Buenos Aires ePrix race preview

The FIA Formula E Championship returns to action this weekend with round three of the 2016/17 season, which takes place on the Puerto Madero circuit in the Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires.

It’s been three months since the last instalment of the all-electric city street racing series, which has given all the teams a chance to refine and hone their powertrains and set-ups.

The story so far

Reigning champion Sebastien Buemi has got off to an almost perfect title defence with back-to-back wins in the opening two races for Renault e.dams.

Such has been his dominance that even if he fails to score a single point this weekend, only two drivers could overtake him in the championship standings, Lucas di Grassi and Nico Prost. And even if either managed a perfect weekend ie grabbed all four bonus points for Julius Baer pole position and the Visa fastest lap, as well as taking the win, the most Buemi could be trailing by is seven points!

Di Grassi was second in Hong Kong after a charge from the back and inspired pit work by his Abt Schaeffler team, while Nick Heidfeld rounded out the podium for Mahindra.

Heidfeld’s team-mate Felix Rosenqvist was a maiden pole sitter for round two in Marrakesh and led for the first half of the race. But he was powerless to keep Buemi at bay and eventually slipped to third, behind the DS Virgin Racing entry of Sam Bird. Two fourth places for Prost means he’s third in the title hunt.

Drivers’ championship

  1. Sebastien Buemi – 50
  2. Lucas di Grassi – 28
  3. Nico Prost – 24
  4. Felix Rosenqvist – 19
  5. Sam Bird – 18
  6. Nick Heidfeld – 17

Teams’ championship

  1. Renault e.dams – 74
  2. Abt Schaeffler – 36
  3. Mahindra – 36
  4. DS Virgin – 19
  5. Andretti – 18
  6. NextEV NIO – 17

The BA ePrix

The Puerto Madero track is the only venue to have featured in all three Formula E seasons. In season one, Antonio Felix da Costa took an emotional win for the Aguri team.

Buemi led the way, but clipped the wall at the fast chicane and broke the right-front suspension of the car. This handed the lead to di Grassi until the Brazilian’s race ended in spectacular style when the rear suspension of his car collapsed.

This promoted Heidfeld to the lead. Following the events of the season-opener, when Heidfeld was denied victory after he was taken out at the final corner by Nico Prost, the German had been a cause celebre for the fans, resulting in their #justiceforheidfeld FanBoost campaign. But just when it appeared that the Venturi ace was going to get his dues he was penalised for speeding in the pits, leaving da Costa to pick up the spoils.

A mistake in qualifying meant that Buemi started the season two race from the back of the grid, which was the cue for a barnstorming comeback drive through the field.

At the front, pole man Bird was pacing himself, fending off the challenge from Prost, da Costa and di Grassi with aplomb, which meant he had just enough energy in reserve to keep Buemi at bay when the Swiss finally worked his way into second.

The track

Length: 2.480km

Turns: 12 – 8 left, 4 right

Direction: Anticlockwise

Surface: Asphalt and concrete

Outright lap record: 1:08.771 (129.822km/h)

Official lap record: 1:10.285 (127.205km/h)

Super classification (average finishing position of active drivers who’ve completed both previous races)

  1. Nico Prost
  2. Sam Bird
  3. Stephane Sarrazin
  4. Nelson Piquet Jr
  5. Nick Heidfeld
  6. Jean-Eric Vergne
  7. Daniel Abt
  8. Jerome D’Ambrosio

Super grid (average starting position of active drivers who’ve entered both previous races)

  1. Sam Bird
  2. Nico Prost
  3. Antonio Felix da Costa
  4. Lucas di Grassi
  5. Stephane Sarrazin
  6. Nick Heidfeld
  7. Nelson Piquet Jr
  8. Sebastien Buemi
  9. Daniel Abt
  10. Jean-Eric Vergne
  11. Jerome D’Ambrosio

Local hero

Jose Maria Lopez is one of Argentina’s most successful racing drivers. He is a three-time world champion in the World Touring Car Championship, claiming all three titles in a row before he joined DS Virgin Racing in Formula E.

Prior to that he was also a triple champion in TC2000, the biggest form of motorsport in Argentina.

In single-seaters he was on the Renault Driver Development programme alongside Lucas di Grassi and Loic Duval and was the champion of the Italian Formula Renault 2.0 series in 2002, which he followed up by winning the Formula Renault V6 Eurocup for Jean-Paul Driot’s DAMS equipe a year later.

He was a race winner in GP2 against the likes of Nico Rosberg and Adam Carroll, but this is the first opportunity he’s had to win a major single-seater race in front of his home fans.

“I’m getting a lot of media asking me how I’ll perform in Buenos Aires, it being my home country. Well, I have the team, and I have the car, so I think I have as good a chance as anyone out there on race day. I’m just excited to go out and race in front of my fans!”

Should ‘Pechito’ delight the crowd and take the chequered flag first he will be only the second Formula E driver to win his home race. The first? His DS Virgin Racing team-mate Sam Bird…

To give Lopez or any of the other Formula E drivers a chance of winning FanBoost, click here.

The city

Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina and also its biggest city, with a population of 2.9 million, which rises to 12.7m if you count the whole of the metropolitan area.

The air quality of the city is rated at 54 out of 100, which is considered moderate, and represents an improvement of around four per cent since Formula E last visited.

The city failed to reach its own targets for renewable energy production in 2016, which is currently at just one per cent. A new law was recently passed aiming for eight per cent by the end of this year, rising to 25 per cent by 2025. These are in line with the country’s commitments agreed at the COP 21 climate change summit.

Argentina ranks third, behind Australia and Chile, as the largest miner of Lithium in the world, so it stands to benefit enormously from the increased demand for electric vehicles. However, the lack of catalytic convertors on most of the existing transport within Buenos Aires is the main cause of air pollution and electric car sales are small at the moment. However, the Ministry of the Environment recently concluded a deal with Chinese firm BYD for the supply of 50 fully-electric buses, which will be built in the country in a new, purpose-built factory.

How to watch

For details of where to watch the Buenos Aires in your country click here. Live streaming is available in selected markets on www.fiaformulae.com, the official Formula E app and via YouTube and Facebook.

Live timing and text commentary is available on the Formula E website.