The third Formula E season may only be two races old but Lucas di Grassi is already feeling the pressure as perennial rival Sebastien Buemi begins to stamp his authority on the championship chase.
Di Grassi battled with Buemi for the championship in both seasons one two, the latter culminating in their first lap crash at Battersea Park in what was arguably Formula E’s most controversial moment to date. Buemi emerged victorious that day, but it was clear that while the battle was won, the war would continue.
Buemi has started his title defence in near-perfect fashion. The Swiss driver won in both Hong Kong and Marrakesh, racking up 50 points in the process. Di Grassi, meanwhile, had two difficult weekends. A fightback in Hong Kong resulted in P2 but a struggle for pace in Marrakesh meant he was limited to fifth at the flag. In total, di Grassi has 28 points after two rounds. However, that leaves him nearly an entire race win behind Buemi.
“There’s always pressure, you always have to win,” di Grassi told Current E today. “If we’re able to catch Seb or not will depend more on him than on me. I will have to keep scoring points. This year it’s much more complicated for us because everyone is very close. Compared to the others, we’re not in a position like where we were last year. If we did a good weekend, we’d always finish on the podium. Now it’s not like this anymore; everybody has upped their game massively. It’s very different. You have to extract every single last bit every time. If we don’t, we don’t score points at all. It’s very competitive. Just Renault and Techeetah, which has the advantage because of the drivetrain. They proved in lap time that they can compete.”
Di Grassi’s championship bid may be boosted by the fact that Buemi is likely to miss the New York double header due to the clash with the Nurburgring WEC round. However, it is not a scenario he is counting on.
“To be honest, it’s not something nice,” di Grassi said of the clash. “We would like to have all the drivers doing all the championship. To be honest I don’t know if it’s been made clear that they’re going to miss it or not. Before Audi pulled out [of WEC], I thought about during the clash what would happen to me. You always think about which championship you have a chance of winning. It’s pointless to miss a championship that you can win to finish the other fifth. It’s not very clear [if the drivers will skip New York] and we don’t count on it. We count on all the drivers doing all the races and we have to beat them on-track. Of course each driver, each person can choose their own priorities, but if it was my call I would like to be racing against all of them in all the races.”
No matter the competition, di Grassi remains as focused as ever – and the opportunity to get racing in Buenos Aires is something he relishes.
“It feels like we’re starting the championship all over again,” di Grassi said. “It was a long break but we have this beautiful place now in summer, beautiful track, one of the best if not the best of the season in terms of very wide, long overtaking, all the stuff. It’s really a pleasure to be here again. We just have to now focus on getting the most out of the car.”