BUEMI MAKES IT A HAT-TRICK
FORMULA E ACTION RETURNS IN ARGENTINA
ebastien Buemi chalked up a little piece of Formula E history last weekend, becoming the first driver in the fledgling series’ two-and-a-bit seasons to record three victories in a row.
It may have taken more than three months for the electric single-seater championship to move from round two to round three, but Buemi made sure he picked up exactly where he left off in 2016.
This was not just another Buemi win though, it was arguably his best yet. In Argentina he faced his biggest test yet – and passed with flying colours.
Buemi was outqualified on merit by Lucas di Grassi – who earned his first Formula E pole in the process – and Jean-eric Vergne, who has threatened great pace with his customer Renault powertrain since the start of the season. Buemi didn’t look massively confident in qualifying, after a disrupted couple of practice sessions left him with only one real 200kw effort and no real long runs. He didn’t go in blind, but he was compromised.
Come the race, he went wheel-towheel with di Grassi – his rival of the past two seasons – and Vergne – a man with the same powertrain as Buemi. That’s the first time this season he’s really had to do that – and, given Buemi’s always kept team-mate Nicolas Prost at arm’s length, it’s the first time in Formula E’s open powertrain era Buemi’s had an ‘equal’ on track.
Successive moves on di Grassi and Vergne were ruthless to rise from third to first in the opening six laps. First, Buemi reacted immediately to Vergne passing di Grassi for the lead on lap three, following him through into second two corners later. His dive inside Vergne to move to the head of the field, from some way back, was met with no resistance but was consummate nonetheless.
Then, as only Buemi really can, he bolted. The hard work for this win was done in the middle of the opening stint, with a succession of laps in the 1m11s as his rivals barely made it out of the 1m12s. That marriage of blistering speed when needed, without eating into the amount of useable energy, is now a Buemi/renault hallmark.
It gave Buemi a five-second cushion heading into the car swaps, and the job looked done. But a braking problem with his second car and a resurgent Vergne once he’d swapped one Techeetah for another ensured this was not easily earned. “I came here for three years in a row and I was more or less quickest each time ,” said Buemi. “I lost first year because of a mistake and second year as well,” he said. “It was important to make sure I could do a good job this year.”
As Vergne slashed the gap from five seconds to two, Buemi made his only error of the race, a wobble under braking for Turn 1 on the penultimate lap. The Swiss driver composed himself after that “little mistake”, though, and comfortably extended his gap with a superb final lap that eventually put him 2.8s clear at the flag.
“At least I could put some pressure on him,” Vergne accepted. “I’m sure he’s going to go to sleep happy but he knows he’s got an opponent who is really hungry for victories and has the whole package now.
“From the beginning of the day I had one car that was a second slower, I have no idea why. I knew it was going to be a tough stint and it was. That’s why I didn’t try to fight Seb. In the second car the pace was much faster than him – that’s our real pace and that’s what everybody can expect for the next race.”
Behind Vergne, di Grassi was a relatively comfortable third – though he dropped behind Nextev’s Oliver Turvey and Prost in the first stint. A slow outlap from Turvey, who swapped cars a lap earlier than the other front runners, meant di Grassi emerged from the pits back in fourth, and he made little work of Prost to bag his second podium of the season. A post-race stewards investigation into an unsafe release, after di Grassi and Nelson Piquet Jr narrowly avoided contact in the pits, threatened that rostrum but di Grassi’s punishment was merely a reprimand and a fine. It means he remains Buemi’s nearest challenger but is 29 points adrift.
Turvey fell back to ninth as he struggled to manage his battery temperature in the second stint, while fellow Brits Sam Bird and Adam Carroll had miserable races. Bird qualified poorly after topping practice and contact early on set the tone for a race that was spent at the back and then ended prematurely after he shunted into the wall. Carroll failed to launch initially and sparked a full-course yellow – he just managed to get his Jaguar I-type 1 going before falling a lap down, but then sped under the caution he instigated and picked up a penalty.
Buemi claimed a win hat-trick
Chasing) put up a stern challenge Di Grassi (leading) and Vergne (
lead Swiss driver has a healthy points