You’d have been forgiven for thinking the Buenos Aires ePrix was going to cause a few upsets.
Heading in to the first race of 2016, Buemi and DiGrassi seemed to be in a two horse race for the Drivers’ Championship; their respective teams Renault eDams and ABT separated by two points. And then Buemi spun in qualifying, and starting right at the back.
High temperatures were once again a concern for the teams. Many feared a the problems in Putrajaya would once again come to the fore. Buemi famously suffered a software malfunction in the second round of the season, costing him the lead of the race. The teams were also faced with keeping the batteries cool whilst under constant attack from the Buenos Aires sun.
Sam Bird stormed to pole, his first for DS Virgin Racing. Nico Prost, Buemi’s team-mate lined up in second. Last year’s winner, Antonio Felix da Costa, qualified third, whilst Lucas di Grassi could only manage 7th. Jean-Eric Vergne was forced to miss both free practice sessions after suffering from food poisoning, only just feeling well enough to take part in qualifying. He started 11th.
So with the favourite for the Championship starting right at the back, it appeared that all was to play for. However Sebastien Buemi wasn’t about to let anyone else join the party.
In fact, before the field had filtered round the first bend, Buemi was up into 15th, taking three cars in one corner.
He then started to strategically pick off the rest of the field, performing the same move at the same point in the circuit. A safety car played right into his hands, deployed as a result of Antonio Felix da Costa’s stricken Aguri car.
After everyone re-emerged from the pits, Buemi was up into fourth. A similar stunning move on Stephane Sarrazin moved him up into third, with only Lucas di Grassi and Sam Bird in his way and victory so close he could almost taste the champagne.
Only the win managed to elude Buemi. Sam Bird made a clean getaway at the start, and slowly started to storm to victory. However battery issues and oversteering late in the game brought Di Grassi and Buemi back into play.
Both Di Grassi and Sam Bird were FanBoost winners; both planned to use it at the same point after the safety car as the Brazilian attempted to oust the Brit.
However, neither appeared to manage to deploy FanBoost – Di Grassi complained over team radio it had not worked, and FIA Formula E commentator Jack Nicholls revealed that the boost can only be used if the car has more than fifty percent of usable energy remaining.
Di Grassi was then passed by Buemi and finished the race in third.
The last few laps were then fraught with looks and defensive moves by Buemi and Bird, and for a moment it seemed that the Swiss was about to make the ultimate comeback from his qualifying error. Ultimately, Sam kept his (figurative) cool and denied Buemi a final overtake.
— Sébastien Buemi (@Sebastien_buemi) February 7, 2016
Lucas DI GRASSI
Nelson PIQUET JR
Simona DE SILVESTRO
Antonio Felix DA COSTA (DNF)
Salvador DURAN (DNF)