Lucas Di Grassi crowned new Formula E champion

Lucas di Grassi has been crowned as the 2016-17 Formula E champion following the second race of the Montreal ePrix. In a head-to-head fight, di Grassi beat title rival Sebastien Buemi to pole position for the weekend’s first race before successfully converting it into a victory. Jean-Eric Vergne was first to greet the chequered flag in the second race on Sunday with di Grassi’s solid seventh place enough to clinch the title.

In the first race on Saturday, a crash in the second free practice session forced Renault e.dams to change the battery on Sebastien Buemi’s car. This meant the championship leader incurred a ten-place grid penalty after he had qualified second.

At race start, di Grassi kept onto the lead as further behind Buemi got touched by Amlin Andretti’s Robin Frijns which bent his steering. Di Grassi pulled away as Buemi fought through the field. Nick Heidfeld attempted to follow Buemi past Dragon Racing’s Loïc Duval, but the pair collided sending Heidfeld into retirement and triggering a Full Course Yellow.

As the pit window arrived, a slow stop for Felix Rosenqvist allowed Jean-Eric Vergne up into third place. That became second when Vergne’s team-mate Stephane Sarrazin dutifully moved aside.

The two Virgin Racing cars of Sam Bird and José María López had worked their way through the field all race. However, a mistake by López saw him lose any chance of points and deploy the safety car, reducing di Grassi’s lead to nothing.

Di Grassi controlled the restart and despite Vergne’s relentless challenge, he went on to win to claim just his second win of the year and the lead of the championship. Vergne came home second as a charging Buemi couldn’t find a way past Sarrazin, who finished on the podium for the second time this season.

Despite all the efforts of Buemi, there was more bad news. Post-race scrutineering checks found that Buemi’s second car had been 4kg underweight. Renault e.dams had worked overtime to repair it after Buemi’s practice crash. 3 points for pole position, 25 points for a race win and 0 points for his rival left di Grassi in the lead of the championship by 18 points.

At the start of the second race on Sunday, Felix Rosenqvist led the way from pole as Vergne jumped Bird for second. Buemi, starting the race in 13th place following a mistake in qualifying, was tagged by Antonio Felix da Costa as cars desperately tried to avoid a spun Sarrazin.

Vergne had better energy consumption than Rosenqvist, but the Swede remained in the lead after pit stops. Concerned about preserving third in the championship, Rosenqvist could not stop Vergne’s charge and the Frenchman went on to record his and Techeetah’s first Formula E win.

José María López sliced his way through the field, easily overtaking rivals to finish the race in third place after starting down in 11th. His team-mate Sam Bird fought his way to fourth despite bent steering, fending off Nick Heidfeld.

Buemi recovered after the opening lap contact, but he only manage to claw back to 11th place, scoring no points again. That left Lucas di Grassi, who allowed his team-mate Daniel Abt through into sixth place in the closing stages, to cross the line seventh as the new champion of Formula E by 24 points.

Formula E will return in December for the fourth season of the sport.

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