Sébastien Buemi extended his championship lead and gave Renault a home victory in a Paris ePrix that saw several stints under yellow flags and ended in unusual circumstances.
Buemi had a good start off the line, although came under early pressure when Vergne tried first the inside, then the outside line to try and make an early pass. But once the initial threat was over, Vergne had little extra to challenge with. Buemi was able to start moving away quickly, opening up a 2-second gap within the opening few laps.
Vergne’s Techeetah is undeniably a fast car — it’s powered by Renault, after all — so although it initially appeared he was holding up the rest of the field, he kept the gap to Buemi down by setting a number of consecutive fastest laps.
Behind the leaders, Jose Maria Lopez was able to keep pace and held on to third. Esteban Gutierrez was holding up the field, with a gap of 4.6 seconds behind the Mahindra 4-5 of Heidfeld and Roseqvist. Daniel Abt picked up four places in the opening stages, bringing him up to tenth.
Meanwhile, Lucas di Grassi must have thought he was having a frustrating afternoon when he got stuck behind Tom Dillman (making his debut). Despite having managed his energy really well, he struggled to find an opening. When he finally made the move, he found another challenge in the shape of António Félix da Costa.
This battle would come to a head on lap 16, when — in similar circumstances to last week’s incident in Monaco — the two came together. Di Grassi took the outside line on the approach to the tight right-hand turn; he just made it past, but held the line, forcing Félix de Costa into the barrier on the bend, and spinning both cars into each other (then the wall).
Remarkably, di Grassi was able to drive away with a car that look entirely undamaged. But a full-course yellow was called to enable the recovery of the Amlin Andretti car. Immediately, teams took the opportunity to start the driver swaps: much earlier than planned, but able to eek out extra laps under yellow flag conditions.
Some teams gambled on a split strategy. Rosenqvist stayed out an extra lap in his Mahindra. Mike Conway, back driving in Formula E for Faraday Future, stayed out even longer, which gave him temporary lead of the race. Unfortunately, he was unable to capitalise, and dropped back down the order when it was his turn to pit.
The full-course yellow ended on lap 23. Almost immediately, Lucas di Grassi was aware something wasn’t right, and his team radio confirmed that they had released him too early from the garage — by 8 seconds. The subsequent drive-though penalty ended any chance of reaching the podium positions.
Back at the front, JEV continued to match Buemi on lap times, but was unable to eat into the two-second gap. As he had done in the last round, Buemi used the FanBoost to further widen the gap between them. Seconds later, however, the threat from the chasing Techeetah was gone. Vergne’s car slammed into the wall after a huge amount of understeer — despite the wheel being at full lock — and the safety car was deployed.
From the restart, there was little change to the order. Sam Bird and di Grassi made occasional forays back onto the circuit in an attempt to set the fastest lap and salvage some championship points. In doing so, di Grassi locked up and put himself into the barrier with only a few laps to go. The Paris ePrix therefore ended under the safety car and handed Buemi a valuable fifth win of the season.
As a strange final twist, Daniel Abt appeared to encounter a problem with his car in the final sector, but under safety car conditions, no-one could overtake him. Eventually, Gutierrez lead the remainder of the field past, but not before the delay saved Mitch Evans — who had been handed a 5 second penalty — from dropping out of the points.
- Sébastien Buemi (Renault)
- José Maria Lopez (DS Virgin)
- Nick Heidfeld (Mahindra)
- Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra)
- Nico Prost (Renault)