A massive fightback from Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne from the back of the grid saw him seal the 2017/18 FIA Formula E Championship title in New York’s Saturday race itself as Audi’s Lucas di Grassi led a 1-2 up ahead.
Following an infringement in qualifying, both the Techeetah drivers Vergne and Andre Lotterer were left to start from the back of the grid as Renault’s Sebastien Buemi started from pole alongside Jaguar Racing’s Mitch Evans.
The Frenchman led the way at the start but Evans slowed down due to prospective driveshaft failure to retire on the very first lap. Nico Prost in second made it Renault 1-2 with Audi’s Daniel Abt in third.
In the bid to avoid Evans, Dragon’s Jerome D’Ambrosio was bumped down the order when he collided with teammate Jose Maria Lopez which pretty much ended their races – with them needing an unscheduled early pit stop.
While Buemi led the way, Abt made a quick work of Prost to take second with Jaguar Racing’s Nelson Piquet Jr moving into third but then had the battle with Venturi’s Tom Dillmann for the podium position.
By the time things would settle behind, Abt already took the race lead from Buemi. In all this, Vergne slowly made it into the Top 10 and crucially got past his title contender DS Virgin’s Sam Bird as well.
Up front, Abt continued to lead on and it soon became a Audi 1-2 with di Grassi making his way up by clearing Buemi. The pit stop on Lap 21 bunched the two Audis together which allowed di Grassi to make a decisive move for the win.
The Brazilian bumped into the German and then went around the outside to snatch the lead, much to the disappointment of Abt while it also raised some hairs within Audi. Abt continued to chase di Grassi but had to eventually hold off to take second.
Buemi held on to finish third to complete the podium with Dillmann doing an impressive job to register his best Formula E result in fourth from the newly crowned champion Vergne. The Frenchman passed teammate Andre Lotterer to secure the position and the title.
He jumped to a total of 173 while Bird’s ninth place meant he has only 142 and with only 29 to play for in Sunday’s race, there is no chance for Bird to fight back. Bird was left with much to do when the safety car hit for his teammate Alex Lynn’s late crash.
He lost a place to Venturi’s Maro Engel just before that which made it all the more tougher. Meanwhile, Mahindra Racing’s Nick Heidfeld had to fight all-through to secure sixth after a late move on Lotterer – the recovery from Techeetah meant they have 235 points now.
They are five ahead of Audi despite a 1-2 finish for them. With the drivers’ title sealed, it is now to play for the teams’ championship on Sunday. Behind Lotterer, it was Engel in eighth, making a good day for Venturi with Bird ninth and Prost in Top 10.
Outside the points position, the Andretti pair did a good job with Antonio Felix da Costa leading Stephane Sarrazin after the latter also had to start from the back of the grid due to his qualifying crash.
While Mahindra’s Heidfeld had a gritty fight inside the Top 10, his teammate Felix Rosenqvist had a difficult outing all together. The Swede never looked in-sync this weekend to be only 14th after even D’Ambrosio passed him.
NIO’s Luca Filippi was classified 15th but pitted on the final lap with Lynn, Piquet, Lopez and Evans couldn’t finish the race. Piquet was in the podium fight but he lost drive just after the pit stop to retire from the race.