An extraordinary series of events in Montreal meant that Lucas di Grassi only needed to finish better than sixth to clinch the driver’s title. A remarkable situation given that Sébastien Buemi had been leading the championship standings for so long, and given Renualt’s dominance through the season.
But the French team, who have been constructor’s champions since Formula E began, have been plagued by crashes, penalties and disqualifications all weekend. For them, starting from 13th and 20th on the grid, merely catching up with Di Grassi (starting 5th) looked like a mammoth task.
Di Grassi made a good start, as did all of the front rows of the grid. But when Stephane Sarrazin caught a knock, he was spun round 180° and created an obstacle for everyone behind him to avoid. Practically everyone made it though without incident. Bad luck — or perhaps fate — caught up with Buemi once again.
In the concertina-effect, Antonio Felix da Costa couldn’t get stopped quite fast enough, and his nosecone pierced the protective rear wheel guard of Buemi’s Renault. During his outburst in the pitlane after Saturday’s race, Buemi had taunted the Andretti team about hitting him from behind; entirely by accident, his prophecy came true.
With the rear pod damaged and flapping around, the stewards had little choice by to show Buemi the “meatball” flag, ordering him into the pits to get the damage repaired. The fact that the pod came away on its own before he could make it back to the garage was of little consequence: his race, and the championship challenge, was already over.
With Di Grassi now only needing to finish the race to be crowned champion, attention turned to the battles at the front of the field. Felix Rosenqvist came under pressure from Jean-Éric Vergne and Sam Bird in the early stages, but soon found a good rhythm on track and built up a 1 second lead.
Further back, the chasing pack were also fighting their own battles: José Maréa López switching places with Di Grassi, as were Jerome D’Ambrosio and Daniel Abt at various stages.
An error from Sam Bird meant he picked up some damage to his front suspension which also knocked his steering off line. This initially allowed Nick Heidfield to get past him, but he soon adjusted to the car’s new setup, and was able to re-take third place on lap 13. DS Virgin team-mate Lopez made the same move a lap later.
Vergne’s ability to save energy but still get quick lap times out of his Techeetah car came into sharp focus at the race approached the half-way stage. Several percentage-points up but still able to close the gap on Rosenqvist, he was able to take an extra lap in the first stint and push harder in the second.
Buemi had closed the 7 second gap to the rest of the field once Prost had let him through. Despite making up some quick places, his work was undone by the pit stops and he was still effectively at the back of the field in his second car; a full ten seconds away from any points.
Daniel Abt was released ahead of Di Grassi, whose stop was slightly slower, perhaps to allow his teammate to act as protection up front. Once the road was clear, he was quickly allowed to pass and resume pushing for more points.
Vergne’s extra energy saw him lapping much quicker than Rosenqviust, and he soon closed the gap to touching distance. He would soon take the lead of the race, and put himself on course for his first ever race win.
A valiant effort from Buemi saw him climb through the ranks, but even an improbable race victory could turn his fortunes around if Di Grassi continued to stay in his current position. Mistakes from Maro Engel gifted Di Grassi another place. With Heidfeld so far ahead and a friendly Abt behind him, Di Grassi simply needed to drive his car home.
Lopez switched positions with Sam Bird, who seemed to be struggling with battery temperatures, for third place. Second-placed Rosenqvist looked too far ahead, but with three laps to go, Pechito was in his mirrors.
Techeetah’s great performances continue. Sarazzin had pulled himself back into 8th place despite being spun at the very start, and Vergne claimed his coveted chequered flag. A late crash from Loic Duval wasn’t serious enough to warrant anything more than yellow flags, so the race ended under racing conditions.
Lucas di Grassi therefore becomes the third man to win the Formula E driver’s title, and Renault claim a third straight victory despite their woeful performance this weekend.
- Jean-Éric Vergne (Techeetah)
- Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra)
- José María López (DS Virgin)
- Sam Bird (DS Virgin)
- Nick Heidfeld (Mahindra)
- Daniel Abt (Abt Schaeffler Audi)
- Lucas di Grassi (Abt Schaeffler Audi)
- Stephane Sarazzin (Techeetah)
- Jerome D’Ambrosio (Faraday Future)
- Tom Dillman (Venturi)
Driver’s champion: Lucas di Grassi
Constructor’s champion: Renault e.Dams
Image: Lucas di Grassi © Formula E