Sebastien Buemi put even more daylight between himself and his Formula E championship rivals by taking victory in today’s Buenos Aires ePrix. It is his third win in succession in season three.
The result marked Buemi’s first success in Argentina. After wins in Hong Kong and Marrakesh, the Swiss driver has extended his title lead by 29 points over Lucas di Grassi, who had to settle for third place despite starting from pole.
Di Grassi made a rocket getaway at the start of the race, keeping second-place starter Jean-Eric Vergne behind him. JEV, in turn, managed to keep Buemi back. This initially gave di Grassi some breathing room but he could not open up an early lead after a full course yellow was called on the first lap. Jaguar’s Adam Carroll had failed to start when the lights when out, but eventually got some life back into his I-Type car just before the field lapped him.
The race return to green on lap two, with Vergne wasting little time in turning the heat up on di Grassi at the front. Vergne managed to hustle his way through on lap three, throwing di Grassi into the clutches of old friend Buemi, who gladly took the chance to relieve the Brazilian of second place. The two Renault-powered runners were now line astern up front.
Buemi being Buemi, sitting in second wasn’t his style. After getting a good run through the final corner, Buemi dived into Vergne’s slipstream before dipping out and diving down the inside at Turn 1 to take the lead for Renault. To make matters worse for di Grassi, Oliver Turvey had now slipped through to third place. The Brazilian’s plight worsened when Nico Prost also got past and, with Nelson Piquet close on his tail, his woes were far from over. The pace of season two seemed to be missing, although he did have a partially-rebuilt car to contend with.
Another man wishing he could party like it was 2016 was Sam Bird. One year on from his titanic victory in Buenos Aires, the Brit was resigned to an early retirement from the race when he suffered damage to his rear suspension. Jaguar’s Adam Carroll also had a setback, receiving a drive-through penalty for speeding under the full course yellow, while Maro Engel was forced to pit due to damage on his Venturi machine.
As the pit stop window neared, Buemi showed few signs of relenting in the lead. The Renault e.dams driver sat more than five seconds clear approaching half distance, an impressive feat given Vergne was being powered by the same Renault powertrain. The Techeetah driver was a full five seconds clear of Turvey, who in turn was running short on available energy compared to his rivals, forcing him into an early stop.
With Turvey, Evans and Loic Duval stopping early, the majority of the pack came in one lap later at the end of lap 19. Buemi managed to retain his lead ahead of Vergne, while Turvey tumbled down the pack. Prost was now third, with di Grassi fourth, although the ABT racer was set to come under scrutiny after nearly hitting Piquet in the pit lane.
Mahindra rolled the dice by keeping both Felix Rosenqvist and Nick Heidfeld out one lap longer, giving them a chance to push late in the race with more energy in hand. However, Rosenqvist’s hopes were dashed when his second car refused to start. By the time the Mahindra crew had resolved the issue, Rosenqvist was a lap down and his hopes of points were over.
After swapping cars, di Grassi seemed more comfortable and settled, allowing him to close up on the back of Prost. A mistake coming out of the final corner from Prost opened a door to di Grassi, who launched himself up the inside at Turn 1 to reclaim third place. Damage limitation mode activated.
Di Grassi began to turn up the wick as he went in pursuit of Vergne, only for the ex-Toro Rosso Formula 1 racer to react in kind. With the gap stabilised at two seconds, the battle for P2 looked to be over.
The one certainty was that victory was out of reach for everyone except Buemi. Armed with FanBoost, the defending champion managed to stretch his legs when needed, eventually coming home with an advantage of 2.9 seconds over Vergne, with di Grassi following home in P3. Or so it seemed: in typical Formula E fashion, the stewards confirmed they would be investigating di Grassi’s pit stop release, putting his result at risk.
Prost followed di Grassi home in fourth (the third race in a row he’s finished P4, in fact) with Piquet fifth, marking the season one champion’s best result since the first London race in 2015. Loic Duval and Jerome d’Ambrosio picked up some good points for Dragon in P6 and P8, enjoying a spirited battle to the line, with a late charge from Daniel Abt allowing him to split the pair. Turvey limped home in ninth for NextEV, with Jose Maria Lopez taking a point for P10, giving the home fans something to celebrate.
Mitch Evans’ early pace wasn’t enough as he wound up in P11, agonisingly close to Jaguar’s first Formula E point, while Antonio Felix da Costa was P12 for Andretti ahead of Stephane Sarrazin and teammate Robin Frijns. Nick Heidfeld was 15th ahead of Ma Qinghua, who finished over a minute behind teammate Vergne, while Adam Carroll and Felix Rosenqvist were the final finishers, the latter setting the fastest lap. Sam Bird did appear back on-track late on to try and get the fastest lap himself, only to crash out.