It was a successful weekend for Formula E drivers as they fulfilled their needs for speed away from the all-electric series, with Nissan e.dams’ Sebastien Buemi taking victory in the LMP1 category of the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and Alex Lynn triumphing in LMP2. Robin Frijns also excelled in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters with a double podium.
A number of other Formula E stars were in action in Belgium, each experiencing varying fortunes but all with the same intent of emerging victorious.
Frijns was one of three Formula E drivers to be present at Hockenheim for the opening round of the 2019 DTM season, with former racers Loic Duval and Rene Rast also lighting up the German circuit. Formula E test drivers Paul di Resta, Daniel Juncadella and Pietro Fittipaldi were all in action as well.
World Endurance Championship: 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
Buemi (alongside Kazuki Nakajima & Fernando Alonso in the #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing) effectively put one hand on the FIA World Endurance Championship driver’s title by winning the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, as GEOX Dragon’s José María López (alongside Kamui Kobayashi & Mike Conway in the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing) finished back in sixth thanks to a length stop to fix brake sensor failure.
This was a race of four seasons in not a literal sense, but a figurative sense as the race pretty much saw all four weather seasons condensed into six hours, the weather would be cycling through sun, cloud, rain and snow on multiple occasions in quick succession. Snow had already forecast for the weekend, but many thought it had passed earlier in the morning and were hoping for a non-snow or hail affected race, let alone multiple snow or hail induced safety-car periods.
The first of these safety-car periods hit as soon as the 20 minute mark, with heavy snow giving everyone flashbacks to Silverstone in 2016, prior to this the #7 car of López had taken pole and kept the lead following the early phase of the race.
After the first safety car period ended, Buemi captured the lead after the #7 of López (with Conway at the wheel) ran wide at the chicane, but this would later be undone after a spin at Pouhon (with Alonso at the wheel) and an extra pit stop put Buemi’s #8 car back in second more than 50 seconds behind the sister car, despite the extra pit stop taking place under the second safety car period. The #8 was then left with the tall order of trying to make up 55 seconds to the #7.
As it would turn out the #8 wouldn’t have to make up the time to the #7 car, as it was later rolled into the garage thanks to the aforementioned brake sensor failure.
The #7 would climb back to sixth place after dropping behind the entire LMP2 field, but the #8 car would unchallenged for the rest of the race, despite other snow-induced safety-car periods and would take the win after the race was red-flagged with 15 minutes remaining thanks to one final deluge of snow.
What this has done for Buemi and his co-drivers (Alonso & Nakajima), is give them a 31-point lead in the drivers championship, meaning that even if López and his co-drivers (Kobayashi & Conway) were to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a seventh place would still be enough for Buemi to claim his second FIA WEC driver’s title.
Of the other current Formula E drivers competing in the LMP1 class, HWA Racelab’s Stoffel Vandoorne would claim a podium on his series debut in the #11 SMP Racing car, DS Techeetah’s André Lotterer (joined by Porsche’s season six driver Neel Jani) finished fifth in the #1 Rebellion, while NIO’s Tom Dillmann finished 34th thanks to the usual misfortunes of the #4 ByKolles.
In LMP2, DS Techeetah’s Jean-Éric Vergne scored a solid second for the G-Drive team and their Auris-branded Oreca. LMGTE Pro saw Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s Alex Lynn claimed the class win in the #97 Aston Martin Vantage, with the car’s high downforce paying dividends in the adverse conditions. BMW’s Antonio Felix da Costa (driving the #82 BMW M8) had lead early on and been involved in some impressive on-track battles, but dropped back to fourth as the BMW struggled getting their tyres up to temperature throughout the race and Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird finished sixth in the #71 Ferrari 488.
Jose Maria Lopez: P1
Sebastien Buemi: P2
Stoffel Vandoorne: P5
Neel Jani/Andre Lotterer: P6
Tom Dillmann: P7
Jean-Eric Vergne: P1
Ho-Pin Tung: P2
Alex Lynn: P2
Antonio Felix da Costa: P3
Sam Bird: P10
Sebastien Buemi: P1
Stoffel Vandoorne: P3
Neel Jani/Andre Lotterer: P5
Jose Maria Lopez: P6
Tom Dillmann: P34
Jean-Eric Vergne: P2
Ho-Pin Tung: P4
Alex Lynn: P1
Antonio Felix da Costa: P4
Sam Bird: P6
Meanwhile at the DTM season opener at Hockenheim, Envision Virgin Racing’s Frijns carried over the momentum of his maiden Formula E win, and made a solid start to his campaign with Audi Sport Abt by scoring a pair of third place finishes in both races. In the first race Frijns made his way up to second at the start, but was soon passed by Mike Rockenfeller and Rast a few laps later. Following the retirement of Rast, Frijns found himself back up to second, but would drop back into third following his mandatory pit stop.
In Sunday’s second race, Frijns featured in what was an Audi 1-2-3 following an incident-packed race that saw one-time Formula E starter Rast win after starting 16th. Frijns kept himself out of trouble during the race, and had again made his way up to second place before taking his pit stop. Emerging from the pits in fifth, Frijns then went about catching and passing the BMW’s of Bruno Spengler and Philipp Eng for fourth and third respectively, and was also catching second place man Nico Müller. Both results leave Frijns second in the standings, although at this stage it is still very early in the championship.
Robin Frijns: Q5, P3
Robin Frijns: Q3, P3
Additional reporting by Phaceless Photographer
WEC images courtesy of Phaceless Photographer
DTM image courtesy of Audi Communications Motorsport / Michael Kunkel