Lucas di Grassi is the 2016/17 FIA Formula E champion, sealing the title with a seventh place finish in the Montréal ePrix Sunday race. For the third year in a row, the Drivers’ Championship title came down to the final race, and in all three seasons di Grassi and Sébastien Buemi have been involved in the battle.
In season one, Nelson Piquet Jr defeated both drivers, in season two Buemi defeated di Grassi by a single point after they made contact in the final race, but season three is di Grassi’s moment following a brilliant weekend in Canada.
But it is not only di Grassi who is celebrating, as Jean-Éric Vergne took his – and the Techeetah team’s – first win in Formula E.
Pole-sitter Felix Rosenqvist won the start and led away, gradually building a lead during the first half of the race over Vergne, who had jumped past Sam Bird into second place. Vergne managed to extract an additional lap of energy out of his first car, but despite the extra lap found himself still behind Rosenqvist to the tune of around six seconds after his stop.
With less of an energy management burden Vergne soon caught the leader, and with Rosenqvist’s battle for with Bird for third in the championship clearly his priority, the Swede did not provide too much resistance for Vergne’s challenge. From here, the Techeetah build a comfortable lead and went on to claim victory.
Joining Formula E mid-way through season one soon after his departure from Scuderia Toro Rosso in Formula 1, Vergne has had several competitive past outings with the Andretti Formula E, DS Virgin Racing and now Techeetah teams. Having come close to victory on a couple of occasions this year, the sense of jubilation and relief for Vergne was evident, not just for his own success but for that of the customer Renault team in its debut year.
“It is an amazing result for the team in our first year,” he said. “We’ve had a few ups and downs. Obviously, a win was in reach many times this season but for some reason we could not quite get it, I think this weekend everything went quite smoothly, everything was perfect.
“To get this first win for the team, for myself, right at the end of the season before the summer break is something amazing. All the people who have worked so hard, it was nice to reward them with something like this. As for myself, to score my maiden win, as well as the first win of the team is only going to make my relationship with the team even stronger. Hopefully it is the first of many of them and I think it puts us in a completely different position for next year.”
Rosenqvist managed to hold second place in the race, in doing so the Mahindra driver beat Bird to third place in the Drivers’ Championship standings in his rookie season.
“It’s such a relief. The pressure is always big to deliver in Formula E, but today was something extra,” the Swede said.
“With Sam up there, I knew I couldn’t afford any mistakes, and I really wanted this third place. It’s incredible to finish inside the top three in my rookie season – I think it speaks volumes about the kind of effort we have made as a team. Big, warm thanks to Mahindra Racing for putting their trust in me and for giving me the tools to achieve this.”
The unexpected result in the race was third place for José María López. Only able to qualify in eleventh place, his DS Virgin had unbelievable race speed, charging up the order. Ultimately the Argentinian come out on top in a battle with his teammate Bird, who was slightly hampered by bent steering from an early brush with the wall, and the second Mahindra of Nick Heidfeld.
Daniel Abt claimed sixth place, di Grassi having allowed his team mate back through once it became clear that the Brazilian’s championship win had been confirmed.
While the championship glory went the way of di Grassi, his championship rival Buemi continued to have a weekend from hell. The Renault e.Dams driver started from thirteenth, and things very quickly became worse – Stéphane Sarrazin was tipped into a spin at Turn 1, and as drivers moved to avoid the stranded Techeetah, Buemi was clipped by António Félix da Costa.
The hit was enough to partially dislodge Buemi’s right-rear wheel pod, leaving it dragging behind the car. The Swiss driver tried in vain to break the pod off by swerving side-to-side and eventually succeeded, however by the time that happened he had already been shown a mechanical black flag. With the broken part gone but the flag unable to be rescinded, Buemi effectively had to complete a pit lane drive-through penalty.
Re-joining at the rear of the field, Buemi doggedly fought back up the order, but could only make it to eleventh place by the end of the race. Zero points scored in the race, combined with no points following disqualification from Saturday’s race put Buemi second in the championship, 24 points behind di Grassi – giving the Brazilian the biggest winning margin of all three Formula E seasons so far.
Having dominated the season from the opening event in Hong Kong through to the final European race in Berlin, taking six race wins along the way, Buemi did not score another point – he missed the New York double-header due to clashing race commitments, and followed up with his Montréal horror event.
While ultimately falling short, Buemi acknowledged di Grassi’s efforts over the season and said: “I’m a bit disappointed, honestly. When you see the speed we had this year, to not win the championship is a bit hard to accept. But I’d like to congratulate Lucas for the job he’s done. I think he’s done a great job this year. They’ve done a better job than us, we got disqualified twice and we missed two races, so it’s difficult to fight like that.”
While Buemi missed out on the Drivers’ Championship, his Renault e.Dams team do not end the season empty-handed. The team remain undefeated in the Teams’ Championship, taking their third successive title.
By scoring the bonus point for fastest lap on Sunday, Nicolas Prost not only enabled the team to maintain a final margin of 20 points back to ABT Schaeffler Audi sport, but also kept alive Renault e.Dams’ record run of scoring at least one point in every Formula E race.
Team co-owner and four-time Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion Alain Prost celebrated both the team’s and Buemi’s results, given the challenges the team has faced to remain at the top.
“During the last three years, he has been very consistent and we have a nice Champion, we must recognise that. We can be happy with a lot of points in the Constructors’ Championship and we thought it would be easier than this and in the end, it was not,” the Frenchman said.
Behind ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport in the standings, Mahindra claimed third ahead of DS Virgin Racing and Techeetah.
While season three may now be over, all teams are well underway in the development of their season four cars – Mahindra even having run their M4 Electro at the recent Goodwood Festival of Speed. There will be an increased manufacturer presence as Audi increases its involvement, with the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler squad now being fully factory backed.
The 2017/18 FIA Formula E Championship – season four of the all-electric series – is scheduled to begin with the double-header Hong Kong ePrix over the weekend of December 2 & 3, 2017.
|2017 Formula E Montréal ePrix – Race 2 Final Classification (37 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|2.||Felix Rosenqvist||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||37||+ 0.896||21*|
|3.||José María López||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||37||+ 4.468||18|
|4.||Sam Bird||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||37||+ 7.114||12|
|5.||Nick Heidfeld||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||37||+ 21.933||10|
|6.||Daniel Abt||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||37||+ 24.444||8|
|7.||Lucas di Grassi||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||37||+ 24.855||6|
|8.||Stéphane Sarrazin||Techeetah||37||+ 26.038||4|
|9.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Faraday Future Dragon Racing||37||+ 28.282||2|
|10.||Tom Dillmann||Venturi Formula E Team||37||+ 28.591||1|
|11.||Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.DAMS||37||+ 35.170|
|12.||Mitch Evans||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||37||+ 36.548|
|13.||Robin Frijns||MS Amlin Andretti||37||+ 36.826|
|14.||Adam Carroll||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||37||+ 36.972|
|15.||António Félix da Costa||MS Amlin Andretti||37||+ 39.720|
|16.||Nelson Piquet Jr||NextEV NIO||37||+ 46.751|
|17.||Oliver Turvey||NextEV NIO||37||+ 49.116|
|18.||Maro Engel||Venturi Formula E Team||37||+ 1:33.530|
|19.||Loïc Duval||Faraday Future Dragon Racing||34||+ 3 laps|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Nicolas Prost||Renault e.DAMS||32||Retirement||1^|
* For claiming pole position (3 pts)
^ For posting the fastest lap of the race (1pt)
Images via FIA Formula E Championship