.
“In the end, it was a good weekend and a good day for us,” said di Grassi. “Clearly we are not on the pace of the Renaults. 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.”
For the third race in a row Nico Prost took fourth place for Renault e.dams. Season one champion Nelson Piquet Jr. claimed his best result since his title-winning campaign with a strong fifth for NextEV NIO, while behind him waged a fabulous battle for the remaining points-paying positions.
In the searing heat of a lovely Argentine summer’s day, energy consumption was at a premium, but saving energy in the midst of wheel-to-wheel combat is a tough ask, and it was Faraday Future Dragon Racing’s Loic Duval who ultimately prevailed to take sixth place. Seventh went to Daniel Abt in the second ABT Schaeffler car and eighth to Jerome D’Ambrosio, who’d indulged in a great paint-swapping battle with team-mate Duval.
Turvey finally brought his overheating car home in ninth, while to the delight of the crowd, local hero Jose Maria Lopez grabbed the final point for DS Virgin Racing following a fine drive from the back of the grid after crashing in qualifying.
There was late heartbreak for Mitch Evans, who was on the verge of scoring the first point for the Panasonic Jaguar Racing team, only to slow in the closing stages and drop out of the top-10. The bonus point for the Visa Fastest Lap went to Felix Rosenqvist. The Mahindra Racing driver had been battling with Piquet before the stops, but his second car refused to start up and he was left with having to battle for a consolation point.
The championship now moves to Mexico City and the historic Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, where round four of the 2016/17 season takes places on April 1.
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Edited by AC