Just Electric

Vergne wins NYC finale as di Grassi leads Audi to Teams’ Championship

Jean-Eric Vergne won the final round of the 2017/18 ABB FIA Formula E season, but second and third in the race for Audi’s Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt meant that the Teams’ Championship would be on its way to Germany.

In many respects, the race was lucky to even go ahead after there was lightning in the area just after qualifying which led to an evacuation of the circuit – although people were let back in after an hour.

The grid today also saw all 20 cars on it despite gearbox changes being required for Alex Lynn and Antonio Felix da Costa, with both drivers needing to take a 10-second penalty during the pitstops.

The race start was fairly clean with both Techeetah’s making good starts and Jean-Eric Vergne made his way up into the lead at the first corner past Sebastien Buemi – although both Vergne and Andre Lotterer were investigated for jumping the start.

Antonio Felix da Costa and Mitch Evans were both making up plenty of ground at the start, making up four and three places respectively. Jaguar’s Nelson Piquet was also making up places to go into fifth. It didn’t go so well for Alex Lynn who was in the pits on the opening lap with an issue with his car.

Lotterer was busy making up ground as he made his way past Buemi for second on lap 4. Meanwhile, Tom Dillmann had to pit with a car issue on lap 6 leading to his retirement from the race and then all hell broke loose.

It started with Jose Maria Lopez breaking his right rear suspension on a kerb and he then stopped on track. Race control then threw a Full Course Yellow lap 8, just as Luca Filippi and da Costa collided. Then, as da Costa came back across the track, the Portuguese driver accidentally wiped out Lopez’s teammate, Jerome d’Ambrosio.

Lotterer received his penalty from race control with the stewards giving him a 10 second stop-and-go penalty, with Vergne not being penalised for the same infraction despite being investigated. Lotterer served the penalty as soon as the green flag was waved again on lap 11.

Lap 12 saw both Audi’s making up places for the teams’ championship with Lucas di Grassi passing Buemi for second and Daniel Abt passing Nelson Piquet for fifth.

Audi then took the fastest lap as well on lap 16 with Abt setting it and giving Audi the point they needed to go clear of Techeetah after Lotterer fell to fifteenth with his penalty.

Abt made his way up into third by passing Buemi on lap 19, as da Costa received a 10 second stop and hold penalty for causing the collision with Filippi. The Portuguese driver also received 3 penalty points as well.

Piquet lost two places in quick succession on lap 22 as both Mitch Evans and Felix Rosenqvist both made their way past; the Brazilian driver stayed out for an extra lap.

Rosenqvist was able to pass Evans for fifth as a result of a faster pit stop and on the following lap, Daniel Abt passed Sebastien Buemi for third after the pits. Buemi then used his Fanboost to get back past Abt on lap 26 after braking later at Turn 10.

Abt then got back past Buemi on lap 29 by capitalising on a mistake from Buemi and using the extra momentum to pass him at Turn 6.

Andre Lotterer made it past Nico Prost on lap 38 for eleventh, while his teammate Vergne was putting up a strong defence from di Grassi as the battle raged on at the front of the field. Di Grassi did hit Vergne on lap 39 as the Frenchman was saving energy with the rear camera getting knocked out of focus on the Techeetah.

Lotterer then made it up past Sam Bird into ninth on lap 41 to close the gap in the teams’ championship to 2 points and also relegate Bird to third in the drivers’ championship. However this wasn’t quite enough for Techeetah to take the teams’ crown.

At the front, it was a superb win for Jean-Eric Vergne who crossed the line ahead of the Audi duo of Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt, with Sebastien Buemi and Felix Rosenqvist rounding out the top 5.

Mitch Evans and Nelson Piquet finished in sixth and seventh place respectively for Jaguar, ahead of Mahindra’s Nick Heidfeld. Vergne’s teammate, Andre Lotterer recovered well to finish ninth and the top 10 was rounded out by Sam Bird.

To think that the first time di Grassi scored points was in Mexico and, after the torrid start to the season for the Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler team, winning the teams’ title and di Grassi finishing second in the drivers’ standings was almost unthinkable.

To think that Sam Bird was in with a chance of winning the title in a car that was rumoured to be over the minimum weight limit, and that Jean-Eric Vergne in only Techeetah’s second season – and as a customer team – was able to demonstrate such consistency en-route to the title should also both be applauded as well.

All in all, it was a fitting way to end an era.

1Jean-EricVERGNE43 laps
2LucasDI GRASSI0.508
13Qing HuaMA1 Lap
14AlexLYNN1 Lap
15Antonio FelixDA COSTA3 Laps
NCMaroENGEL28 Laps
NCJosé MariaLOPEZ38 Laps

Rob Lomas

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