It’s the final chapter of the 2016/17 Formula E season this weekend, and with everything still to play for between Sebastian Buemi and Lucas di Grassi, the Free Practice sessions on Saturday for the Montreal ePrix are the first chance we get to see of the pecking order for the weekend.
It was Di Grassi who kicked off the weekend with the perfect start, topping the first Free Practice session in his Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport car. Di Grassi set a new circuit record for the Montreal street circuit, a 1:22.451 using the 200KW Qualifying power, on his way to the fastest time of the session. He was over a second faster than second place man and New York double race winner Sam Bird in his DC Virgin Racing car. However, Bird was not using the 170KW race mode when he set his lap.
Jean-Eric Vergne finished the session in third for TECHEETAH, while the current championship leader Sebastien Buemi was fourth fastest. Like di Grassi, the Renault e.dams’ driver used the 200KW power option, but hit traffic in the final sector of his flying lap and had to back off.
Buemi’s team mate Nico Prost was fifth fastest ahead of Mitch Evans in an notable sixth for the Panasonic Jaguar Racing team. While Felix Rosenqvist, who like Bird still has an incredibly slim chance at the title, was seventh quickest for Mahindra.
In Free Practice Two it was the Renault e.dams driver of Prost who topped the session, though all focus was solely on his team mate Buemi who had a serious crash in the session, destroying the front end of his car.
Buemi clipped the wall on the entry to the bus stop chicane, which threw him head-first into the barrier on the exit, tearing both the left and right front suspension off the car and damaging the nose. He was able to climb out of the car unaided, but the damage to the barrier and debris strewn across the track meant the session was abandoned with five minutes remaining. More worryingly for Buemi the monocoque was damaged in the impact, meaning that his team has just five hours to get a new car ready for Buemi to use in the race. As well as this it looks like the team may have to replace the battery in the car, which will trigger a ten place grid penalty for Buemi if they do.
Prost lowered the overall track record to a 1:22.180 on his way to the fastest time of the second session. While Vergne had to settle for second in his TECHEETAH car despite having the fastest time for nearly the whole session.
It is worth noting however that there really was almost nothing between the top drivers out there as everyone pushed to get the best possible result they could. The Mahindra team had a good session with Rosenqvist third and Nick Heidfeld fifth, with Vergne’s team mate Stephane Sarrazin spillitng them in fourth in his TECEETAH car. Bird completed the top six in his DS Virgin Racing car. Lucas di Grassi didn’t do a 200kw lap and was back in 16th place for Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport.
Feature Image Credit: FIA Formula E Media