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SMITH: Buemi’s Victory Famine Analyzed

Sam Smith looks at Sebastien Buemi’s lean spell and winless streak in Formula E…

Photo: Formula E

“Don’t blame Seb.”

That’s what one senior Nissan figure tells me after almost every race of the current Formula E season. It’s become something of a running joke now, but jokes often wear thin, don’t they?

They will be for Sebastien Buemi, who would be forgiven for having a great big chip on his shoulder at the moment.

Two fallow years without a single victory in Formula E should, by nature, tell a depressing tale, especially for a driver who prides himself on uncorking victory champagne at the earliest opportunity.

Formula 1 apart, Buemi is an habitual winner. Formula BMW, Formula Renault, Formula 3, A1 GP, GP2, WEC, Le Mans and Formula E. The list is as long as it is impressive.

Yet, for a driver who in the past has conducted an almost Wagnerian symphony of emotions in and out of the cockpit, he now seems, from the outside at least, to be coping reasonably with the disappointment.

Two years without a win though does little justice to the performances and the pace which have never left the Season Two champion.

In fact, he’s just got better and better from a performance perspective, yet the rewards have not kept their side of the bargain.

It can be no coincidence that Buemi’s lean spell has gone hand-in-glove with a tumultuous time for the Nissan e.dams, previously Renault e.dams, team over the last 24 months.

Consider that since his last win in Berlin, in June 2017, the e.dams team has gone through a massive change in not only its brand association (from Renault to Nissan) but also in its entire technical philosophy.

Then there is the day-to-day absence of team founder, patriarch and motivator Jean-Paul Driot, who is fighting, with typical feist, serious illness.

Buemi lost his long-time Formula E engineer Jeremy Colancan ahead of Season Five and also had to deal with a rapid and ambitious rookie teammate in the shape of Oliver Rowland.

Yet, the metronomic Buemi rises to further heights. He’s been the most consistent qualifier to date with nine super pole appearances in the ten rounds held this season.

He has taken pole twice, led races, yet the victory tumbleweed rolls on.

As sagas go, it has been the off-track story of the season so far. It’s the tale of how Nissan and e.dams are applying their innovative and probably quite brilliant technical package of a presumed twin-MGU system to the race track.

Buemi told e-racing365 at the start of the season that it was ‘complicated’ while its chief architect Vincent Gaillardot said that he could “understand [the concern], but honestly, we have been through the rules and the legality of every aspect of the different solution we have on our system.”

Nissan though may have to adapt or change it for Season Six should the FIA, which has studied its application closely since the Hong Kong E-Prix, issue a clarification of exactly what and how dual-MGUs are used in the championship.

E-racing365 understands that this could come soon after rival manufacturers pressured Nissan and the FIA into outlawing twin-MGU usage beyond the present season.

But what does all this mean for Buemi?

The likelihood is that he, along with Gaillardot and his technical team, was central to its development and getting it to be the standout performing technical package on the grid.

This might not be true in terms of outright consistency, but over specific configurations of track you only have to listen to rival drivers that follow Messrs Buemi and Rowland to understand how much of an advantage it has when its complex stars are aligned.

Did the whole saga of Nissan’s technical strategy have an baring on Buemi’s negotiations for a new deal with the team earlier this year.

You hear ‘yes’, you hear ‘no’ but knowing Buemi’s attention to detail you have to presume the former when he recently agreed a longterm deal.

Can it even be contemplated that Buemi, in the fastest car on the grid and with his home E-Prix in Bern on the horizon, may not win a race this season?

Hardly, but with the mixed up, muddled up, shook up world that is Season Five Formula E, it is a very real possibility.

Should this be the case, just don’t blame Seb.

Photo: Formula E

Sam Smith is e-racing365's Formula E Editor. A 20-year veteran in motorsports media, including press officer roles in both the FIA Sportscar Championship and at Lola Group, Smith is a well-known face in the Formula E paddock, where he served as series editor for Motorsport.com from 2014-17. Contact Sam

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