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Today’s victory sees the reigning champion pull away in the classification and he now heads Di Grassi, his closest rival, by 29 points (75 to 46.) The Brazilian had started from pole position, but in the race he soon had to give best to the superiority of the Renault powertrain – the Chinese team also uses the Z.E. 16 produced by the French manufacturer – and so he was overtaken first by Vergne and then Buemi.

The Swiss driver then immediately put on a spurt to pass the Frenchman and from then on, he built up enough of a lead to manage the rest of the race relatively comfortably. Vergne was second for almost all the race, managing to close slightly on Buemi in the second half, but he never looked like getting the better of him.

Di Grassi’s race did not go as smoothly in the initial stages, but with his second car, the Brazilian managed to haul himself up to third place on the podium, surrounded by the French power unit, given that behind him came Nicolas Prost (Renault e.dams.)  Nelson Piquet Jr. (NextEV NIO,) was fifth, having  had a strong race day.

Behind the top five, who all crossed the line covered by ten seconds, there was a tight battle that went on all race long. Making the best of it to finish in the points were Loic Duval (Faraday Future Dragon Racing,) Daniel Abt (ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport,) Jerome D’Ambrosio (Faraday Future Dragon Racing’) Oliver Turvery (NextEV NIO) e local hero José Maria Lopez. The DS Virgin Racing driver had some bad luck, crashing in qualifying, but in the race, he staged a spirited climb up the order, especially in the second part: a second championship point was his reward for all the hard work and it went down very well with a crowd in excess of 21,000 who watched the race at the Puerto Madero circuit.

Of the others, there was a noteworthy performance from Mitch Evans (Panasonic Jaguar Racing,) who shone in qualifying with a fine seventh place, but in the closing stages, he saw his chances of bringing home the Big Cat’s first ever points slip from his grasp.

“Today, with the heat, there were many other things to manage,” said Buemi. “Especially the temperature of the battery. So at the start of the race, I took it pretty easy for a couple of laps to see where we were, and we had the pace to pass the other guys. I have to say I had everything under control and I got quite a bit of a margin.

“Then on the second car we had some more issues on the brakes so it was quite difficult to actually drive the car, the car was not breaking straight. At the end of the day, you know in this category there is no point in having a big gap, because if you use energy to create a gap and then you have a safety car, all the energy is gone. So the best thing is to have a little bit of gap, that makes you feel safe, so if you made a little mistake you could get it back.”

Despite never getting close enough to pressure Buemi for the win, Vergne was very pleased to take second – the first podium finish for the new TECHEETAH team.

“Obviously I am really happy, we are a new team and we came from very far away and didn’t have any testing like all the other teams had,” said Vergne. “New beginnings, new engineers, new powertrain, new everything. We solved the struggles we had in Hong Kong and Marrakesh. I think the whole team did a fantastic job, working really, really hard, sometimes many hours overnight and in the end it paid off. I had a good car and I’m really happy so a big thank you to the team and I think if we can have a weekend without a mistake, I’m sure we can put the focus into getting a win.”

Another podium for di Grassi – his 15th in total – keeps him in second place in the championship, but he knows he and his Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport team will have their work cut out to overthrow the dominant Buemi.

“In the end, it was a good weekend and a good day for us,” said di Grassi. “Clearly we are not on the pace of the Renaults. I had the opposite of what Seb had. My first car was a bit of a mess, going everywhere, oversteering much more than expected, it was quite low on grip overall and I couldn’t drive it I just tried to carry it to the pits and then after the car change, the second car was good. I managed to catch back Nico and I overtook him, I opened a gap and caught JEV (Jean-Eric Vergne) a little bit. It’s part of this Championship, the cars sometimes they change for very little reason or a very little change makes a big difference.”

Behind Buemi and Di Grassi, in the drivers’ classification, we now have Prost, third on 36 points, and Vergne (22,) while in the teams’ championship, Renault e.dams has consolidated its lead on 111 points, ahead of ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport (60) and Mahindra (37.)

The fourth round of the FIA Formula E Championship takes place on 1st April at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

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After the unusual and positive experience of the virtual race held in Las Vegas, the FIA Formula E Championship moves back from the screen to the tarmac this coming Saturday for Round 3 of its third season.

The race takes place on the Buenos Aires street circuit with the Argentinian capital thus becoming the first city to host an ePrix for three consecutive years. The circuit, in the modern quarter of Puerto Madero is the only venue to feature on the calendar right from the very first season of this series for electrically powered single-seaters and on the topic of race locations, it was recently confirmed that the Berlin ePrix is back on the calendar, staging its race at the Tempelhof airport.

