Monaco ePrix Preview: Di Grassi vs Buemi

Ryan Ashenhurst
Ryan Ashenhurst
Ryan Ashenhurst
Contributor

The Mexican ePrix wasn’t just a good advert for Formula E, but also for racing in general. It was a tense affair in which the fight for the lead was in a fine balance, with a fantastic bottlenecking turn-one causing carnage and overtaking throughout the race. 

Lucas Di Grassi’s race started very badly after losing his rear-wing on the first lap after a massive shunt from behind, but the ABT SCHAEFFLER AUDI SPORT team nailed his staggered strategy, and the Brazilian ended up winning emphatically. His biggest rival in the Championship, Sebastien Buemi, had been perfect in 2017 up until this point, with a hat-trick of wins in the opening three rounds. In Mexico, he lost all momentum of his race by spinning his Renault e.dams car all by himself, losing positions and missing out on a points finish, although he was able to get the fastest lap and earn a point.

It means that Buemi’s monopoly at the top of the standings looks much more vulnerable heading to the Monaco ePrix, and Lucas Di Grassi finds himself chasing the Swiss driver with a small gap of five points. Is the upcoming ePrix the most important for Di Grassi in terms of really defining a shift in momentum, or will Buemi be too fast to catch once again?

With overtaking naturally more difficult around the Monaco circuit, the battles in Superpole might have more significance, and the proneness for a turn one pile-up means that you don’t want to be a driver stuck in the middle of the pack.

turn1

Buemi has said a few things recently that could rile Lucas Di Grassi, the championship leader reckons that the Brazilian driver has been lucky so far. He said,

“I don’t want to sound rude but because they (Lucas Di Grassi) made mistakes it turned out to be some luck, again. I mean in qualifying in Hong Kong, he had a crash and because of that he had an accident in the first lap and because of the accident and because of this there was a Safety Car, they tend to have a very risky strategy in Mexico and in Hong Kong and it worked out very well. So congratulations to them but I am not sure it will be like that every weekend, so clearly I’m going to focus on not doing mistakes myself but they have made quite a few this season already.”

– Sebastien Buemi

Whilst it’s true that some circumstances have fallen in Di Grassi’s favour this season, it was a strong recovery drive last time out, and Di Grassi didn’t bottle it going into turn one either! The best case scenario for a dramatic race would see these two starting on the same row.

buemm

Speaking of luck, Mahindra Racing haven’t had the best of times in the past few ePrix. After putting down a strong benchmark in the opening two races, the team were on the wrong end of two incidents in the past two races that has prevented them from  finishing higher up the order, where the car looks to be.

In Mexico, one Mahindra car took a spin after getting tagged by Prost and the other collided with it, an accident that prevented the team from bagging crucial points once again. This incident followed a race in Argentina in which a strong looking alternative strategy looked to place Rosenqvist in contention for the podium, but his second car wouldn’t start in the pits, and he lost all of the momentum. Monaco is a tricky place to try and bounce back given the high amount of incidents expected, but Mahindra will be determined to rekindle the form they showed earlier on in the season.

With Jaguar Panasonics points finished in Mexico, they leapfrogged Monaco-based Venturi in the standings. It puts a bit of pressure on Engels and Sarrazin to try and bag a few points this weekend at what is the teams home race.

Di Grassi’s win in Mexico has put a marker down to Buemi, that this season won’t be a walk in the park and at Monaco, a place where there is a high yield of retirements, the championship momentum could really make a big swing.