Buemi brings Renault home glory in Paris

Sébastien Buemi has extended his championship lead yet further with pole position and a commanding victory on his Renault team’s home soil in Paris.

2016/2017 FIA Formula E Championship.
Qatar Airways Paris ePrix, France.
Saturday 20 May 2017.
Sebastien Buemi (SUI), Renault e.Dams, Spark-Renault, Renault Z.E 16, sprays the chanpagne on the podium after winning the race.
Photo: Alastair Staley/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _X0W5897

The Swiss driver became this season’s first repeat polesitter earlier on Saturday, narrowly seeing off the challenge of Jean-Éric Vergne by just six-thousandths of a second. Behind them a resurgent José María López qualified third for DS Virgin ahead of Super Pole first-timer Esteban Gutiérrez, who started from the second row thanks to a motor change penalty that demoted Oliver Turvey from fourth to fourteenth on the grid.

At the race start Buemi used his pole advantage to hold the inside line against Vergne, as the Frenchman tried to seize the lead around the outside of Turn 1 but was forced to back off and settle into second.

With the momentum lost so early, Vergne then seemed to stall—as Buemi streaked off into a three second lead, Vergne was unable to keep check and appeared to even be holding up López and Nick Heidfeld, who had taken fourth from Gutiérrez off the line.

Further back, Daniel Abt made heady progress from sixteenth on the grid to twelfth despite picking up some slight contact damage in the first corner, whilst Felix Rosenqvist looked to follow in the tracks of his teammate as he put pressure on Gutiérrez for fifth.

Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
Saturday 20 May 2017.
Daniel Abt (GER), ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport, Spark-Abt Sportsline, ABT Schaeffler FE02.
World Copyright: Steven Tee/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _R3I3631

In the early stages the race settled into something of a procession, as the four more laps than last year’s Paris ePrix put energy saving on the teams’ minds.

But on lap 20 there was heavy contact between Lucas di Grassi and António Félix da Costa at Turn 7. Di Grassi—fighting in the lower points after a poor qualifying performance—was closing an out-braking move on da Costa for thirteenth, but when he moved across to claim the apex of the corner, da Costa’s nose was still alongside and the two entangled cars dragged each other into the barriers.

Although di Grassi was able to keep going, da Costa’s race was over and his beached Andretti triggered a full-course yellow.

So close to the halfway mark, most drivers opted to pit during the neutralised period to change cars. Initially the timing appeared to be a boon for di Grassi, with the stop negating any damage suffered in the crash with da Costa, but instead it only added to his troubles—after leaving the pits almost ten seconds below the minimum stop time, race control shortly handed di Grassi a drive-through penalty.

Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
Saturday 20 May 2017.
Antonio Felix da Costa (PRT), Amlin Andretti, Spark-Andretti, ATEC-02.
World Copyright: Steven Tee/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _R3I2891

When racing resumed on lap 23, Buemi found his gap to Vergne had been slashed to under two seconds in the pits and, with a series of fast laps, the Frenchman rapidly set about reeling in the race leader.

But on lap 34 an apparent steering issue left Vergne’s Techeetah unable to make the exit of Turn 13, and for the second race in succession he found himself exiting the car early as the safety car was deployed.

Vergne’s retirement left second place to be inherited by López, improving what was already his best-ever Formula E result, and brought Heidfeld into position to repeat his podium finish from Monaco last week.

But as far as the race lead was concerned, neither driver was close enough to assume Vergne’s pursuit of Buemi, and so when the chequered flag fell on lap 49 the podium positions remained unchanged.

2016/2017 FIA Formula E Championship.
Qatar Airways Paris ePrix, France.
Saturday 20 May 2017.
Jose Maria Lopez (ARG), DS Virgin Racing, Spark-Citroen, Virgin DSV-02.
Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _W6I8285

 

There was more drama late in the race when di Grassi crashed out, bringing his unusually below-par weekend to a premature end. With his drive-through penalty already putting pay to any major points haul, the ABT team elected to call di Grassi back into the pits and retune his car for a fastest lap attempt—only for the Brazilian to put it in the barrier at Turn 8 just two laps from the end.

The resulting safety car meant the race result was sealed, and by taking pole and the win whilst his rival failed to finish Buemi extended his title lead to 43 points over di Grassi, the largest it’s been all season.

Renault e.Dams also extended its lead over ABT Schaeffler Audi to 75 points: with Nico Prost’s fifth place contributing to Renault’s biggest total points haul of the season, the gulf was widened even more when seventh-placed Daniel Abt broke down on the final lap and dropped out of the points altogether.

Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
Saturday 20 May 2017.
Daniel Abt (GER), ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport, Spark-Abt Sportsline, ABT Schaeffler FE02.
World Copyright: Steven Tee/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _R3I3631

Mahindra also took a solid team finish with Felix Rosenqvist following Heidfeld home in fourth, which now puts them within 27 points of ABT in the teams’ standings. Robin Frijns took Andretti’s first points since Hong Kong in sixth, and Nelson Piquet claimed more valuable points for NextEV in seventh.

Gutiérrez had been on course to claim at least a few consolatory points for Techeetah despite losing several places early in the race, but a five-second time penalty for speeding under full-course yellow meant the Mexican was classified in twelfth place instead.

But Techeetah’s pain meant pleasure for the teams at the bottom of the championship. After a strong home race in Monaco, Venturi logged a double points finish with Stéphane Sarrazin in tenth and Tom Dillmann, making his series debut standing in for Maro Engel, taking his first Formula E points in eighth. Mitch Evans finished in ninth place between them—his and Jaguar’s third points finish in a row, which elevates the British marque to eighth in the teams’ standings above Dragon Racing.

James Matthews, Deputy Editor

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