With title favourites Lucas di Grassi and Sebastien Buemi especially starting down the field, the 2016 Buenos Aires ePrix was set to be a good one, and so it proved to be.
DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird started on pole alongside e.Dams’ Nico Prost and last years winner Antonio Felix da Costa for Team Aguri lined up third. Newcomer Mike Conway for Venturi put in a sterling effort to line-up in fifth behind teammate Stephanne Sarrazin while returnee Salvador Duran crashed his Aguri car in qualifying and lined up just in front of last placed Buemi.
The race start was as hectic as ever with the majority of action coming from Amlin Andretti’s Simona de Silvestro steaming into turn one, boxing in Mahindra’s Nick Heidfeld who broke hard to avoid a big collision. Buemi similarly used de Silvestro’s tactics a little further round in the first lap managing to haul himself up to 13th place from last by lap three.
Meanwhile, Dragon Racing’s D’Ambrosio suffered a slow puncture creating huge amounts of smoke to come off his car as the tyre rubbed against the bodywork. He was subsequently forced to pit on lap two and from there, the race became an extended test session.
With lockups occurring left right and centre, Seb Buemi was threading his way up through the field, to the benefit of Mahindra’s Bruno Senna who was following the Swiss through as quickly as possible. Further back, de Silvestro’s action wasn’t done for the day as she made a cracking move on reigning champion Nelson Piquet Junior’s NEXTEV car.
Up front, Da Costa was fighting hard with Nico Prost and managed to slide his Aguri car in front to take second place while just a little bit further down on the road a three way battle between Andretti’s Robin Frijns, Mike Conway and Buemi with the latter getting past both for fifth place. Returnee Salvador Duran was the first to pit with problems that ended up being terminal.
Popular Brazilian Senna had made up ground from his lowly grid positioning but was notably using up the most energy out of all the other cars on the grid. Race commentator Dario Franchitti picked this up stating Senna had just been struggling with conserving energy this weekend, however the nephew of F1 champion Ayrton Senna was haemorrhaging energy noticeably when compared to teammate Nick Heidfeld. Senna pitted alongside Conway on lap 18, the first two runners without noticeable problems to enter the pitlane.
On lap 18 disaster struck for second placed da Costa as his car stopped on track. Despite a frantic CTRL+ALT+DEL the Portuguese racer was forced to retire. With a yellow flag out, most of the cars piled into the pitlane with an unusual situation occurring where Prost was seemingly going very slowly, almost being pushed along by di Grassi before briefly holding up his own teammate. All three were investigated for a pitlane infringement. As the French driver was on his out-lap, he had a brief excursion into the run-off losing him time and track position as the Safety Car came out.
During the SC period it appeared Venturi’s Sarrazin was a little confused as he was only going 50kph as regulations state the cars should go under a Full Course Yellow, but not a safety car. This was something the chasing Buemi frantically pointed out and Sarrazin duly got back on the power to bunch the field up behind the BMW safety car until it came in on lap 22. After which Buemi immediately overtook the Venturi driver.
As the race settled down towards the back of the field, things began to hot up at the front. Abt’s Lucas di Grassi was hunting down leader Sam Bird with their battle allowing Buemi to sneak up behind. With Bird struggling with battery temperatures but holding off di Grassi well with the Brazilian himself struggling to get his FanBoost to work, Buemi lined him up for a successful manoeuvre into second place.
The last lap provided a heart in mouth moment. With di Grassi falling back, Buemi was all over the back of Bird’s Virgin with the Brit having a big over steer moment a few laps earlier, really allowing the Swiss to hone in on the lead. However it was not to be with Sam Bird crossing the line inches in front of Buemi to win his first race of the season.
Buemi’s comeback drive sees him eek out a four point lead in the standings with 80 points to di Grassi’s 76 while Bird leaps up to third place.
Buenos Aires ePrix Results:
|1||Sam Bird||DS Virgin|
|2||Sebastien Buemi||e.Dams Renault|
|3||Lucas di Grassi||Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler|
|5||Nicolas Prost||e.Dams Renault|
|8||Robin Frijns||Amlin Andretti|
|9||Oliver Turvey||NEXTEV TCR|
|11||Jean-Eric Vergne||DS Virgin|
|12||Nelson Piquet Jr||NEXTEV TCR|
|13||Daniel Abt||Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler|
|14||Simona de Silvestro||Amlin Andretti|
|RET||Antonio Felix da Costa||Team Aguri|
|RET||Salvador Duran||Team Aguri|