DS Virgin’s Sam Bird and Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne are about to go head-to-head in New York to find out who will be crowned Formula E’s fourth different champion in four seasons.
Vergne leads Bird going into the double-header in New York by 22 points, coincidentally the number of points Lucas di Grassi trailed Sebastien Buemi by heading into the Montreal finale in Season 3. Di Grassi claimed the title that weekend.
But how did the fourth season of Formula E get to this point? Just Electric takes a trip down (somewhat recent) Memory Lane ahead of the New York City ePrix to go into detail about how the championship got to the point it is right now.
Rounds 1 and 2: Hong Kong double-header
Pole: Vergne (R1)/Rosenqvist (R2)
Fastest lap: Abt (R1)/Rosenqvist (R2)
Just as the season ends with a double header, it started off with one too – on the streets of Hong Kong. While it was Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara who stole headlines for his podium finish in his first Formula E weekend, it started off Vergne and Bird’s title challenge.
Bird held the advantage over Vergne after the double-header courtesy of his win in the first race while Vergne finished third and claimed three bonus points for qualifying in first place – a feat he achieved by spinning out of the final corner. In round two, Bird finished one place behind Vergne with the pair coming home in fourth and fifth.
Bird 35; Vergne 33; Rosenqvist 29
Round 3: Marrakesh
Fastest lap: Nelson Piquet
As Formula E moved to Marrakesh for the second ePrix in Morocco, it was Rosenqvist who claimed top spot in the championship by beating both Bird (third) and Vergne (fifth) in the race. Rosenqvist started in third place in his Mahindra, but overtook Bird as the pit stop window approached.
While Rosenqvist claimed the win in a fair fight with Buemi, Vergne was making his way through the field after a disappointing qualifying session left him in 13th place. His charge through the field meant he finished in fifth place in a show of damage limitation.
Rosenqvist 54; Bird 50; Vergne 43
Round 4: Santiago
Fastest Lap: Bird
In some ways, for Vergne, Santiago was also a case of damage limitation. Only in this situation, it was a case of literal damage as Vergne and rookie team-mate Andre Lotterer fought for a one-two finish in Formula E’s first venture to Chile.
Vergne held on despite Lotterer almost pushing him into the barriers towards the latter stages of the race. It meant that Techeetah secured Formula E’s first ever one-two finish while Buemi’s third place meant Renault locked out the entire podium.
Rosenqvist had to emulate Vergne’s drive in Marrakesh by fighting his way through the field, with the Swede eventually finishing in fourth place – ahead of Sam Bird, who was fifth despite finishing fourth. Three bonus points for pole position cemented Vergne’s championship lead, although he was only five points clear of Rosenqvist.
Vergne 71; Rosenqvist 66; Bird 61
Round 5: Mexico City
Fastest lap: Lucas di Grassi
It was Daniel Abt who made headlines in Mexico City, claiming his first win in Formula E. It was a performance that had been coming for a while. The Audi factory driver started fifth but a retirement for Rosenqvist allowed Abt to claim the win.
Rosenqvist was not the only title contender to miss out on scoring points though, as Bird finished 17th and last of the classified runners. Vergne’s fifth place meant he only extended the gap by seven points – thanks to Rosenqvist’s pole position – at the top of the championship before Formula E headed back to the coastline of Punta del Este.
Vergne 81; Rosenqvist 69; Bird 61
Round 6: Punta del Este
Fastest lap: José María López
As Formula E returned to Punta del Este after a season-long gap, it was Vergne’s turn to claim victory and another extension of his championship lead. A race-long battle with reigning champion di Grassi meant the pair were separated by less than half-a-second as the pair crossed the line.
It was the first time di Grassi had finished in the top three in Season 4 of Formula E, with his Audi e-tron FE04 often suffering reliability gremlins. Round 6 kicked off di Grassi’s season properly, despite scoring his first points in the previous race in Mexico City.
Bird bounced back from a disappointing Mexico City to claimed third place while Rosenqvist finished in fifth place. It was enough for Rosenqvist to keep second in the championship, but Vergne had extended his championship lead from 12 points to 30 points over the Swede.
Vergne 109; Rosenqvist 79; Bird 76.
Round 7: Rome
Fastest lap: Abt
The first ever Rome ePrix provided drama in the championship fight as Rosenqvist claimed pole position before retiring from the race on lap 21 with suspension failure. Bird had been hunting down Rosenqvist all race before taking the lead thanks to the Swede’s mechanical issue.
Vergne continued his consistent season with another fifth-placed finish, allowing him to reduce Bird’s gain in the championship by scoring 10 points – a swing of 15 in the Brit’s favour.
Meanwhile, di Grassi continued his resurgence with another podium position, finishing less than a second behind Bird with Lotterer in third.
Vergne 119; Bird 101; Rosenqvist 82
Round 8: Paris
Fastest lap: di Grassi
Paris returned to the Formula E calendar after a successful first event in Season 3, and Frenchman Vergne was practically unbeatable around the streets of Les Invalides as he claimed both pole position and the win to extend his championship lead.
Di Grassi’s third consecutive podium ensured he climbed up the championship order once again while Bird finished in third place despite finishing with three wheels on his wagon – Lotterer’s battery had “run down” and he was slow on the racing line, with Bird not having anywhere to go.
Rosenqvist was eighth, losing more ground to the championship leaders as his bad run continued in the latter half of the championship. The Swede was now 61 points behind Vergne with 116 points left available (four wins, four poles and four fastest laps). Bird trailed Vergne by 31 points.
Vergne 147; Bird 116; Rosenqvist 86
Round 9: Berlin
Fastest lap: Abt
If Paris was a show in how to dominate your home race by Vergne, then Audi, and particularly Abt, provided a masterclass around Tempelhof Airport.
Abt took pole position by just over two-tenths of a second and over a second faster than team-mate di Grassi. While di Grassi qualified fifth and finished second, Abt flew away during the race to win by almost seven seconds.
Abt did come under pressure from di Grassi shortly after the mid-race car swaps, but the German driver soon pulled away from his team-mate to claim a memorable victory. It was so dominant that he finished 13s ahead of third-placed Vergne.
Bird claimed seventh place, over half-a-minute back from Abt, while Rosenqvist had yet another bad result in his title challenge. Attempting a move around the outside of the long left-hander of Turn 1, Rosenqvist ran wide and lost places. He fought his way back through the field but could not claim a point, finishing 11th.
Vergne 162; Bird 122; Rosenqvist 86
Round 10: Zurich
Pole: Mitch Evans
Fastest lap: Lotterer
After a run of four consecutive second places, di Grassi claimed his first win of the season as motorsport returned to Zurich for the first time since the 1954 Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten.
It was Bird who claimed second place to close the gap on Vergne by 17 points (Bird scored 18 points to Vergne’s one). The results meant only two drivers could go into New York and win the title: Vergne and Bird.
Rosenqvist’s 15th place meant he scored no points for the second time in a row, while the only points he had picked up in a race since Punta del Este came in Paris. A run of two non-finishes and two non-points scoring finishes meant he was still on 86 points and out of title contention – while also moving down to fifth place in the championship.
Vergne 163; Bird 140; di Grassi 101
Rounds 11 and 12: New York
With 58 points available and just 23 points separating the top two drivers going into the season-finale double-header, it is all to play for.
Bird will be confident going into the Brooklyn-based race after winning the two races in Season 3 on the same circuit, albeit a slight modification has been made to extend the circuit for this year.
It is possible that Vergne can win the title in round 11 if he outscores Bird by seven points – leaving him 30 clear with 29 available on Sunday. Vergne has secured four pole positions in Season 4 while Bird has none and the three bonus points that come with it could be crucial in the title fight. While Bird has not claimed pole position in Season 4, he did claim pole in New York last season (while team-mate Alex Lynn claimed the other pole position).