Di Grassi wins the first round of Montreal's inaugural Formula E race
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, July 29, 2017 11:37AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, July 29, 2017 10:11PM EDT
The Formula E championship will be decided on a final-day showdown between new series leader Lucas Di Grassi and defending champion Sebastien Buemi.
Di Grassi cruised to victory from pole position in his Abt Audi and passed Buemi for the drivers standings lead on Saturday at the inaugural Hydro-Quebec Montreal ePrix electric car race.
Di Grassi went into the next-to-last race of the season trailing Buemi by 10 points. After taking 25 points for the win and another three for pole position, the Brazilian came away with a six-point lead. Renault's Buemi picked up 12 points for finishing fourth.
They will meet again in the season finale Sunday on the same downtown street course with the championship on the line.
"We'll try to do the same -- focus and try to stay calm," said Di Grassi, who was edged by Buemi in the final race last season. "If it's my day to be champion, great, but if not we will fight hard until the last."
Techeetah teammates Jean-Eric Vergne and Stephane Sarrazin finished second and third.
There have been complaints from some residents and merchants about fencing off streets in the eastern end of downtown, but the grandstands were mostly filled on a sunny afternoon as fans got a first look at the electric cars that are thought to be the future of motor racing.
They are slower and decidedly quieter than the Formula One hogs at the Canadian Grand Prix in June, but fans were treated to an incident-filled race that could make the second end of the weekend's "doubleheader" interesting.
Buemi looked to be in major trouble when he crashed hard into a barrier during a morning practice session, leaving his front end in pieces. He was able to qualify in his second car while his mechanics worked frantically on repairs, because each driver must use two cars in the race. They got it done just in time.
"My team did an amazing job," said Buemi. "Hopefully we can improve the car.
"We put it back together but it wasn't in the best of shape and we didn't have time to get the set-up done properly."
The Swiss driver was second to Di Grassi in qualifying, but was penalized 10 places on the starting grid because he needed some parts replaced.
On the second turn out of the start, he was squeezed out by Amlin Andretti's Robin Frijns, which left him with a damaged front wheel and put him near the back of the 20-car pack.
He was still able to pick off cars in front of him one by one before the drivers headed to the pits to change cars after 16 of 35 laps. He endured another bump coming out of pit lane with Daniel Abt, Di Grassi's teammate, but still managed to keep gaining positions until he finished fourth.
After the race, Buemi screamed at Frijns and then gave Abt an even longer tongue-lashing.
He was still seething more than a half hour after the race.
"They're a dirty team," he said of the Audi squad. "They've been dirty every race.
"They are just dirty the way they do things. They go beyond the limits. He's slowing, he's braking in the pit lane. He hit me at the exit of the pit lane very bad. Then he's done some other things. But good job to them and we'll see."
Di Grassi shot out ahead from the get-go, but had a nervy moment when the yellow flag came out after Jose Maria Lopez crashed his Virgin racing car into a wall on the 25th lap. That wiped out Di Grassi's lead, but he used Fan Boost -- an extra dose of power earned from fan voting -- to pull away again on the restart.
Now he'll need to hold off Buemi, who hopes to avoid bumps this time by qualifying to start from the front.
"It's a race I'll try to win," he said. "I have the speed and I have the car."
Only Di Grassi and Buemi are left in contention for the drivers title as Felix Rosenqvist and Sam Bird were mathematically eliminated.Sunday’s qualifying race will be aired on CTV from 12 to 1 p.m., and the final race of the season from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
With files from CTV Montreal.