Sebastian Buemi became the first driver to take a lights-to-flag victory in Formula E last weekend, but just how close was Lucas di Grassi to spoiling the party? Could the championship leader have won the race, or was track position going to be the dominating factor at such a tight street circuit.
Strategy has always been incredibly important during Formula E races because of how limited the drivers are by the battery life. As a result, we often find that races with safety cars lead to variances in strategies, as drivers can save energy early in the race and run longer or shorter second stints accordingly. Why didn’t we see much of this in Monaco?
Despite being 47 laps long, the Monaco ePrix was not as battery limited as other races this year. Much of this was due to the lack of heavy traction zones, which are the main source of power usage. With only turns 1 and the hairpin acting as long acceleration zones, drivers were easily able to make each battery last between 24-25 laps.
The Formula E under/overcut
When it comes to jumping drivers at pit stops, the aim of a chasing driver is simply to deliver a fast lap whilst their rival has to do a conservative, energy saving lap. As a result, we’ve often seen a driver utilise ‘the undercut’ and make huge progress. The downside to this strategy is that it often means drivers struggle to make the battery last to the end to an elongated second stint, but that wasn’t going to be an issue at Monaco.
Lucas di Grassi vs Buemi
It was clear in the first stint that Lucas di Grassi had the pace to trouble Buemi. You could argue that he was ultimately faster but with overtaking proving to be difficult, Buemi was never going to concede the lead on track Di Grassi made his move at the end of lap 24; he came into the pits a lap earlier than Buemi and set about trying to make an over take through the pitstop. His gap to Buemi was just 0.2s, but interestingly he still had 10% of battery power left.
When Buemi emerged from the pits on lap 25; di Grassi was still behind, albeit close enough to try and attack Buemi. Why couldn’t he leapfrog the Swiss driver? This was simply a case of Buemi being able to match Lucas di Grassi’s outlap; he had 12% battery remaining as he started his in lap, allowing him to push hard during the in lap. Despite Lucas di Grassi posting a middle sector time 0.7s faster than what Buemi managed, di Grassi’s pit stop time was fractionally slower than Buemi’s 1:14:00. On a longer track he may have been able to make up those final tenths but unfortunately it just wasn’t possible with only a one lap undercut.
The only other option open to Abt Sport was to try pitting him a lap later than Buemi, although this strategy window would only open up if Buemi pitted early, around lap 23.
The Racing at Monaco
Monaco has always been an odd one when it comes to all out racing; overtaking is very difficult due to the narrow track and the only overtaking zones were into turn one and the subsequent hairpin.
To many, the race was likely an anti-climax; the pre-race excitement died down when it became clear that overtaking was nearly impossible and the circuit couldn’t match the drama of previous races. As with Formula 1, pole position proved to be crucial and Buemi was rewarded for his stunning qualifying lap. In many ways, Monaco proved why it is still the ultimate street circuit, although whether or not that’s a good thing is up to the fans.
Written by: Anil Parmar