Techeetah’s Jean-Éric Vergne has won the Paris ePrix, taking an emotional win on the streets of his home city.
After setting the fastest times in both group qualifying and Super Pole, Vergne started from pole position alongside his closest championship rival in DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird. The Frenchman led away from the start line with Bird in tow, while the second Techeetah of André Lotterer followed in third.
Further back in the field it was a disastrous return to a Formula E race for Ma Qing Hua, unable to even leave the grid following a technical issue in his NIO. The Chinese driver eventually joined the race once his team had rectified the issue but would end the day as the last classified finisher, three laps off the pace.
The opening lap was also not without incident, as Andretti’s Tom Blomqvist locked up under braking into Turn 9 and hit the rear of Nicolas Prost’s Renault e.Dams. Blomqvist’s car rode up over the back of Prost’s after Mitch Evans found himself with nowhere left to go, colliding with the rear of the stationary Andretti. All three cars sustained damage, with Prost running for several laps without a rear wing before swapping to his second car.
Evans and Prost eventually ended the race in 15th and 16th place respectively (Prost being a lap down), while Blomqvist retired his second car after 32 laps had been run. It was a double disappointment for Andretti, with Antonio Felix da Costa also retiring in the pit lane after completing just two laps – a disappointing result after a promising run through to Super Pole during qualifying.
At the front, the leading trio of Verge, Bird and Lotterer moved clear of the chasing pack, running in that order for the duration of the first stint. As pit stops approached, Bird had slightly more energy than Vergne and mounted a concerted effort to challenge for the lead, but could not find a way by.
The top three followed each other into pit lane and exited in the same order, although with slightly larger gaps between them – Vergne’s stop was a second faster than Bird’s, who in turn was a second faster than Lotterer.
Lucas di Grassi, who had run the opening leg of the race in fifth place behind Maro Engel, jumped the German through the pit stop cycle by stopping two laps later. Once in fourth place, the reigning champion used his energy advantage to chase down the leading trio, where Lotterer had started to challenge Bird for second place. On Lap 35 at Turn 10 the Lotterer made his move, banging his way past Bird. At this point, di Grassi also saw his opportunity and sprung down the inside of Bird as well, grabbing third position.
Bird seemingly has no response to the two cars which had past him and faded back from the leaders, while Vergne received what would ultimately be race-winning breathing space after a defensive move by Lotterer against di Grassi’s advances delayed both drivers despite no contact being made. Unchallenged for the remainder of the race, Vergne took the flag by 4.882 seconds.
Speaking directly after the race, the victory was clearly special to Vergne: “To win it in front of Parisians at my home race and nearly close to my birthday, it couldn’t be any better. So thank you to all the Parisians, it’s been amazing, merci. I have to thank my team, they’ve done a brilliant job. Rome was not very good for me and to bounce back this way is absolutely amazing.”
When pressed further about the significance of his victory, the Frenchman event went as far as to call it the best moment of his career: “I think I can put it very close to the top right now… I think going up with the podium will be quite insane, so I think it probably would be the best race of my career.”
There was to be more action to come on the final lap, however. Late in the lap Lotterer exhausted his available energy, and was unable to defend against di Grassi. As he attempted to coast to the finish line, Lotterer was caught by Bird through the final complex of corners and with a significant difference in speed the two collided. The right front suspension of Bird’s car was torn away in the incident, but the Brit managed to make it across the line on three wheels in third place. Lotterer, however, lost further places to Engel and Sébastien Buemi and ended the race in sixth place.
As soon as the race ended, both di Grassi and Bird made it very clear they took umbrage with Lotterer’s action on circuit.
Di Grassi felt that Lotterer had gone beyond reasonable defending, and was consciously forcing his opponent into the wall: “I had a good race, I was very conservative in the first stint, then I attacked a lot in the second one. The way André behaved on track today was not professional at all. With me, two times that he was not only closing, he was pushing me into the wall. Even when he’d run out of energy and if he doesn’t get a penalty for the next race… I don’t believe you can behave in any worse a manner on track.”