To use a cycling expression, the championship resumes with a one-man breakaway. With two wins on the trot in Hong Kong and Marrakesh, reigning champion Sebastien Buemi immediately made his intentions very clear, although he had to fight very hard for both those victories. The Swiss Renault e.dams driver has built up a pretty substantial lead of 22 points over his eternal rival Lucas di Grassi ( 28 points,) with team-mate Nicolas Prost right behind the Brazilian on 24. A bit further back we have Felix Rosenqvist (19,) Sam Bird (18) and Nick Heidfeld (17) with Antonio Felix da Costa (10), Oliver Turvey (10), Robin Frijns (8) and Daniel Abt (8) making up the top ten.

Renault e.dams has an even more dominant lead in the team classification: the team that has won both championships to date has 74 points, more than double the 36 of ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport and Mahindra Racing, the closest pursuers right now. All the other teams managed to score points in the first two races with the exception of newcomer Panasonic Jaguar Racing, who will therefore be very keen to put that right in Buenos Aires.

Does this mean the championship is already done and dusted? Definitely not, as lessons from the two previous seasons would teach us. Buemi and Prost have demonstrated that, for the moment, their car is the most competitive, however just the slightest glitch could see their big lead eroded in a championship that is usually closely contested. Finishing consistently near the top of the order is the key to title honours and that means reliability, as always, plays a crucial role.

In fact, here in Buenos Aires, the chassis-powertrain-battery package will be sternly tested, especially because of the high temperatures in this part of the world where it is summer time right now. However, at the moment, rain features on the weather radar for the city on the Rio de la Plata, with variable conditions forecast for race day. 

Buemi has never had much luck at the Puerto Madero circuit. In season 1, the Swiss driver was on pole, but had to retire after an accident, with the win going to Antonio Felix da Costa. Last year, Buemi encountered problems in qualifying, but thanks to an incredible fight back up the order, the Renault e.dams driver managed to finish second, hot on the heels of Sam Bird, the Englishman putting on a bravura performance to fight off Buemi’s attacks in the closing laps.

Can Buemi win this time in Buenos Aires? He is undoubtedly the favourite, but when it comes to who is favourite with the crowd, that will be local hero José Maria Lopez. The three times champion in the FIA WTCC came close to making his Formula E debut last year, when Jean-Eric Vergne was forced to pull out after being unwell during free practice, but now he is preparing to tackle his third ever ePrix, determined to live up to the expectations of his home crowd. The Argentinian scored his first point in Marrakech, when his team-mate Bird showed how competitive their car is, by finishing second in the Moroccan race, so his chances are looking promising.

The Mahindra team will be looking to extend its run of good results, having finished on the podium in Hong Kong with Heidfeld and with Rosenqvist in Marrakech, on the day when the young Swede had also taken his first Formula E pole position.

By his own very high standards, Lucas di Grassi had a lacklustre last race and will be keen to make up for that, especially as he really cannot afford to lose ground to his great rival, Buemi: the Brazilian also failed to score in the first edition of the Buenos Aires race, while last year, he finished third.

This weekend, Di Grassi really needs a podium finish and with the Swiss driver behind him, if he is to have any chance of closing the points gap significantly, as he is currently looking at a 22 point deficit.

This year’s race will be longer than the two previous editions, a change based on the increased efficiency of the energy management package currently in use: it will be a challenge for everyone and a small indication of the progress Formula E is making on the technological front.

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Who better therefore to give an insider’s view of how the first FIA championship for completely electric powered cars has grown and what the outlook is for its future?

“I knew Alejandro Agag very well from our shared experience racing in GP2 and GP3 and I hold him in high regard, so when he suggested I come on board with this project, I didn’t hesitate for a moment and accepted. I have always supported electric mobility, but honestly, I hadn’t expected the technological development to move forward so quickly, especially in terms of the efficiency of the powertrain, nor that the championship would become such an important part of the motor racing scene. I am very proud to have been part of it from the start. How far can it go? I think that in the very long term, electric power will be the dominant form of mobility, but at the moment the technology is not yet suited to every use, especially when it comes to the battery. I therefore expect to see a rather varied scenario, which is actually the case for the field of mobility in general: soon, only electric vehicles will be allowed in cities, while for commercial vehicles on long journeys hybrids will still be used. Therefore, we might soon see electric cars in rallycross, with hybrids still being used for endurance races and Formula 1 and possibly in GT races, while rallying would be the last discipline to make the switch. Formula E will still grow a lot, I’m convinced of it and it will approach the level of Formula 1, which will by necessity, have to significantly reduce its costs.”

On the subject of costs, do you not feel that the presence of major constructors in Formula E could bring with it some risks as well as positives?

