Switzerland’s Sebastien Buemi had six wins and led the 2016-17 FIA Formula E Driver Championship for 293 days, but his rival, Brazilian Lucas DiGrassi, led the final 25 hours and emerged as the champion in a dramatic final weekend doubleheader in Montreal.
Heading into the final weekend of the third Formula E season, Di Grassi trailed Buemi by 10 points, but gained three points by claiming the pole for Saturday’s race then led all the way to claim his second victory of the season for Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport. That vaulted him into the lead heading into Sunday’s final race where he finished sixth to claim the championship.
A Difficult Journey
“This journey to the Formula E championship started three years ago and we have finished third, then second, and now first,” said DiGrassi.
“We finally came here as the underdog, but had the nerves to do it. I am so happy for the Abt teams and Audi. This season was tough. I had one race (Germany) with a broken fibula, but winning the championship means a lot to me.”
The Turning Point
The driver’s championship took a dramatic turn on Saturday when late in the second practice session, Buemi’s Renault e.DAMS machine brushed the left wall of the fast final chicane with his left front tire, putting his car heavily into the exit section of the chicane.
While Buemi was fortunate to escape uninjured, his car was heavily damaged. The battery was also damaged which required replacement and an automatic 10 position grid penalty. His Renault e.Dams crew proved equal to the task and built up a spare tub in the five hours available.
A Valiant Effort
As Di Grassi led from the start of Saturday’s race, Buemi was swamped and bumped at the start, damaging his steering and dropping to 16th place in the 20-car field. He had moved into 10th at the mid-race car swap and regained the track in eighth position, skillfully moving his way to fourth place at the finish in a car that had never turned a wheel.
That effort appeared to leave Di Grassi with a slim six-point lead for Sunday’s race where a win could still earn Buemi the title.
It all proved for naught when Buemi’s car was later disqualified for being underweight in the post-race inspection. That increased the gap to Di Grassi to 18 points.
Di Grassi now needed to bring his car home in the top six in Sunday’s race to claim the championship even if Buemi were to win, but Buemi struggled in qualifying, starting 12th and breaking a rear bodywork panel after being at the start. That necessitated a pit stop on lap 3 of the 37-lap race. He returned to climb to 11th place at the finish, but Di Grassi safely brought his car home in sixth position to claim his first championship.
Three in a Row For Renault e.Dams
It was a bittersweet day for the Renault e.DAMS team, as they prevailed to claim a third consecutive Formula E Team Championship.
After the race, the growth and increasing competitiveness =in Formula E by both drivers and teams was noted by Renault’s Alan Prost who called it “very good for the series.”
Reflecting that competition and the global nature o f the series, the top five drivers in the championship came from five different countries—Brazil, Switzerland, Sweden, England, and France. The top five teams are from France, Germany, India, France and China. The United States teams finished within one point of eachother with MS Amlin Andretti taking seventh and Jay Penske’s Faraday Future Dragon Racing eighth.
Lucas Di Grassi 181
Sebastien Buemi 157
Felix Rosenqvist 127
Sam Bird 122
Jena Eric Vergne 117
Renault DAMS 268
Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport 248
DS Virgin 190