Sebastien Buemi comfortably won the Buenos Aires ePrix, but it was the drama behind the leading Renault e.dams car that kept the race alive.
The Story of the Race
At the start of the race, Lucas Di Grassi got away from his first ever pole position slot well, and Adam Carrol suffered the opposite level of luck, his Jaguar unable to get away at all near the back of the grid.
The running order remained static until lap three, with Jean Eric Vergne, who started on the front-row for the new Techeetah team, pulling a brave move up the inside of Di Grassi going into turn one, the French driver took the race lead. Di Grassi’s DS Virgin Racer looked unbalanced in the opening stint and the Brazilian fell too easily into the clutches of Sebastien Buemi, who followed Vergne through and took second.
Buemi’s teammate Nico Prost was fighting his way through the field, executing a good move on Piquet Jr on lap five with Rosenqvist’s Mahnindra looking threatening behind the NextEv racer too.
On lap six, Buemi charged up the inside of turn one after closing the gap to Vergne’s lead. The French leader seemed to lethargically leave the door open and didn’t make it difficult. He was possibly considering energy preservation, hoping to take the fight to Buemi towards the end of the race.
On the same lap, Oliver Turvey, who was running very well in fourth, managed to take the struggling Di Grassi with a tight move going into turn four. The running order stayed the same until lap eight as drivers focused on energy preservation.
The drama continued on lap eight, with Duval pulling a bold move on Sarrazin for the final points position and Sam Bird completing a weekend of poor luck by picking up damage on the same lap. The British driver was the race winner in Buenos Aires last season, evidently he’d used up all of his luck in that race.
By lap twelve, Nico Prost had made gains on Di Grassi and hunted the Brazilian for the final podium place, the French driver utilised the Brazilian’s line at turn four and stuck the e.dams up the inside.
At this point, Jaguar Racing looked good for their first points of the season with Mitch Evans doing a solid job in eighth, but the Kiwi’s battery usage was fairly critical at this point.
Another protagonist of the race was the local Jean Marie Lopez, who had started from the back after a bad qualifying session. The hone crowd was cheering their man and he found a new turn of pace during the race. On lap fourteen, the DS Virgin racer started to climb the order with a risky move on Ant Felix Da Costa for 15th place – The recovery drive was on.
The following lap, it was clear that Felix Rosenqvist and the Mahindra Team were trying a different strategy, the Swedish driver had preserved 3% more energy at this point and it was beginning to look like he was hoping to benefit from a clear pit-lane and also have a good reserve of energy at the end of the race for an aggressive push.
By lap sixteen, Buemi had managed to extend his to JEV by 4.5 seconds, but further back, an eTrain was forming as the battle for third heated up. Piquet Jr had latched onto a three-way scrap for third between Di Grassi, Prost and Turvey.
Di Grassi was clearly struggling with either balance generally or a suspension not set up to his liking, he seemed to be taking to the kerbs conservatively.
The first drivers to make the car change were Turvey, Evans, Duval and Engel on lap nineteen, with the rest of the field barring the Mahindra cars following suit on lap twenty. In the pits, there was a dramatic moment as Lucas Di Grassi was unsafely released into the path of Nelson Piquet Jr, the two came very close to crashing, which would have been a disaster for both drivers. Di Grassi would later receive a penalty for the unsafe release.
Rosenqvist came in the next lap from the lead having stayed out an extra lap, but his preservation all came unstuck when his second car wouldn’t start. The team had tried a different strategy that looked like it would reward with a net-gain, but the disaster in the pits saw the Swedish driver emerge a lap down on the rest of the pack.
As the race settled into its second phase, Jean Eric Vergne got Techeetah’s hopes up as he started to close Buemi in on lap 28, the gap reducing to 3.5 seconds. Backing in 10th, Daniel Apt deployed his fanboost to keep the snappy Robert Frijns at bay and Mitch Evans in ninth was making it his mission to catch the FFDragon Racers ahead.
Heidfeld had made his mind up at this point too and seemed fed up of being in midfield obscurity, the german pulled an aggressive move on Sarrazin for 12th and then took Frijn’s on the next lap too.
Sarrazin fell back still as Lopez continued to make up for a poor qualifying, taking 13th.
At the front, JEV continued to close in on Buemi, the gap reducing to 2.5 seconds as Felix Rosenqvist set the fastest lap for Mahindra, giving the team at least a point after a difficult weekend.
Lopez took another place on lap 35, taking Frijns and getting himself into the final point-scoring position. The following lap, a potential disaster loomed between the Dragons of Jerome D’Ambrosio and Loic Duval as the inter-team battle heated up for 7th. The teammates made contact, without damage, and Duval managed to get beyond D’Ambrosio.
At the checkered flag, Buemi extended his lead in the standings after collecting a maximum 75 points from three races, the first time this has happened in Formula E so far.
Jean Eric Vergne’s second place brought 18-points to the Techeetah team, propelling them up to fifth in the Constructors after a disappointing opening two races. Di Grassi had a much stronger second stint and finished third, followed by Prost, who completed his own hat-trick in the opening of this season with another fourth.
Piquet managed fifth, a good result for NextEV with the Faraday Future Dragon racer of Loic Duval finishing just behind. Apt took seventh, D’ambrosia eighth with Oliver Turney ninth. Rounding out the top ten, having come through the field from the back, was Lopez, who had driven his racing gloves to get there.
In conclusion the race was entertaining behind Buemi, and the Swiss driver’s struggles in the second stint saw JEV get close, but never threaten. Mahindra Racing will regret Rosenqvist’s race, the Swedish driver was on for solid points having done something different strategy-wise. Mitch Evans had a solid race too, but only managed 11th for jaguar, who are yet to get off the mark in 2017.