“Without the car manufacturers, there would be no motor sport, especially at the highest level. The most important thing is to work on the regulations so that there is no point in investing huge sums of money to gain performance.  Personally, I don't believe in a budget cap, which is always too difficult to monitor, but the sporting and technical regulations can be written in such a way that costs are kept to a reasonable level. Take for example the battery used in Formula E: I believe that, in the medium term, it’s important for there to be competition between the constructors, but one way would to be have no technical limits, while another would be for example to set the dimensions of the casing, so that they are the same for everyone, with a predefined maximum output and other restrictions, That way, no one could invest ten times more than anyone else, because the advantage gained would probably be minimal. The FIA is doing a very good job, working intelligently on this very matter, along with the championship promoter, while also trying to maintain a solid link between the technology used on the track and that used on the roads.”

Is there something about the championship you would like to change?

“Firstly, I’d like the chassis for the next car to have a design one could call more futuristic and I believe it’s actually moving in that direction. Cars with combustion engines have more stringent design controls and evolving their design is always on the agenda. For electric power units, there’s definitely more freedom and so I’d really like to see a revolution, while also bringing in an increase in cockpit protection, because safety has to remain a priority. Then I’d like to see two MGUs and a non-mechanical differential, because the automotive industry is going in this direction. From a racing point of view, we need to think of an idea for season 5, when each driver will have just one car, rather than the current two, to do the whole race distance: I don’t know, maybe we could come up with a recharge at half-distance or something like that. And lastly, I’d like there to be a race in Brazil!”

Do you think that Formula E can become an important step for a young driver as part of his progress in the sport?

“Yes, in fact this year, we have seen highly rated youngsters like Felix Rosenqvist and Mitch Evans come on board. I don’t think it can be seen as a step to Formula 1, because the two categories are too different, but it’s definitely a good alternative. Obviously, it also depends on the financial situation, as Formula 1 is one of the few championships, along with NASCAR and DTM where one doesn’t pay to race.”

And what does the near future hold for you, especially in light of Audi pulling out of WEC?

“Firstly, I have to say I’m very disappointed not to be racing in the world endurance championship because I really like the category, especially the Le Mans 24 Hours. The message from Audi was very clear: it is concentrating its resources on Formula E and, as a works driver, I am totally committed to this. In the short term, I think that also the other drivers who split their time between these two categories will have to make a choice, because this season there will be several date clashes. As for me, I’d like to race in other endurance events and above all, I’d also like to race again in Macau where the round of the FIA GT World Cup has become really important.”

Thanks to Formula E, you got to drive a race car in a rather unusual place, namely an iceberg in Greenland: tell us what that was like?

“It was really a fantastic adventure, especially from a logistical point of view. We were eight hours away on ice from the nearest village, so if anything had gone wrong… Alejandro put so much effort into making this project a reality and he was proved right when you look at the success it had on-line with millions watching the film on YouTube. Also, initiatives like this help to make more people aware of environmental sustainability, which is something that concerns everyone, with no exceptions. Driving on ice? It was fun and there was actually a lot of grip thanks to the special tyres we used: maybe we could consider organising something on a frozen lake, possibly an instant knock-out competition. Now, I’ll put it to Alejandro and I’m sure that with his enthusiasm and vision, an idea like this could really happen…”

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The Berlin ePrix, which takes place on June 10, will return to the historic Tempelhof Airport in the German capital on a revised version of the track that will be revealed shortly.

The race has reverted to its original location following consultation with the Berlin authorities, who were instrumental in ensuring that the all-electric series remained in the German capital.

Commenting on the news, the governing mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller said: “Motorsport with electric motors is an advertisement for innovative technologies and sustainable urban mobility. Electromobility is the key to environmentally friendly transport in the cities of the 21st century, including Berlin."

"I am therefore delighted that Formula E continues to take place here. The event thrills motorsport fans and proves - in a spectacular way, in front of a special backdrop - the performance of this technology to a wide audience.”

Formula E fans who had already purchased grandstand tickets for the Karl-Marx-Allee circuit will have their tickets relocated to a Category 1 grandstand at Tempelhof, and will also be given access to a special pit walk on race day. Ticketmaster Germany will contact all ticket holders with further information once the grandstand configuration and pit walk timings are finalised for the new venue.  

Tempelhof hosted the inaugural Berlin ePrix in 2015. Jarno Trulli scored the only pole position of his and the Trulli team’s Formula E career, while Lucas di Grassi won the race on the road only for his car to fail post-race scrutineering, handing a maiden win to Dragon Racing’s Jerome D’Ambrosio.

 

         

 

 

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