Jean-Éric Vergne just became the newest Formula E champion. The Frenchman clinches the championship after finishing in P5 on a nerve-wracking race. On July 14th, an important day for France, Vergne becomes the first French driver to win the Formula E championship.
This grid had the peculiarity of having 19 cars lined up for the start, as Oliver Turvey's injury during the free practice sessions did not allow him to take part in both qualifying and the race. Team Boss Gerry Hughes told TV outlets that the Brit had broken one of his fingers.
As the tension grew, once the red lights went out, events started to happen. Mitch Evans could not properly start the race, being overtaken by all the cars. López. who had had a positive start, climbing up some positions after Evans' dropback, was hit by teammate d'Ambrosio. The Argentinian lost his rear wing, whereas the Belgian had a damaged nose.
After one lap, the race had 18 cars on track, as Evans retired.
Daniel Abt and Tom Dillmann had positive starts. The German moved up to P2, whereas the Frenchman was in P5 three laps into the race. Championship contender Sam Bird was part of the bottom nine drivers at the start of the race, but quickly found his way up to the point-scoring positions.
For Dragon Racing, the dream of having a good performance on home soil as good as the one obtained in Zürich, quickly turned into a nightmare, as López and d'Ambrosio took their cars to the garage.
In the early stages of the race, Daniel Abt was able to overtake then-race leader Sébastien Buemi. The German, who is having his best season so far in Formula E, has already won in Mexico City and Berlin. Tom Dillmann overtook Jaguar Racing's Nelson Piquet Jr., positioning himself in P3.
André Lotterer had been penalised for power overuse in Qualifying, and had started from the bottom along with teammate Vergne. However, the German made up several positions in a short period of time, and with a clean pass to DS Virgin Racing's Alex Lynn, the three-time Le Mans winner was running in P10.
Lotterer overtook Sam Bird, who was then-running P9. Both DS Virgin Racing cars got sandwiched by the TECHEETAHs, as Vergne was charging up from the back of the field, to the point-scoring positions. Vergne overtook Lynn and was on the hunt of P10, a spot occupied by fellow title contender Bird.
Before that, Vergne had a strong fight on track with Felix Rosenqvist, trying to enter the Top 10. The hit between the Swede and Portuguese driver Antonio Felix da Costa, allowed Vergne to pass; but prior to that incident, the Frenchman had complained that the Mahindra Racing driver had thrown him to the dirty side of the track.
Lucas di Grassi showed demolishing pace, powering up from P11 to P3. Ever since the team got rid of the reliability issues that plagued their cars in the early stages of the seasons, the Audis have been almost unbeatable, winning three races since then.
However, all eyes were on the Bird-Vergne fight. Vergne was finally able to overtake Bird, and after almost twenty laps, both Lotterer and Vergne were running within the Top 10.
Di Grassi was on the hunt for P2, where Sébastien Buemi was running. For long-time Formula E fans, seeing this on-track battle means it will lack anything but excitement. A clean pass by the Brazilian to the Swiss, allowed him to be running in P2, behind teammate Abt.
Despite not having any of its drivers in the title hunt, a 1-2 result for Audi has a major importance, given that the German manufacturer is still on the run to clinch the Teams' Championship.
Lotterer and Vergne continued to move up positions within the Top 10, with the former running not too far from the Top 3. Bird, who had dropped out of the Top 10, could manage to be back in P10.
The mandatory car swap wasn't short of drama. Felix Rosenqvist's car stopped in the middle of the pitlane and Nelson Piquet Jr.'s car stopped just as he left the pitlane.
When the action was resumed, di Grassi powered up to P1, overtaking his teammate Abt, and positioning himself at the top of the standings. Di Grassi arrived in New York City having won the previous race in Zürich.
Abt did not give up on his fight for the lead of the race, and pushed hard to overtake his teammate. As Audi has chances of clinching the Teams' Championship, the expressions down at the Audi garage were not pleasant, as a battle on a narrow circuit like this one, could lead to both cars ending out of the race, as has been previously seen in the fully-electric championship.
Vergne got past Lotterer, and with the Frenchman running in P5, he was already clinching the title.
Alex Lynn crashed into the wall, badly damaging the rear of his car. As the car was stuck on track, Full Course Yellow and later on Safety Car were deployed.
As per usual, the deployment of Safety Car reduced the gaps between drivers, but it is important to point out that during the green flag period, the leading Audis had an eight-second gap to Renault e.dams' Sébastien Buemi, who was running third. It has been remarked in many occasions during the last couple of races, that if the German marque hadn't suffered the issues it had at the beginning of the season, they would be leading the championship by a big margin.
Green flags were displayed with just 2 minutes to go -the final stages of the race were timed.
Engel, Prost, and Bird were involved in a manouvre which almost ended up with three cars out of the race. Bird, in P10, was pushing hard to overtake Prost. The Brit overtook the Frenchman with just seconds until the chequered flag was waved.
And as motorsport's most iconic flag was waved, Jean-Éric Vergne the line crossed in P5. His first three seasons in the series saw him struggle, but in his fourth, all his efforts paid off. The Frenchman clinched the championship, and what a more iconic day to do so as a Frenchman than Bastille Day - July 14th.
And as the French national anthem La Marseillaise says: "le jour de gloire est arrivé" ("the day of glory has arrived") - Vergne knows this is his day of glory, one that was long overdue but worth the time it took. He came, he learnt, he improved, and now, he won the championship.
Meanwhile Lucas di Grassi won the race, followed by teammate Abt, and Sébastien Buemi. The Audis had a dominating pace and had a well-deserved 1-2. The German outfit took victory for the third race in a row.
|1||Lucas||DI GRASSI||43 laps|
|11||Antonio Felix||DA COSTA||9.114|
|NC||José Maria||LOPEZ||13 Laps|