Formula E rivals Sebastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi have been firing shots at one another ahead of this weekend’s title decider in Montreal.
After being forced to sit out the New York double header a couple of weeks ago, current champion Buemi’s lead over Di Grassi in the overall standings has been reduced to just 10 points, with another two races to come in Canada this weekend.
Once again the two drivers will go head-to-head for the championship in a rivalry that grew significantly more intense following their collision in last season’s Battersea Park finale.
“I respect him [di Grassi] as a driver but I don’t respect what happened last year [at Battersea],” Buemi told Motorsport.com. “People within the sport know exactly what happened there.
“If [a collision] happens once more like this, what do you think people will think then? It will be very hard to explain for him. He can’t afford anything like that again for his reputation, can he?”
What really rankles Buemi is that Di Grassi never took responsibility for the incident.
“The other side is that last year instead of him saying: ‘I tried everything and lost it and the situation happened as it did, sorry’, he then said that the fault is on me and I braked early,” said the Swiss driver.
“This I didn’t like and didn’t think was correct at all. You can push things so far, but there is a limit and he went well over it that day.
“I prefer to lose with dignity than to try to win in a way where I could not look at myself in the mirror. Can he say the same? I don’t know, ask him. It is done now and it is over.
“We have had good battles since then and there is no real big problem from my side anymore.”
And the conflict didn’t end there. Buemi revealed there was another incident between the two after Battersea Park, although he would not go into any detail over it.
“After Battersea we had another bad story which nobody knows about and there will not be any publicity about this,” he said.
“So we had another problem too, but this is history now as well.”
Buemi also reckons Di Grassi’s constant pronouncements in the press betray a lack of confidence in his abilities.
“He seems to lack some confidence if he needs to speak to everyone all the time that he outperforms the car he has,” he said. “I think the real good guys don’t need to say it, but he usually does and ends up just talking too much.
“If I wanted to, I could go around and tell everyone that I was the only guy who is winning regularly in a Renault car. [Jean-Eric] Vergne, [Esteban] Gutierrez and now [Stephane] Sarrazin have the same car and I am the only one to have won a race, in fact 12 races.
“I could do that, but I don’t because I feel like I don’t need to and people will see this for what it is. Maybe he does it because he thinks it is good for the championship, who knows?”
He added: “A rivalry is good and it spices it up for a new championship like Formula E. I just think you need to be correct and have a limit.
“To be honest I don’t read what he says anyway. I like to keep my energy for the track.”
It didn’t take Di Grassi too long to respond to his rival’s words.
The opening salvo was fired on Twitter, with Di Grassi not mentioning Buemi by name, but making his point pretty clear all the same.
When a dog is barking, he is either afraid or unsettled.. good.
— LUCAS DI GRASSI (@LucasdiGrassi) July 21, 2017
In an interview with Motorsport.com, Di Grassi went further, accusing Buemi of having a problem coping with pressure.
“He [Buemi] lost the championship in season one with quite a simple mistake when he spun on his out lap and lost it all,” Di Grassi told Motorsport.com. “So you can clearly see he has a few problems in this area.
“Everyone feels pressure in a different way of course. He has pressure big time this weekend, much more than me, this is because everyone will be waiting to see if those mistakes come again in Montreal.”
He added: “He seems to have strong opinions still about Battersea and the way I behave and if it is not the way he thinks I should behave then again I say it is irrelevant to me. It is ancient history now.
“I say and think what is correct. Sometimes I am not politically correct as you can see from my twitter account sometimes, so I say what I think and that is just how it is.”
Di Grassi also laid down the gauntlet ahead of the Montreal double-header set to decide the title, saying that all the pressure was on Buemi, and that another mistake could end up costing him dear.
“The pressure is on him. If he doesn’t have a good weekend I will win the championship,” he said.
“The title is more difficult for me obviously, so I’m going to try to win, I’ll do my best and if I win both races I’ll be the champion.
“I’m going to take more risk than I would if I were 10 points ahead. I have little to lose and a lot to win.
“Buemi can only really lose it and as we have seen in the past both he and the team can make mistakes.”