A spectacular crash from Sébastien Buemi in the second Free Practice session of the afternoon was the talk of the Montreal pitlane before qualifying began. He clipped the wall on the first part of the high-speed chicane, which sent him careering into the barriers on the exit. A damaged monocoque gave his Renualt team plenty of work to do to repair the car in time for the race, and replacing damaged components would result in a ten-place grid penalty.
The incident meant that the next time Buemi would face the chicane again would be in his qualifying group — when he will be sharing the track with championship rival Lucas di Grassi.
But before that, both Faraday Future cars had been drawn in the first qualifying group. They, like all the drivers in group one, left it late to leave the pit lane. Unfortunately for Jerome D’Ambrosio, he left it too late, and failed to cross the start/finish line before the chequered flag signalled an end to the session. Consequently, he can only take the time set on his “warm-up” lap onto the starting grid.
Of the drivers who got their timing right, his team-mate Loïc Duval set the fastest time, at just under 1:23. Daniel Abt was close behind him, but there was a significant gap back to Sam Bird — who could not to set his lap time at maximum power — and Nelson Piquet Jr — who was well off the pace and complained of low grip.
In group two, Stephane Sarrazin left it late to set the fastest overall time, taking 0.8 seconds out of Duval’s time. Sarrazin had not had the best of practice sessions earlier in the day, so his performance came as somewhat of a surprise. Nico Prost, under pressure this weekend to protect his team’s interests, took provisional second and Robin Frijns also made it into the top five. Neither José María López (who also couldn’t set a time at 200kW) nor Antonio Felix da Costa could break into the Super Pole group with ten drivers still to race.
Group three, top three
The championship’s leading three drivers were all drawn in group three. Initially, all eyes were on Buemi to see how he would take the chicane. If he had any nerves, they weren’t on show, and he set the fastest first sector of the session then held the advantage all through the lap and took provisional pole. Of course, it wasn’t long before attention switched to Lucas di Grassi, who crossed the line moments later with an even quicker time. A very impressive final sector put him ahead of Buemi by three-hundredths of a second. Mahindra’s Felix Rosenqvist was also fast enough for provisional P-4.
None of the drivers in the fourth and final group were able to challenge. Adam Carroll took P-8, just one behind his team mate Mitch Evans, capping a solid session for the Panasonic Jaguar team. Nick Heidfeld’s car appeared to have far too much oversteer, and he was unable to challenge.
Sam Bird being unable to qualify for Super Pole meant his chances of winning the driver’s championship were officially over. But with Sébastien Buemi’s penalty (applied after qualifying results) demoting him to the midfield, the results of this session would play an important role in shaping the battle for points.
Nico Prost was out first, setting an impressive time of 1:23.330. Felix Rosenqvist, now the only other championship contender, suffered a number of lock-ups in the early stages, and couldn’t improve on the time. But Stephane Sarrazin put in a very tidy lap and was able to topple Prost by 0.12 seconds.
Buemi was out next. By the end of the first sector, he was already a tenth of a second up, an advantage he still held when he crossed the line. But once again, Di Grassi pulled an incredible performance out of the bag, taking another two-hundredths out of the time. So not only will the Abt Schaeffler Audi driver start on pole (Buemi back in 12th), but he has closed the gap between him and Buemi to seven points.
- Lucas di Grassi (Abt Schaeffler Audi)
- Stephane Serrazin (Techeetah)
- Nicolas Prost (Renault)
- Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra)
- Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah)
12. Sébastien Buemi
- Sébastien Buemi – 157 points
- Lucas di Grassi – 150 points (-7)
Image: Aftermath of Buemi’s FP2 crash © Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press