Formula E rivals continue war of words
Di Grassi says Buemi "didn't deserve to win title last year"
Title decider taking place in Montreal on July 29/30
The Formula E World Championship is going down to the wire again.
Brazilian driver Lucas di Grassi is aiming to dethrone reigning champion Sebastien Buemi as the 2016-17 season reaches it’s climax in Montreal this weekend.
Di Grassi trails his arch rival by 10 points (147 points plays 157) but the pair remain poles apart when it comes to their opinions on one another off the track.
Twelve months on from their controversial crash in the final race of the 2015-16 championship at London’s Battersea Park, Buemi and di Grassi refuse to agree on who was to blame for the collision.
A war of words erupted ahead of Formula E’s first race in Canada and, as the title decider approaches, tensions are still running high.
“He’s a very good driver, he’s been very consistent over the years – always fighting for the championship even when he had a really bad car … I respect di Grassi very much as a driver, not necessarily as a person,” Buemi told CNN’s Supercharged.
Di Grassi responded to Buemi’s criticisms suggesting that the Swiss may be feeling the pressure ahead of the Montreal race, posting a veiled message on social media: “When a dog is barking, he is either afraid or unsettled.. good.”
When asked about the tweet on Thursday, di Grassi chose to make light of the remark.
“Actually I have seven dogs in Brazil – I have a family of schnauzers – six white and one black – and they were barking and that was what the tweet was about,” di Grassi told CNN.
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Buemi ‘didn’t deserve 2016 title’
The Brazilian was soon back in mind-games mode though when he was quizzed about Buemi’s talents behind the wheel.
“He’s a very good driver. He has a very good team, but he is doing the job,” di Grassi said.
“Last year he didn’t deserve to win the title – he did a lot of mistakes even with superior equipment but this year he has been on a different level. He’s won six races out of eight, so he’s done a fantastic championship.
“We are the underdogs. We are gonna try everything – we can take more risks. We have very little to lose. The championship is in his hands. If he loses it’s his fault … He’s under pressure, I’m not.”
It will come as no surprise that Buemi sees things differently. The Swiss, who missed the New York ePrix weekend because of a calendar clash with the World Endurance Championship race, says he is feeling more relaxed going into Montreal.
“To be honest, I had much more pressure before New York because I always had in my mind that I was going to miss two races so if I want to be fighting for the championship I need to score points,” he said.
“Now I feel less pressure because I know I’m going to get the same opportunities.”
Buemi also believes the Montreal track will boost his chances.
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“I think its the best setup we’ve had in Formula E,” he said.
“There’s lots of grandstands, the length of the track is good. We’ve been to some very tiny and small tracks including New York, Paris and Monaco, so now to arrive on a track that suits the car very well – it’s quite wide, so we are expecting good overtaking opportunities – I think we have everything in place to have a good season finale.”
Di Grassi will be hoping he can channel the spirit of his epic win in Mexico earlier in the season where he took the checkered flag against all the odds.
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Third in the drivers’ championship in 2015, second last year, di Grassi is desperate to claim top spot this season – and he is predicting the same intensity of battle that lit up Battersea last year.
“Maybe we’ll see (a collision) maybe we won’t see – that’s part of racing,” he said. “But I can assure you that I will take every chance that appears for me to win the title. I don’t like to lose. I prefer to win using every chance i can take to attack.”
It promises to be a thrilling finale.