With crashes in practice, qualifying laps both heroic and scruffy, and a mixed-up grid fighting all through the race, no one could deny the 2017 Buenos Aires ePrix was full of surprises—and yet, for all that the result was still all too familiar.
The Puerto Madero street race began like every other round this season, with the grid headed by a driver sitting on their maiden pole position. This time it was the turn of Lucas di Grassi, who saw off Super Pole challenges from Jean-Éric Vergne and Sébastien Buemi by holding a lap together in the dusty conditions despite not having the fastest car.
But although he made a good getaway off the line, di Grassi could not hold on to the lead for long. Driving a chassis that had undergone repairs for a practice crash earlier in the morning, the Brazilian struggled with his setup and lacked the grip to fend off the Renault power of Vergne and Buemi.
On lap three Vergne moved his Techeetah into the lead, though the Frenchman remained there little longer than di Grassi before Buemi breezed through the inside of the turn one hairpin.
Once in front, the championship leader stretched his legs into a five-second lead over Vergne by the time of his pit stop on lap eighteen. Vergne gradually ate into that margin during the second stint of the race, but even with Renault power of his own he was unable to prevent Buemi from cruising home to a third straight victory and another 25 championship points.
Vergne followed Buemi across the line in second to collect the Techeetah team’s first podium, whilst di Grassi came through behind to complete the rostrum.
The podium had looked unlikely for the di Grassi as he struggled early in the race, and was passed by both Oliver Turvey and Nico Prost. But in his more stable second car, the polesitter’s confidence improved—and with Turvey dropping to sixth after being forced into an early pit stop, a comfortable pass on Prost’s inside was all di Grassi needed to take his second podium of the season.
Prost remained where di Grassi left him to take a third consecutive fourth place ahead of Nelson Piquet, who finished where he started after another strong qualifying performance saw both NextEV drivers round out the Super Pole shootout.
Dragon Racing bounced back from a poor outing in Marrakesh with Loïc Duval and Jérôme d’Ambrosio finishing sixth and eighth respectively; the two were split by Daniel Abt, the German putting in a solid recovery drive from fourteenth on the grid. Turvey dropped to ninth in the end as he struggled with energy conservation throughout the race, and home favourite Lopez put his qualifying crash and resulting back row start behind him to take tenth place.
Mitch Evans narrowly missed out on claiming Jaguar’s first Formula E points on Saturday—one of the stars of qualifying, Evans started from seventh and ran within the top ten for most of the race, but through energy saving and a five-second penalty for speeding under a full course yellow dropped to thirteenth in the end.
Also unlucky were Buemi’s Marrakesh podium-mates, Felix Rosenqvist and Sam Bird—the former scuppered when his second M3Electro refused to start in the pits, and the latter retiring early after being sandwiched between d’Ambrosio and the wall.
The 2016–17 Formula E season resumes in six weeks time in Mexico City. With his win in Buenos Aires, Sébastien Buemi will enter round four with a 29-point buffer to di Grassi, whilst his Renault e.Dams team continue to rule the teams’ standings on a mighty 111 points.
James Matthews, Formula E editor