By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
As has often been the case in their FIA Formula E careers, Season Two and Three champions Sebastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi left the opening weekend close together on the championship table – separated by just a lone point.
But in an unusual change of pace, the typical championship favorites find themselves mired in the back of the standings.
Buemi and di Grassi combined to tally just one point the season-opening HKT Hong Kong E-Prix doubleheader, with Buemi getting the lone marker as a result of di Grassi’s Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler teammate – Daniel Abt – being disqualified after what appeared to be his first Formula E victory.
Both drivers appeared to have pace in Race One of the weekend, but lost out on finishes in the points after di Grassi suffered suspension damage and Buemi’s Renault e.dams machine briefly stalled on-track.
Sunday’s Race Two offered similar promise for di Grassi, but a battery issue before the defending champion’s first pit stop led to a 14th-place result for the Brazilian, keeping him out of the points once more.
Very disappointed. Battery failure 500 m before the pit stop cost us a very good finish. We looked strong again with fastest lap of the race and fastest stint. But seems my luck has run out in 2017… congrats @Daniel_Abt first FE victory and see ya in Marrakesh.
— LUCAS DI GRASSI (@LucasdiGrassi) December 3, 2017
Buemi’s Renault struggle to find pace in Race Two, but in a weekend filled with issues for both drivers the Swiss veteran’s comparative lack of mistakes proved enough to score the best finish of the weekend in 10th, snagging a point in the process.
“A weekend to forget! But a contrasting weekend at least as we managed to show good pace in Free Practice until the car worked less after 3-4 laps,” Buemi said afterward. “We must understand why we had those issues and fix them before Marrakesh. Today, we didn’t have the pace that we should have. The objective now is to analyze the data we’ve collected, understand it and optimize the car in order to be back on top.”
With their forgetful opening weekends complete, Buemi and di Grassi will find themselves in an unusual position heading to the second Formula E race weekend in Marrakesh – battling from behind.
Buemi finds himself in a three-way tie for 14th in the standings leaving Hong Kong, while di Grassi sits 17th after being one of four drivers that failed to tally a point in the opening weekend. The two champions will need to make up gaps of 34 and 33 points, respectively, on championship leader Sam Bird if either of them intend to become the first driver to claim multiple Formula E championships.