This weekend, the third season of the FIA’s all-electric single-seater series, Formula E, reaches its conclusion on the streets of Montreal in Canada.
The equation is brutally simple; two men, represented by two of the world’s largest car companies, stand poised to dice for the honors in Quebec.
Sebastien Buemi is the reigning champion, and with six victories – in Hong Kong, Marrakech, Buenos Aires, Monaco, Paris and Berlin – has the advantage of a 10-point lead in the standings.
The Renault e.dams driver was forced to miss the last double-header in New York two weeks ago because of a pre-existing contractual obligation to race at the Nurburgring for Toyota in the World Endurance Championship, creating the championship battle we, perhaps, should never have had.
Lucas di Grassi stands ready as the challenger to claim Buemi’s crown, having lost to the Frenchmen during the Season Two finale in Battersea Park, London.
On that occasion, their duel seemed appropriate, as the two undisputed stars of Formula E – after crashing into one another – settled the score by a shoot-out to see who could set the fastest lap, and with it gain those all-important two points in the title race to end their stalemate.
Di Grassi had entered that season finale with the joint-highest tally of wins, with him and Buemi taking to the top step of the podium three times apiece. Even better for the Audi Abt Schaeffeler driver, he had taken a further four podium finishes to Buemi’s three.
This season, the record books paint a rather different picture.
Di Grassi has won only a single ePrix – at Mexico City after an inspired pit-stop strategy – has two pole positions and not a single fastest lap. His race record gives him an average finishing position of 4.7 – hardly the mark of a champion. Buemi’s tally is similar – though he has run two fewer races.
Indeed, had Buemi not been disqualified in Berlin or suffered a poor result in Mexico City whilst di Grassi celebrated victory, this championship might well have been won whilst Buemi was tackling the Nurburgring two weeks ago.
Di Grassi even failed to decisively seize the advantage on that occasion, limply taking fourth and fifth in the New York double-header to close the gap – but not take the lead. The entire title fight for the Brazilian feels remarkably like hanging onto Buemi’s coat-tails, rather than actually presenting a threat to the Frenchman.
Regardless, it’s a championship fight both must embrace but, quite honestly, it should never have been the case.