This was it. The last races of the fourth season of Formula E. The last races with the first generation of all-electric single-seat open-wheel race cars. The decider of who will take home the title of Formula E World Champion 2017-18. For that, New York seemed like a fitting location for this finale.
Jean-Eric Vergne had an impressive performance all-season and Sam Bird had done a great job to catch up in the driver’s title standings. In the first round on Saturday, everyone was having a hard time around the dusty circuit as there were plenty of slides and spins. Both Techeetah drivers Vergne and Lotterer had their times disqualified for a technical infringement regarding battery output and would start on the last row of the grid. It was a good qualifying session for Sebastian Buemi in the Renault though who took pole position in Super Pole after Daniel Abt locked-up his Audi’s brakes on his fast lap and had to settle for starting in fifth. Mitch Evans got his electric Jaguar onto the first row of the grid while Nico Prost in the other Renault was third fastest ahead of Jerome D’Ambrosio in the Dragon Racing FE car. Last year’s winner in NYC, Sam Bird was struggling with his car and qualified 14th fastest while Lucas di Grassi started 11th on the grid. The Mahindra team were having similar troubles it would seem as Nick Heidfeld was 10th fastest and Felix Rosenqvist was to start 16th on the grid.
The race later that day was quite eventful and even included a safety car. It was a disaster for Evans and Jaguar as his car failed on the start line and had to retire while Nio driver Oliver Turvey was injured from his crash in practice and could not start the race. The two Dragon Racing cars collided into Turn 1, both taking damage while the Audi’s were already gunning for the lead racers. Buemi was in first while Prost had fallen back a few places in the initial laps and Di Grassi seemed unstoppable as he climbed up the order. Lotterer and Vergne were already up into the points by Lap 16, and crucially both were ahead of Bird as well. Abt and Di Grassi were running first and second before the pit stops with Buemi in third and Jaguar’s race ended soon after pits when Piquet too had to retire his car due to technical problems. The battle for the championship was about to be decided, all Vergne had to do was finish a couple of positions ahead of Bird. On Lap 35, Alex Lynn in the other DS Virgin car had a major spin down the fast section and slammed into the wall, destroying the rear end of his car but he was luckily uninjured. This brought out the Safety Car and bunched everyone up before a timed (did not countdown for laps remaining) scurry to the chequered flag. Di Grassi had passed Abt before the incident and both were racing hard, getting Audi the one-two finish to bring them closer to winning the Team’s Championship. It was also their second one-two result of the season. Buemi took the final podium spot but it was his teammate, who in his battle to defend his position in P9 held back Bird long enough which allowed Vergne to claim the Championship with an impressive P5 finish despite having started in last. Bird crossed the line in P9 at 142 points with an uncatchable 31 point deficit to Vergne, the new Champion.
*The full results for the both races are shared at the end of the article for your reference.
It was a hard-fought campaign over the last 11 races with Audi finding their form in the second half and taking wins, but Jean-Eric Vergne had done it and is now the Formula E World Champion. Celebrations would have to be restrictive as there was one more race still to go and the Team’s Championship was running very tight between Techeetah and Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler.
The final race of the season on Sunday got even more dramatic as it happened to rain heavily during practice and qualifying. The wet conditions may have seen drivers be relatively cautious but spins and slides happened in plenty. Vergne had won the championship but he was not taking it easy as the battle was now for his team to win the team’s title. Possibly even more motivated as his country, France was playing in the FIFA 2018 World Cup Finals against Croatia, the match happening in Russia around the same time as qualifying. Buemi took pole again in the Super Pole session while Lotterer and Vergne managed to qualify ahead of both Audi drivers in second and third as Abt and Di Grassi took the fourth and fifth spots respectively. The rain had stopped and the track was drying up by the time of the race.
Vergne got the best start and was in the lead by Turn 1 followed by Buemi, Lotterer, Di Grassi and Abt in that order. Lotterer locked up his front-tyres big time and barely managed to hold onto P3 in the first lap. But the Techeetah garage was soon stressing out as both their drivers were being investigated for a possible jump start. On Lap 9 however, there was a full-course yellow as Fillipi crashed into the back of Da Costa and as his damaged car was rolling across the track, he collected Jerome D’Ambrosio as well. Vergne was cleared for the possible jump start but his teammate wasn’t and was handed a penalty that saw him drop far down the order. Lucas Di Grassi was up into P2 and with Daniel Abt in P3, it seemed Audi would indeed take the Team’s Championship for Season 4 of Formula E and they did, by two points. Vergne won the final race in the first gen FE cars while Di Grassi and Abt finished second and third respectively, giving Audi just what they needed to take the trophy away from Techeetah. Disheartened they may be, but the private racing team from China can hold their heads high having come so close, finishing second and ahead of some of the big factory teams in the sport like Renault, Mahindra and Jaguar.
This was the first season of Formula E that I have followed from start to end and it’s been an exciting one and I am hooked to the sport. The drama, the racing, the crashes, the excitement, it’s all an extremely entertaining package. Next season, we have a new format, new teams, new circuits and all-new cars and I am looking forward to all of it. Will Porsche and Audi take over? Can Mahindra find the momentum to win a title next year? Or will the smaller teams surprise everyone yet again? Don’t forget to subscribe to The Auto Loons for more updates on Formula E and the upcoming season.
Full race standings:
- L. Di Grassi Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler – 1h02m30.054s
- D. Abt Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler +0.965
- S. Buemi Renault E.DAMS +2.583
- T. Dillmann Venturi Formula E Team +4.090
- J. Vergne Techeetah +4.679
- N. Heidfeld Mahindra Racing +5.142
- A. Lotterer Techeetah +5.810
- M. Engel Venturi Formula E Team +6.312
- S. Bird DS Virgin Racing +6.833
- N. Prost Renault E.DAMS +8.389
- A. Da Costa MS&AD Andretti Formula E +9.114
- S. Sarazzin MS&AD Andretti Formula E +13.242
- J. D’Ambrosio Dragon Racing +13.805
- F. Rosenqvist Mahinda Racing +35.452
- L. Filippi Nio Formula E Team +1 Lap
- A. Lynn DS Virgin Racing DNF
- J. Lopez Dragon Racing DNF
- N. Piquet Jr. Panasonic Jaguar Racing DNF
- M. Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing DNF
- O. Turvey Nio Formula E Team DNF
- J. Vergne Techeetah – 1h01m38.089s
- L. Di Grassi Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler +0.508
- D. Abt Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler +1.287
- S. Buemi Renault E.DAMS +1.780
- F. Rosenqvist Mahinda Racing +12.146
- M. Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing +20.505
- N. Piquet Jr. Panasonic Jaguar Racing +20.592
- N. Heidfeld Mahindra Racing +24.275
- A. Lotterer Techeetah +28.821
- S. Bird DS Virgin Racing +32.810
- N. Prost Renault E.DAMS +34.100
- S. Sarazzin MS&AD Andretti Formula E +34.594
- Q. Ma Nio Formula E Team +1 Lap
- A. Lynn DS Virgin Racing +1 Lap
- A. Da Costa MS&AD Andretti Formula E +3 Laps
- M. Engel Venturi Formula E Team DNF
- L. Filippi Nio Formula E Team DNF
- J. D’Ambrosio Dragon Racing DNF
- J. Lopez Dragon Racing DNF
- T. Dillmann Venturi Formula E Team DNF