Formula E | Buemi: “I was unlucky last year, I hope to be more competitive in 2024”
In Valencia – during Formula E’s pre-season testing – we spoke with Sébastien Buemi (Envision Racing). The Formula E Season 2 champion gave us an insight on his switch from e-dams to Envision and its effects on last season. Buemi told us how difficult is to combine a double commitment between Formula E and WEC and gave us his opinion on WEC’s growth.
SÉBASTIEN’S FORMULA E EXPERIENCE
Sébastien, last season was a big change for you here in Formula E. You left e.dams which was the team you raced with since the beginning and you joined Envision: how difficult was it to adapt to the new team? Do you think it affected you at some point during last season? "It is true that switching team was not easy, because I spent eight years with e.dams - Nissan, Renault. I was always speaking in French with the engineers and mechanics, and it was a big change, I felt a bit out of the comfort zone. In the end, I think I was lucky to find a team like Envision, I had a great car, thanks to Jaguar. I think we had a good season. Maybe we were a bit unlucky in India, in Rome, with two-three accidents that were not our fault. We lost a lot of points, but I think we could have done better. Yesterday (Tuesday 24, ed) was the first day with some stability, with the car, the team and the engineers, so it was easier to get here than last year”.
You finished 6th in the standings last season, and you returned to the podium, in London, for the first time since the last race of 2020. Do you believe the third place at the end of the first race in London might be a starting point on which you can build this new season? "Hopefully, in the end I think we missed two/three podiums last year, in India we got disqualified after the race. I don't see it as the start of anything, we had two poles last year. The speed is there, in my opinion we were unlucky, and I didn't do a great job in races. We worked a lot, I hope in 2024 I’ll be able to be more competitive in the race".
What change will the arrival of the Attack Charge bring in terms of strategy? "I think it will open up new things for the championship and for the teams, the problem is that I haven't tried it yet and it's too early for me to talk about it. It is still not sure how and when it will be used, I hope that by the end of the week there will be a chance to try it more."
You’ve driven Gen1, Gen2 and Gen3: would you like to tell me a strength and a weakness for each of them? Which one is your favourite? "I think the Gen3 is the fastest one, from a driver's point of view it is the one I prefer the most. I think with these electric motors there is a lot of torque, a lot of power, which is the strong point. The weak point? The fact that the regulations don't let us have slick tyres and some more downforce. It's true that the car moves around a lot, it has little grip, and for me it's a bit weak in that respect. If we want to look for an improvement in performance, it will almost be a necessity. I think for Gen3.5 there will be the possibility of having tyres with more grip, more slicks, I would like that”.
LIFE OUTSIDE THE TRACK
Like many other drivers here in Formula E, you also compete in the WEC: how difficult is to combine this double commitment with your personal life? "It's not easy. It's true that the start of the season from January to July is very difficult. With all the races of both Formula E and WEC - plus the time to stay at home - it is not simple. I am well organised, but every year when the calendars come out it is always a stress to know whether we have a concurrence or not and what we can do to manage the two commitments. By now, however, I have been used to it for almost 10 years. The clash between Berlin and Spa in 2024? For now, there is on Saturday, for the WEC at Spa we have this luck that the race is on Saturday so there would be a possibility to have the Berlin race on Sunday, but I haven't lost hope that there could be a solution. We will see what happens, there’s a chance that the calendar is not 100% confirmed yet, so we will have to wait."
Can having a double commitment influence you in case of a possible title chase? "Let's say I have a contract that is clear on priorities and will decide which race I have to do. In the end, in my opinion, it is a good problem to have, also because I race with Envision, which is the best team in Formula E, and I race with Toyota, which is the best team in the WEC. I am lucky enough to be able to fight for victory in both championships”.
A DREAM AND A STRESSFUL MEMORY
In a few days you’ll turn 35. You’re one of the most successful drivers in both Formula E and WEC. If you could choose one race to compete in before your retirement, one that you’ll never competed in, which one would you choose and why? "It’s hard to choose, maybe a Formula 1 race. But with a car that gives me a chance to win, or maybe the 24 Hours of Daytona or the Indianapolis 500. I don't know, but it is true that with everything I do now there’s no chance of doing anything else”.
Of all the ePrix you’ve raced here in Formula E, if I told you London 2016, what would you remember? Was that the toughest race you’ve ever done here in Formula E? "Definitely, from a mental point of view it was really difficult, but it was difficult all weekend. Two weeks before we retired at Le Mans (in the WEC, ed) on the last lap, the year before I lost the championship by one point. I remember a lot of stress in London, winning the Formula E season 2 by one point was good for me, it took a lot of stress off me and let's say it helped me for seasons 3 and 4”.
WEC AND ITS GROWTH
We’ve mentioned WEC before. It’s a championship that’s growing a lot thanks to new rules and new Constructors. What do you think about the new developments in recent years? "I think WEC has done a great job with Richard Mille, Pierre Fillon, the ACO, the FIA for this new regulation which seems to be a success. There are so many manufacturers coming, next year there will be Lamborghini, Alpine, BMW. For me 2024 will be incredible, as a driver I am very happy to be lucky enough to race in the WEC next season."
What motivation did having new rivals to face and new challenges to take on give you and Toyota? "In my opinion it was important for us to show that we can still win despite so much competition. It is true that we lost Le Mans, we finished second and that was difficult, but we won the Constructors' title and next week we play for the Drivers' title in Bahrain."
You’re first in the standing with one race to go: how tough is to handle the pressure of having to bring home a good result to win the title? "There is some stress, it is true, but we have won it three times and I hope to win it a fourth time. We have experience, but we are never sure. At the beginning of the week (the interview was done Wednesday, october 25th) we will work on the simulator and prepare ourselves as best we can to do well."
You won a lot in the WEC. You’re a three-time World Champion, you won the 24 hours of Le Mans four times: which of these was the most beautiful? "I think the first win at Le Mans was incredible, because Toyota waited almost 30 years to win at Le Mans, so to be the first driver to win the 24 hours for them was nice. All victories are beautiful, but that one was special”.