Passion was showing when the penultimate round of the FIA Formula E Championship was run in Montreal, and there was drama regarding the top of the Championship even before the race started.
In the second free practice we saw Sebastien Buemi hitting the barrier very hard with his Reanult e.dams Z.E. 16, where he totally damaged it. It meant that his mechanics had to start building a brand new car, and unfortunately for the Swiss driver, he had to get a new battery too, which gave him a 10-grid penalty.
Lucas Di Grassi started the race from Pole Position, and thereby caught 3 points on Championship leader Buemi. Buemi had to start the race from 12th, after qualifying second. Instead it was Stephane Sarrazin who would start second ahead of Felix Rosenqvist, who gained the third place, after Nico Prost was found underweight during the Super Pole and thus moved down to 4th.
Sam Bird and the DS Virgin Racing team had to start all the way back in 18th, after they had to reprogramme their software in the car. An error made it impossible to use the 200kW for qualifying, but only 168kW. The reason for the reprogramming was because they were notified by FIA prior to the qualifying, that they had some power spikes. It wasn’t any problem for the race, unless they were to get fan-boost, which wasn’t the case. Teammate Jose Maria Lopez got a bit more out of the car but could only manage 16th.
Panasonic Jaguar Racing had their best qualifying of the season with Mitch Evans qualified 6th right ahead of teammate Adam Carroll in 7th.
Lucas Di Grassi got a really good start and fended off Stephane Sarrazin towards turn one. On the other hand, it was a terrible start for Sebastien Buemi, who fell all the way back to 17th out of the 20 drivers. He managed to get one position during the first lap.
Mitch Evans made a good start into 4th. When Nico Post, Adam Carroll and Jean-Eric Vergne had a bit of close encounter through the first turn, and therefore lost out to Evans.
It was quickly clear that Buemi was in trouble, with his steering wheel not being straight after a contact on lap 1. He still managed to work his way through the feel, and after 10 laps into the race, he was back at his starting position – P12.
Di Grassi had a good lead, but he had used 3% more of power than the guys following him. So he had to safe power, to not run out of it at the end.
On lap 14 we saw a collision between Loic Duval and Nick Heidfeld. The contact broke Heidfeld’s front suspension, and with limited steering, the German couldn’t steer it back to the pits, without hitting the wall. It all started when Heidfeld tried to overtake Duval, while Duval closed the door, and that cost the suspension for Heidfeld, and only a harmless spin for Duval. Duval was, however, awarded a drive-through penalty for the collision.
That started a huge flurry of pitstops, where everybody but Adam Carroll dived into the pits.
That lead to a huge drama. Going into the pitlane, Buemi was slowed by Daniel Abt. Abt drove a bit slower than the allowed 60 kph in the pitlane, which the Swiss driver didn’t like at all, which he showed with a lot of arm waving towards the German, all the way through the pitlane.
Sebastien Buemi made a fast pitstop and came out right ahead of Daniel Abt, almost taking his front wing off. Buemi suddenly slowed in the pit exit, and that made Abt hit the rear of Buemi’s car. That resulted in a lot of French spoken swear words on the team radio, and even more arm waving.
After the pitstop round we still had Di Grassi leading, ahead of Vergne and Sarrazin. Buemi was op to 8th, so it wasn’t that bad, after at all.
With 10 laps left of the race, Jose Maria Lopez lost his car under braking, and ended up in the concrete wall. That send out a Safety Car on the track, to get the car recovered and the track cleaned.
That made the whole feel get back together and with around 50% left on all batteries, it was going to be a crazy 8 final laps.
Lucas Di Grassi made a great restart, and shortly after, Sebastien Buemi made it easy past teammate Nico Prost. That send Buemi all the way up to 5th, trying to hunt down Felix Rosenqvist in 4th.
Buemi suddenly slowed a bit with some technical problems, and lost speed. That meant Daniel Abt could also get past Prost and then start to put Buemi under high psychological pressure.
Antonio Felix Da Costa went into a spin, when he tried to overtake Nelson Piquet Jr around the outside, and the two made contact. After a quick spin, the Portuguise driver could rejoin in 16th.
With only 4 laps left of the race, Felix Rosenqvist hit the barrier and pushed the rear toe out of alignment. Thereby Buemi and Abt could quite easily get past him, while Prost eventually had a bit of problems passing, but then got past.
Buemi was flying and quickly caught Stephane Sarrazin, which is also his Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate from the FIA WEC, but that gave him no favours at all. Techeetah use the same power train as Renault e.dams, which potentially could lead to being a bit more friendly with the Swiss driver. But that didn’t happen and the two drove very hard on each other through 3 corners, where there was a lot of pushing and shoving. Sarrazin could stay in front at the end.
Jean-Eric Vergne put Lucas Di Grassi under hard pressure through the final laps of the race, but the Brazilian managed to claim his third victory of the season, ahead of the two Techeetah teammates Vergne and Sarrazin.
After the finish of the race, emotions boiled for Sebastien Buemi. He had to walk all the way from Parc-ferme at pit entry, all the way to his team at the end of the pitlane. During that walk he shouted and discussed with Robin Frijns, Antonio Felix Da Costa and not the least at Daniel Abt. In his opinion, he was hit by Frijns and Felix Da Costa on lap one, and damaged his car.
For the first time this season, Sebastien Buemi isn’t leading the Championship, which is now lead by Lucas Di Grassi.
We can expect even more drama in the race tomorrow, when the FIA Formula E Championship will be decided.
Update – Sebastien Buemi’s car was weighbridge post race, and was then found to be under the required minimum of 880kg. The team had forgotten to check the car after their complete build up of the new car. That resulted in Buemi being disqualified from the race, and instead of just being a few points behind Lucas Di Grassi, he is now 18 points behind. It has impact in the Teams Championship too, where Renault e.dams is only 33 points ahead of Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport.