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The three-race period that changed Formula E’s title fight

In a season of nine different winners from eight teams in 13 races, it almost seems unfair to focus on the three-race stint towards the end of the season – Monaco, Berlin and Bern – which changed the title race towards DS Techeetah driver Jean-Eric Vergne.

Vergne was crowned champion in New York City after he went into the double-header weekend with a 32-point lead over his nearest challenger, Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi.

And while di Grassi and fellow drivers Sebastien Buemi and Mitch Evans did enough on Saturday to take the title race to the final race, they were unable to stop Vergne becoming the first double drivers’ champion in Formula E history.

But to look at where Vergne pulled out this gap means looking at the three previous races in Monaco, Berlin and Bern.

What had been a tight title race between several drivers – there were 29 points between the top 10 in the championship leaving the Paris E-Prix with 29 points available per race day – soon had a gap of 32 points between first and second.

And after the Paris weekend, Vergne was sixth in the championship on 62 points, 19 points behind championship leader Robin Frijns.

Three podiums in a row, including two wins, meant Vergne left the European season of Formula E 32 points clear of Lucas di Grassi. Vergne had picked up 68 points in those three races out of a possible 87, or 78.1% of the points available.

In contrast, his nearest rival going into New York picked up just 28 points – with 26 of these coming in Berlin and the final two in Bern. The two other drivers in contention on the final day, Buemi and Evans, picked up 46 points and 26 points respectively. Buemi’s 46-point haul moved him into seventh place in the championship – but 54 points behind Vergne with 58 available.

 

In a series where consistency has been lacking across the board – with perhaps the exceptions of Daniel Abt and Evans, who scored points in all but two and three races respectively – it was this three-race period that undoubtedly won the title for Vergne.

In Bern, he became the first driver from group one to claim a pole position and the three bonus points that came with it were crucial for him heading into the finale.

But it was not just this impressive record that helped Vergne. He was in group two in Monaco and won the race from pole position, although did not get the points as Nissan e.dams’ Oliver Rowland was fastest in qualifying but had a grid penalty.

Vergne’s win in Monaco put him in group one for the Berlin E-Prix and it showed with a qualifying position of ninth. Claiming a podium meant Vergne stayed in the first qualifying group for Bern where a lights-to-flag win beckoned despite late pressure from Jaguar’s Evans.

The three tenth gap in the super pole shootout meant it was Evans attacking Vergne, not the other way round and Vergne essentially gained 10 points on Evans in this race alone – three in qualifying and seven in the race – plus 13 on Buemi and 26 on di Grassi.

That, coupled with the points gained in Monaco and Berlin, meant Vergne went into New York with more than a race day’s worth of points ahead of di Grassi. It meant he was in control of his destiny and he had leeway for a potential chaotic race – which is exactly what happened on Saturday.

Although Vergne scored no points, Evans and di Grassi left themselves in a position where they had to win the race to claim the title and Vergne not scoring. For Buemi, it was even trickier despite claiming 28 out of 29 points on Saturday. By not claiming pole position on Sunday, he was out of contention on countback.

Vergne may have mathematically won the title in New York, but the three races of Monaco, Berlin and Bern were the races that meant clinching it in New York became a distinct possibility.

Jack Amey

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