What a difference a day makes. Sébastien Buemi started yesterday’s session having wrecked one of his cars in free practice, and facing a ten-place grid penalty. Crucially, however, he was still leading the driver’s championship.
This morning in Montreal, his name had been replaced at the top of the table by his rival Lucas di Grassi’s. After admonishing other drivers in front of the live television cameras, his friends were few. His team-mate would be unable to provide much in the way of on-track support having been handed a 20-place grid penalty himself. Now, more than ever, a good performance in qualifying was required.
Being drawn in the opening qualifying session, traditionally the “slowest” group due to track conditions, didn’t help his cause. In the event, a big lock up in the approach to turn one cost him even more time. Buemi could only finish provisional third in a slow group. José María López set the fastest time of 1:23.3, but acknowledged his performance wouldn’t be enough to see him into Super Pole.
With group two out on track, it was immediately apparent that the track was improving quickly. Four of the five drivers out managed to set times good enough for a top-five slot. Tom Dillmann, increasingly becoming a driver to watch, taking provisional P-3, Jean-Eric Vergne P-2 and Felix Rosenqvist putting himself on top with a 1:22.05.
Nelson Piquet Jr (P-4) and Stephane Sarrazin (P-5) were the only two drivers from the third session to make it into Super Pole contention.
Abt Schaeffler Audi’s two cars and Renault’s Nicolas Prost took to the track early in group four. Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt put in times good enough for fourth and fifth, but this left them in a precarious position with quick drivers behind them. It proved to not be quite enough for Abt, displaced by Sam Bird (who set the fastest time overall) and Nick Heidfeld (faster than Aby by just two-tenths of a second).
Di Grassi was first out on track in the Super Pole shoot-out, but he could only set a 1:23.5 after a lock-up on his qualifying lap — certainly not good enough for a chance of pole. Sure enough, Heidfeld bettered his time by half a second on the next attempt.
Vergne would go faster again with his attempt, before Rosenqvist would take another four-tenths out of the time to beat. Bird looked like he would come out with pole, but despite a very impressive first sector, mistakes meant he could only take second.
So the gap between Di Grassi and Buemi remains at 18 points ahead (with a maximum of 26 points available) of what promises to be a thrilling conclusion to the Formula E season.
- Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra)
- Sam Bird (DS Virgin)
- Jean-Éric Vergne (Techeetah)
- Nick Heidfeld (Mahindra)
- Lucas di Grassi (Abt Schaeffler Audi)
13. Sébastien Buemi (Renault)
Image: Sébastien Buemi © Formula E