14 Jul 17
With just four races left in the 2016/17 Formula E season, the pressure is building in the race to become the next all-electric champion. But with points leader Sebastien Buemi absent, the narrative of the weekend has been changed completely.
Here are the key things to watch out for in the Qualcomm New York City ePrix:
Can di Grassi capitalise?
After finishing third in the Season 1 standings, and second last time, Lucas di Grassi is desperate to win the championship this time around. However, he’s been playing catch-up to Sebastien Buemi since Round 1 in Hong Kong.
But with Buemi missing the New York races, di Grassi has the perfect opportunity to overcome the deficit. At the moment he’s 32 points behind Buemi, with 58 to play for in New York.
So far this season, di Grassi has been averaging 15.6 points a race. If he keeps that up over this weekend, he ought to go into the Montreal finale pretty much level with Buemi, making it a straight fight for the title.
How with the rookies perform?
It’s not just Buemi who is missing the New York City races, Jose Maria Lopez is also absent due to clashing World Endurance Championship commitments. In their places Renault e.dams has recruited reigning GP2 champion Pierre Gasly, while DS Virgin has promoted his old DAMS team-mate (and former GP3 champ) Alex Lynn.
These are two of the plum seats in the series and their relative performances could be crucial in the title fight. Will Gasly be up to speed fast enough to threaten di Grassi? And if Lynn is able to replicate the form of Lopez in qualifying, he too could be a thorn in di Grassi hopes.
It’s a big ask, with the circuit being unlike anywhere they’ve driven the car before and track time being so limited. But they are highly talented young racers, so don’t be surprised if they are able to mix it at the sharp end.
Feeling hot, hot, hot
The searing heat of the past couple of days has been replaced by heavy rain and grey skies. However, this is going to pass and the sun will be blazing again come Sunday. Whenever there have been particularly hot races in the past, the need for keeping the battery in its ideal working temperature range has been critical.
We’ve seen before in Putrajaya how heat and humidity can turn the race on its head and while the teams and drivers are more adept at optimising the car performance these days, a hot race is always going to be more unpredictable than a cool one.
Making a pass
The Brooklyn track is tight and narrow. This is going to make overtaking particularly tricky and place an additional emphasis on qualifying. As we saw in Monaco and Paris, two other tight, narrow tracks, track position is everything.
Here is the Season 3 Super Grid (based on average starting position - only includes drivers who’ve started every race)
Race against time
On Sunday, Formula E is staging its earliest ever race, with the start time moved to 1pm local time, rather than 4pm as it is normally. This has compacted the Sunday schedule, resulting in just a single practice session – which starts at 7am.
This means the teams have even less time than usual to prepare and repair the cars. Get involved in a big accident on Saturday and you’ll really be on the back foot for Sunday.
Also, Sunday’s race is a whopping six laps longer than Saturday’s, which means that preserving and regenerating energy is going to be at a premium. Any car and driver combination with a thirst for juice, is really going to be at a disadvantage.