In just under a fortnight, the FIA’s all-electric single seater series, Formula E, heads to Quebec to conclude its third season on the streets of Montreal.
Sebastian Buemi holds a 10-point advantage in the championship standings over Lucas Di Grassi, which after six victories, two pole positions and a fastest lap from the ten rounds thus far, you’d say was justified.
In reality, Buemi’s lead still holds true because of Di Grassi’s failure to make larger inrodes into the Renault e.dams driver’s advantage last weekend on the streets of New York.
With Buemi absent, racing in the World Endurance Championship at the Nurburgring in Germany due to a pre-existing contractual obligation to Toyota, the equation for Abt driver Di Grassi was simple – score as many points as possible to set up a season finale showdown.
Team-mate Daniel Abt’s inconsistent form, compared to the average-but-points scoring Nicolas Prost (e.dams), means the chances of overhauling Renault in the Constructors Standings have all but passed. But here was an opportunity for Di Grassi to push for some silverware for the German outfit.
It’s not the first time these two titans of the series have locked horns for the honours either – last season their duel for the crown went down to the wire in Battersea Park, where the two points for fastest lap in the final race eventually turned the tide in Buemi’s favour.
In truth, Di Grassi has struggled to match Buemi for quality in Season Three. A solitary win in Mexico City back in April is the only trip to the top step of the podium on his CV for 2017, whilst in comparison that race is the only one Buemi has contested and not won.
New York was the Brazilian’s chance to transform the story of his season from ‘hanging onto Buemi’s coat-tails’ to ‘opportunistically seizing a points advantage to defend in Montreal’. He was 32 points behind the Frenchman, so reducing the deficit to 10 is hardly criminal. But when you consider there were 50 points on offer, Di Grassi could have headed to the final two rounds in Canada with the odds stacked against Buemi.
Fourth and fifth place finishes are hardly likely to strike terror or panic into Buemi’s calm, controlled approach as the championship nears it’s climax but, as ever with street circuits, the unpredictability factor remains. One error of judgement could send either championship protagonist out, and then watch the fireworks.
Don’t be surprised, though, if Buemi simply obliterates the field in qualifying and uses his superior racecraft to ‘check out’ and run away with a second consecutive Formula E crown.