Formula E is about to wrap up its second season this weekend with a double-header finale in London that promises to be a thrill. Two drivers have been waging an excellent battle for the drivers’ title, and the team championship is also up for grabs. In Formula E’s debut season, the drivers’ championship was decided in the last laps of the final races in London. This time around, both trophies hang in the balance.
Halfway through the second season of Formula E, Sebastian Buemi had a 22-point lead in the drivers’ championship. His team, Renault e.Dams, led the team championship by more than 40 points. Thanks to some clever powertrain development — Formula E started allowing teams to make bespoke motors, transmissions, and rear suspension in season two — and a large sum of money that was reportedly poured into the car, it seemed Buemi and Renault were going to run away with both trophies.
But that all changed over the next four contests. Now, with the final two races taking place this weekend in London (one on Saturday and one on Sunday), Buemi finds himself one point behind championship leader Lucas di Grassi. And Renault’s once-massive lead over ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport — di Grassi’s team — has shrunk to just 11 points.
The final two races of the season take place this weekend at London’s Battersea park. Both races start at 3PM local time, and will be broadcast in the UK on ITV 1. In the United States, Fox Sports 1 will carry Saturday’s race, and Fox Sports 2 will broadcast Sunday’s finale. Those broadcasts will start each day at 10:30AM ET. As always, Formula E will stream the race live around the world on its website and app, as well as on Facebook in certain countries.
The road to this season’s finale has been an exciting one, especially for those championship leaders. In a vacuum, Buemi has the best car and is arguably the most skilled driver, especially when it comes to striking the crucial balance that is necessary to win a Formula E race, where you have to push the car as hard as possible while managing the battery’s energy and temperature levels.
But Formula E performs its races on tight, twisting street circuits, and often in harsh environments. Those factors add a layer of complexity, and can trip up even the best drivers and teams. Buemi and Renault should be running away with both titles, but mistakes have kept the competition close.
In the second race of the season, for example, both Buemi and his teammate Nico Prost suffered software failures due to the sweltering Malaysian heat. Their cars (and the software that manages the battery and how the powertrain uses the energy from the battery) weren’t optimized for the extreme conditions, and so both drivers finished outside the top 10. They combined for just six points.
Perhaps the worst mistake of the season, though, happened in Long Beach. Buemi was comfortably riding in 5th place just 11 laps into the race when, heading into a hairpin turn, he plowed into the back of Andretti driver Robin Frijns.
You could say mistakes like the one in Long Beach are a product of Buemi’s particularly ruthless driving style, and that without taking risks, he wouldn’t even be in the hunt in the first place. Take the Buenos Aires race, for example. Buemi botched his qualifying attempt and had to start the race 18th — dead last. But he went on to pass 16 cars over the course of the race.
By the last few laps, Buemi wound up in a hard fought battle for the win with Virgin driver Sam Bird. (Bird, by the way, has a mathematical chance of winning the drivers championship, but it’s an extremely long shot involving both Buemi and di Grassi crashing out in each race.)
So this weekend, Buemi is going to have to find a balance between risk and reward. It should be a familiar position for him, too. Last year he came into the final weekend 20 points back of championship leader Nelson Piquet, Jr. After winning the first race of the double header, Buemi was running fifth in the finale when he spun out all by himself. Renault held on to the team championship, but Buemi lost the drivers’ trophy by one point.
Meanwhile, Buemi could not be up against a more consistent driver. Lucas di Grassi has more podium finishes than any other driver so far in Formula E. Di Grassi isn’t perfect — in fact, he was stripped of his win in Mexico City this season because a post-race inspection showed that one of his cars was a few kilograms too light. But aside from that race, di Grassi hasn’t finished worse than third the entire rest of the season.
It’s very likely that both of these drivers will be racing near the top — or even for the win — in each race, so the team championship could come down their teammates. Renault’s Nico Prost and ABT’s Daniel Abt have had comparatively middling seasons. (They sit fifth and seventh in the drivers points, respectively. Abt has two podiums to Prost’s one, but Prost has more top 10 finishes.) Either way, the double-header finale is looking like it will produce the second nail-biting finish in as many Formula E seasons, which is more great news for the young sport.