Jean-Eric Vergne beat title rival Sam Bird to the season 4 FIA Formula E title this past weekend in New York, as the Formula waves goodbye to its Gen-1 car.
The weekend didn’t start too well for either driver with Sam Bird qualifying fourteenth for the first race whilst Jean-Eric Vergne and his Techeetah Racing teammate having their times deleted for exceeding the permitted power usage.
On lap two of the first race, Alex Lynn let his DS Virgin Racing teammate Sam Bird through into tenth place with Vergne struggling to move his way through the field – still circulating in eighteenth place. On the following lap, Bird moved up another position into ninth overtaking Jerome d’Ambrosio. Meanwhile, Vergne was slowly starting to move his way through the order.
At the front of the field, Daniel Abt overtook long-time race leader Sebastien Buemi to go into the race lead.
On lap eleven, Vergne dived up the inside of Felix Rosenqvist to move up to twelfth. On the same lap, his teammate Andre Lotterer helping Vergne by overtaking Sam Bird and relegating him down to tenth.
Two laps later, Vergne moved past Bird’s teammate Alex Lynn into eleventh putting him directly behind Bird. Lotterer was doing a great job of slowing up Bird allowing Vergne to put the British driver under increasing pressure. On lap sixteen, the Frenchman finally got through.
It was now an Audi one-two as Lucas Di-Grassi went up the inside of Sebastien Buemi – helping the Audi team in their manufacturer battle with Techeetah.
As they reached mid-race distance, Vergne went up the inside of Nico Prost as Sam Bird also went up the inside of Maro Engel.
The battle for the Championship was still on but after one of the Mahindra’s stopped during the pitlane, it cost Sam Bird a couple of seconds whilst Vergne had a good pit-stop moving into sixth when everyone else had stopped.
Meanwhile, Lucas Di Grassi overtook his teammate Daniel Abt to become the new race leader. A few laps later, Lotterer allowed his teammate Vergne into fifth position after he had done a solid job earlier in the race helping him to overtake Sam Bird.
Alex Lynn crashed out heavily just as Maro Engel overtook Bird to move into ninth. This brought out the safety car.
Sam Bird dived up the inside of Nico Prost, but he needed a least eighth position to keep the championship alive with Vergne in fifth.
Lucas Di Grassi came through to win with his Audi teammate Daniel Abt right behind him with pole sitter and early race leader Sebastien Buemi rounding off the podium. Jean-Eric Vergne finished fifth and with that, clinched the season 4 championship. Sam Bird came home ninth.
After the race, Jean-Eric Vergne commented, “It feels incredible! I don’t really know how I feel, it was a crazy race – starting last and finishing fifth.”
He also admitted that “I had a problem with the second car – I couldn’t brake very well. It was very stressful but crossing the line was just incredible. Huge thanks to my team, what we’ve done this year is just incredible – it will take me some time to realise it.”
Race winner Lucas Di Grassi said, “We tried to score as many points as possible and fight fair. What you cannot do in Formula E is open up a gap because when you do that you waste energy. The safety car came out and so the last couple of laps were flat-out – trying to keep Daniel (Abt) behind.”
With the drivers’ championship decided during the first race, race two was all about the manufactures battle between Audi and Techeetah.
Sebastien Buemi secured his second pole of the weekend with the two Techeetah cars qualifying second and third with the two Audi cars directly behind in fourth and fifth.
Jean-Eric Vergne got off to a great start diving up the inside of Buemi into turn one with Andre Lotterer struggling to find a gap to also get past Buemi – despite getting the better start. Lotterer tried to go around the outside of Buemi but locked up and nearly dropped to fourth behind race one winner Lucas Di Grassi.
On lap four, Lotterer finally got past to make it a Techeetah one-two. However, it wouldn’t last long as he was deemed to have jumped the start and handed a ten-second stop-go penalty. This allowed Di Grassi to move up to second with Daniel Abt moving up into third after overtaking Sebastien Buemi on lap nineteen.
On lap twenty-six, Buemi used the most of the fan-boost to overtake Abt and move back onto the final podium spot. However, after a small bit of oversteer resulting in a poor run onto a main straight, Abt dived back up the inside of the Swiss driver to go back into third.
Whilst trying to conserve some energy in the closing stages of the race, Lucas Di Grassi hit the back of the season 4 champion Jean-Eric Vergne as Andre Lotterer was fighting back moving past Stephane Sarrazin to claim tenth. Lotterer then moved around the outside of Sam Bird to move into ninth.
Jean-Eric Vergne held onto the win for Techeetah, but it wasn’t enough to clinch the manufacturer title with Lucas Di Grassi and Daniel Abt finishing second and third respectively for Audi.
Jean-Eric Vergne said, “It’s fantastic – obviously I’m gutted for the team losing out on the teams’ championship, but everybody can be proud of what we have achieved. A win is a great way to round off a perfect season. I’m ready to fight again for another title next season.”
So, another season of FIA Formula E is over and done with. With the new Gen-2 car coming in next year with a new bigger battery also coming in meaning there will be no car changes mid-race, it looks to be another electrifying season!
By Jordan Hollands