Jean-Eric Vergne has made it four different winners of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in as many seasons, as fifth place in today’s E-Prix was enough to put him out of reach of his rivals with one race left to run in New York City tomorrow (15 July).
In a day of high drama on the banks of the Buttermilk Channel in Brooklyn, Vergne went from last on the grid thanks to a technical infringement during qualifying to top of the world by the end of the scorching race.
“I can’t believe it – what a crazy race – god it feels good!” said Vergne. “Really I have no idea what it means to me to be champion – I need more time to process it – all I know is that it’s a good feeling. I enjoyed the race, but obviously, it was very tough. Some drivers were quite hard and overconsumed energy to try and not let me by. It was actually really complicated, a real fight unlike in Zurich – today, the drivers were tougher!”
His main title rival, DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird, had a contrasting day to his all-conquering first visit to the New York City E-Prix a year ago. He was unable to capitalise on Vergne’s qualifying issues, qualifying in 15th and unable to hold back the fast charging TECHEETAH from surging through the order.
The season-long front-runners briefly ran nose to tail on track, flanked by their team-mates Andre Lotterer for TECHEETAH and Alex Lynn for DS Virgin Racing. Ultimately, though, it was clear that the British drivers didn’t have the pace to battle hard for position.
Despite a late safety car brought out by a heavy crash for Lynn on lap 35 which closed up the order once more, Bird couldn’t find a way through on Maro Engel’s Venturi and finished just one position behind what would have taken the title fight down to the final race.
While the thousands of fans lining the narrow Brooklyn street circuit kept one eye on the ever-changing points table, at the front of the order there was an exciting battle for outright victory. Pole position had been convincingly set by Renault e.dams’ Sebastien Buemi, however as the race progressed he came under increasing pressure from the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler pairing of Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi, with the outgoing champion di Grassi ultimately taking the win.
It was a solid start for Buemi from his first pole position since Marrakesh, while fellow front row man Mitch Evans never got going – a technical issue halting any chance of a good result.
Abt therefore slotted into second place with an impressive showing from Tom Dillmann netting him third early in the running. This wasn’t to last long, however, as both Abt and di Grassi were on a real charge and soon line-a-stern at the front of the order.
A small mistake by Abt ahead gave di Grassi just enough space to squeeze past into turn six, and while the pair were clearly closely matched on pace, Abt was unable to find a way back through.
Buemi ended up a distant third, but it was a welcome return to the podium on the last weekend for the Renault e.dams squad in Formula E. Dillmann held on to an impressive fourth place ahead of the new champion Vergne, while Mahindra’s Nick Heidfeld made a late move on Andre Lotterer to take sixth.
With the driver’s championship wrapped up, there is an exciting prospect for the final race of the first generation Formula E cars tomorrow, as just five points separate TECHEETAH from Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler in the teams’ standings. With both squads showing serious pace, it will likely be a no holds barred battle at the front of the order.
Lucas di Grassi, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, said: “The Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler car was just a rocket today. I had good fights with [Tom] Dillmann, good fights with a lot of the drivers in fact. The second stint was a bit weird – in Formula E, it makes no sense to open a gap because if a safety car or any other disruption happens, you’ve wasted energy to open that gap. So, I was just trying to make sure that Daniel was just at just the right distance, but then after Lynn’s crash, it’s just a flat-out race to the end, which was very different. Daniel made a mistake in braking at Turn 6 and went a little bit wide through the dust. Then his tyres were bad for the next segment, before the back straight and I knew that it was a good moment to attack.”
Daniel Abt, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, said: “Going into this race we knew we had a strong package. I was aware that Lucas was behind, and I was told not to take risks, so I don’t know if there was a miscommunication. I’m happy for Audi – the team deserves this but of course I can’t sit here and smile like crazy. We are absolutely able to win the teams’ championship – that was always the target here – then we can end the season really productively.”
Sebastien Buemi, Renault e.dams, said: “To be honest I was focussing on my race, and initially I felt that I could stay at the front. I had similar pace to the Audis and I had a feeling I had a little bit more energy. When di Grassi overtook me, I didn’t want to fight as I knew that energy was very important, and it wouldn’t have made sense. Then I just had to hold the gap, but it wasn’t so easy as I had an issue with the brakes, the temperature completely diverted, and I couldn’t brake and was locking up everywhere. In the end, I didn’t have the pace and they were stronger. Still, there’s one more race to go and then I have to work on next year as clearly in terms of efficiency they [Audi] were in a different league today, so I’m happy to be the best of the rest.”
2018 New York City E-Prix (Rd 11)
1 – Lucas di Grassi, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, 1:02:30.054s (25)
2 – Daniel Abt, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, +0.965s (19)
3 – Sebastien Buemi, Renault e.dams, +2.583s (18)
4 – Tom Dillmann, Venturi Formula E Team, +4.090s (12)
5 – Jean-Eric Vergne, TECHEETAH, +4.679s (10)
6 – Nick Heidfeld, Mahindra Racing, +5.142s (8)
7 – Andre Lotterer, TECHEETAH, +5.810s (6)
8 – Maro Engel, Venturi Formula E Team, +6.312s (4)
9 – Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing, +6.833s (2)
10 – Nico Prost, Renault e.dams, +8.389s (1)
11 – Antonio Felix da Costa, Andretti Formula E, +9.114s
12 – Stephane Sarrazin, Andretti Formula E, +13.242s
13 – Jerome D’Ambrosio, DRAGON, +13.805s
14 – Felix Rosenqvist, Mahindra Racing, +35.452s
15 – Luca Filippi, NIO Formula E Team, +1 Lap
DNF – Alex Lynn, DS Virgin Racing, 33 Laps
DNF – Jose Maria Lopez, DRAGON, 30 Laps
DNF – Nelson Piquet Jr, Panasonic Jaguar Racing, 30 Laps
DNF – Mitch Evans, Panasonic Jaguar Racing