Bird, meanwhile, was adamant that Lotterer changed direction in an attempt to block for position – ultimately causing their crash – but with a hobbled car the German was in no position to do such a thing.
“I don’t know what you guys thought of it, but you can’t change direction when a car is much quicker than you like that” said Bird. “If you run out of energy, tough, you know. You can’t just do what he [Lotterer] did so I’m disappointed by his driving standard and I’m disappointed that I’ve destroyed the car, but I’m happy with the podium.”
A stewards inquiry after the race into the Lotterer/Bird crash agreed with the view of Bird. In their summary of the incident, the stewards found Lotterer had “turned left of the racing line” after the loss of power in his car, but then “he re-joined the racing line causing Bird to hit the rear of Lotterer”. Consequently, the German will now take a 10-place grid penalty at the next round of the series in Berlin.
Outside of ten top six, Daniel Abt charged to seventh place from 15th on the grid in arguably the drive of the day, completing a series of bold passes throughout the race. Felix Rosenqvist, Oliver Turvey and Jose Maria Lopez filled out the top ten places.
With his victory and the bonus points for pole position, Vergne (147 points) now holds a commanding 31 point lead over Bird in the Drivers’ standings. Rosenqvist (86) remains third, however the Swede is slipping further away from championship contention. Buemi (70) continues to hold fourth place, while di Grassi’s third consecutive podium moves the reigning champion up to fifth position with 58 points.
Techeetah remain atop the Teams’ standings on 188 points, well clear of DS Virgin Racing (133). The turnaround in form from di Grassi and Daniel Abt from their horror start to the season now sees Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler (114) in third place ahead of Mahindra (107) while Jaguar’s inability to score points in Paris has dropped the British marque to sixth place.
The ninth round of the 2017/18 FIA Formula E Championship – the Berlin ePrix – will be held at Berlin Tempelhof Airport on Saturday May 19. 2016 World Drivers’ Champion Nico Rosberg is also scheduled to give the second-generation Formula E car its first public track demonstration at the event.
|2018 ABB Formula E Qatar Airways Paris ePrix – Final Classification (49 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Techeetah Renault||49||54:49.102||28|
|2.||Lucas di Grassi||Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler||49||+ 4.882||18|
|3.||Sam Bird||DS Virgin Racing Citroën||49||+ 8.897||15|
|4.||Maro Engel||Venturi Formula E Team||49||+ 9.287||12|
|5.||Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.Dams||49||+ 10.194||10|
|6.||André Lotterer||Techeetah Renault||49||+ 10.855||8|
|7.||Daniel Abt||Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler||49||+ 13.918||6|
|8.||Felix Rosenqvist||Mahindra Racing||49||+ 15.271||4|
|9.||Oliver Turvey||NIO Formula E Team||49||+ 19.557||2|
|10.||José María López||Dragon Racing Penske||49||+ 20.989||1|
|11.||Nick Heidfeld||Mahindra Racing||49||+ 21.698|
|12.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Dragon Racing Penske||49||+ 26.723|
|13.||Edoardo Mortara||Venturi Formula E Team||49||+ 29.937|
|14.||Alex Lynn||DS Virgin Racing Citroën||49||+ 43.112|
|15.||Mitch Evans||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||49||+ 43.989|
|16.||Nicolas Prost||Renault e.Dams||48||1 lap behind|
|17.||Ma Qing Hua||NIO Formula E Team||46||3 laps behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Nelson Piquet Jr||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||32||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Tom Blomqvist||MS&AD Andretti Formula E||32||Energy|
|DNF.||António Félix da Costa||MS&AD Andretti Formula E||2||Mechanical|
Bonus Championship Points:
- Three bonus points awarded to Jean-Éric Vergne for claiming pole position
- One bonus point awarded to Daniel Abt for posting the fastest race lap by a top-ten finisher.
- André Lotterer will serve a 10-place grid penalty at the Berlin ePrix for causing a collision with Sam Bird.
Images via ABB FIA Formula E Championship