By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
After a difficult doubleheader to open the season, Season Three champion Sebastien Buemi and Renault e.dams bounced back in a big way with a strong podium run in the Marrakesh E-Prix.
The run was a smashing success, though there was a lingering feeling that the weekend could have yielded much more.
Buemi led the first 28 of the race’s 33 laps in what appeared to be a dominant outing similar to the many others he’d delivered in the first three seasons of Formula E competition.
But that was all undone late, as Mahindra Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist overtook Buemi with five laps remaining and drove off to claim his second-consecutive victory.
Unable to mount a proper defense, Buemi could do nothing but watch on from second as Rosenqvist drove off with the win and the points lead.
Afterward Buemi claimed a malfunctioning FanBoost unit kept him from being able to keep the eventual winner at bay during the marquee overtake.
“When I wanted to defend, the Fanboost didn’t work as it wasn’t configured for the car; we had to change cars before the start and the second one wasn’t set up for the Fanboost,” Buemi said after the race. “When I tried to push it didn’t engage and I was relying on that to protect in that corner.”
The result was disappointing given the team’s early dominance, but while a slower car in the waning stages and lack of Fanboost might have kept Buemi from victory lane, the end result for the 12-time Formula E winner was still a net positive.
Buemi entered the weekend on the heels of one of his worst runs since the all-electric tour’s 2014 debut. Just months earlier the former Formula One driver had seen a dominant 2016-17 ABB FIA Formula E Championship lost due to a poor performance in the season finale following a missed doubleheader weekend in the United States, when the Swiss ace’s FIA World Endurance Challenge driver duties took precedence.
The hangover from that disappointment seemed to stick with Buemi and Renault in the HKT Hong Kong E-Prix. The 29-year-old finished 11th and 10th, respectively, in the weekend’s two races. As a result, he tallied only a single point in the championship and fell well behind then-leader Sam Bird.
The title fight was far from over, but Buemi needed to rebound in Morocco to have a chance.
With a runner-up result, Buemi did just that.
“Second position is still good points,” he noted. “And we can look forward to Santiago with confidence.”
Renault e.Dams co-owner Alain Prost shared Buemi’s sentiment, saying “It was a good result for the team today, with a lot of points. We saw that the field had really tightened up and I expect that to continue for the rest of the year.”
The run lifted Buemi to sixth on the championship table. He still trails leader Rosenqvist by 32 points – more markers than can be earned in one race – but Saturday’s solid run kept the tour’s winningest driver in contention.
Buemi will get another chance to close to gap on Feb. 3, when Formula E heads to Chile for the Santiago E-Prix.