until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

Is Formula E’s once-greatest outfit getting back on track?

by Sam Smith
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The Nissan e.dams team surprised itself with a reinvigorated performance during the Mexico City E-Prix that netted its first double-points score in seven races.

Eighth- and ninth-placed finishes for Sebastien Buemi and Maximilian Guenther respectively gave the team a much-needed morale boost after a succession of difficult races during the first part-campaign the IM03 design contested last year.

Nissan endured a difficult start to this season too at the Diriyah double-header last month, when the team chased optimum set-ups to little avail over the duration of the meeting.

Though its Mexico showing was more encouraging, expectations were slightly higher early in the weekend. This was because both Nissans showed strong pace the two free practice sessions, with Buemi second only to Andre Lotterer’s Porsche in FP1 and then fourth in FP2.

That gave the team hope that it could rejoin the leading pack of cars in the race but its managing director, Francois Sicard, told The Race that after the promise of free practice the team was “expecting a bit more”, despite coming to Mexico knowing “it was not a track that was going to best-suit our car”.

“It created more expectations than the ones we had before leaving the workshop and I think we didn’t deliver what we should have done in qualifying,” said Sicard. “We could have done much better.”

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That referenced Buemi making a small mistake on his final group run, which anchored him to an unrepresentative 18th on the grid, and Guenther encountering some traffic on his lap.

The difficulties only appeared to fire Buemi up as he made a brilliant start to overtake former team-mate Oliver Rowland, Sam Bird, Alexander Sims, and Mitch Evans in the opening few laps.

Sicard agreed that “what was important was the way we recovered” but that it quickly became apparent it was going to be an “intense energy management race” and that Nissan had to “think quickly to understand that we had to switch from 39 to 40 laps”.

That triggers unpleasant flashbacks to the team’s catastrophic 2019 race, when both Buemi and then team-mate Oliver Rowland ran out of energy on the penultimate lap after a miscalculation. But it refused to follow others’ gambles and, whereas some teams took a while to react, Nissan adapted its strategies to ensure both Buemi and Guenther could capitalise and surge into the lower reaches of the top 10 for six hard-fought points.

Sicard put the performance into perspective when he said that “we are always aiming for bigger points but here we opened the [points] score on a track where we didn’t feel the most comfortable, so we are very happy”.

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April’s Rome double-header could be the race where Nissan comes back as a major threat to the front of the field. It was the scene of a competitive weekend in 2021, when Oliver Rowland had a golden chance of victory but was denied by a team-inflicted technical error.

“We know that we have a break of seven weeks and there are a lot of things we want to bring for Rome,” said Sicard.

Formula E Mexico City E Prix 2021

Guenther claimed his first points for Nissan e.dams after a tenacious qualifying effort went unrewarded and a first appearance in the knock-out stages was denied by just 0.086 seconds.

His race was eventful; he lost time when he was hit by Lucas di Grassi in the stadium section early on, then drafted with Buemi before relinquishing his position when the pair’s attack modes overlapped.

Guenther also lost out to the 39-lap gambling Jaguars of Mitch Evans and Sam Bird plus Jake Dennis, before repassing the Avalanche Andretti driver and catching back up to his team-mate as those on a 39-lap projection slowed, and was elevated to ninth when a di Grassi penalty was applied.

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