Di Grassi’s time arrives with 2016/17 Formula E Title

After an intense double header weekend in Montreal, Lucas Di Grassi finally took his first Formula E title, after Sebastien Buemi had a nightmare end to what looked to be a dominant season…

After Buemi skipped the New York ePrix’s, he only had a ten point championship lead going into the last two races of the year in Montreal and his rival Di Grassi had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Buemi had taken six wins compared to Di Grassi’s one, but the clash with the WEC Nurburgring round and the New York races saw him choose the former with his Toyota team. Despite the shrunk title lead due to this decision he could not forsee the horrific weekend he was to endure as Di Grassi had the weekend of his dreams.

Source: FIA Formula E

The nightmare for Buemi started with a crash in FP2 for the first race, which saw the team have to rebuild his entire second car. He managed to qualify in second place but a ten place time penalty for the work done on the car saw him start the race in twelfth place. And guess who was on pole? Di Grassi. The three points for pole saw the lead reduced from 10 to 7 points and Buemi really had his work cut out. He had to minimise any damage Di Grassi could do to his lead, because it looked like he could enter the final race behind the Brazilian in the standings.

Source: FIA Formula E Twitter

The first race saw Di Grassi storm away at the front of the field before taking a narrow win over Jean-Eric Vergne, who chased him hard in the final part of the race. Buemi meanwhile lost out big time with a very conservative start, dropping to near the back of the pack and suffering bent suspension due to a collision with Robin Frijns. Then during the pitstop, he was rammed at the rear by Di Grassi’s teammate Daniel Abt who was livid with Buemi. The pair had entered the pits in the reverse order but a very unsafe release from the Renault team saw him jump Abt, who subsequently rear ended Buemi exiting the pits, merging onto a track that was under full course yellow conditions thanks to a retirement from Nick Heidfeld.

As Di Grassi won, Buemi fought hard to get up to fourth place and a thrilling last lap duel with Stephane Sarrazin saw him just miss out on the podium. He had limited the damage well to his rival. But it would all be for nothing. He was disqualified from the race due to the work done on his repaired car, the virtually new machine being under the minimum weight requirement. He was now 18 points behind Di Grassi after having a near 50 point lead nearing up to New York. He really had his work cut out on Sunday and a post race tirade directed at Frijns, Antonio Felix Da Costa and Daniel Abt would certainly not help.

If he thought the following day would go any better, it didn’t. A disastrous qualifying saw him start the race in P13 with Di Grassi eight places ahead in P5. The pressure had well and truly gotten to Buemi, and it was perhaps a sign that he should never have taken that huge championship lead for granted. Yet incredibly, the nightmare was not over yet! He was hit on the opening lap by Da Costa of all people and was given the black and orange flag, his right rear bumper hanging off the car. It shook itself off, but the team still brought him in only to send him straight back out..

Source: FIA Formula E

He was now in last place and whilst Di Grassi was in the lower half of the top ten, it was still plenty to secure his first Formula E title. From lap three of the final race of the year, Sebastien Buemi lost all grip he had on retaining his crown and it went to Di Grassi. He finished in sixth place, winning the title by 24 points.

The supporting act meanwhile put on a brilliant show as Vergne took his first ever win in the series after three years of trying ahead of Felix Rosenqvist and Jose Maria Lopez, all three putting on a great performance and Vergne’s hard work at three teams (Andretti, Virgin and Techeetah) finally paying off. It puts him in a great position to be a real championship contender in the 2017/18 Formula E season.

The weekend belonged to Di Grassi. This championship looked like a big ask just a month or so ago, but determination and luck saw him vanquish perhaps the fastest driver in the series. But being the fastest doesn’t guarantee anything. It’s about being the complete package time and time again. Lucas Di Grassi’s time finally came this year, and it was just reward for perhaps the most complete, and best driver in the series.