Jean-Éric Vergne has won the Bern ePrix, the DS Techeetah driver stamping his authority on the championship as the 2018/19 season heads to its final event.
Starting from pole, Vergne led away Mitch Evans and Sébastien Buemi off the line, but the race was just seconds old when chaos broke out at Turn 1. Behind the leaders, Mahindra’s Pascal Wehrlein and Dragon’s Maximilian Günther made contact, blocking the circuit as the following cars piled in. Robin Frijns was collected by Wehrlein’s teammate Jérôme D’Ambrosio. The impact ended the day of the Virgin Racing driver, while the whole incident prompted an immediate red flag to clear the circuit.
Following a delay under the red flag, during which several teams effected repairs to their cars, the decision was made to re-commence with drivers in their starting order. This choice came much to the disagreement of several drivers – Lucas di Grassi, António Félix da Costa and Felipe Massa all seen remonstrating with officials about this topic before returning to their cars for the resumption. Ultimately the decision stood, and the race resumed behind the Safety Car with 44 minutes to run.
The top three held position during the restart, with the top two soon pulling away from Buemi an intense battle between Vergne and Evans that would run for the length of the race began. Evans’ first attempt to take the lead came with a move into Turn 3. Unsuccessful on this occasion, the Kiwi pulled back into second and continued to apply pressure.
Wehrlein, who had been running where he had started in fourth place, then stopped on circuit at the exit of Turn 8, prompting a full course yellow and bunching up the pack. Buemi was now back with Vergne and Evans, while Sam Bird – who had started sixth but passed Günther for fifth around the outside at Turn 3 – was now up to fourth.
When the yellow flag period ended, Evans was straight back into the fight for the lead, again attempting a pass on Vergne at Turn 3, and again was unable to find his way by. Buemi, who had been announced as one of the FanBoost recipients, activated his advantage and attempted to pass Evans for second, but the Jaguar resisted the advances of the Nissan e.Dams.
Vergne’s teammate André Lotterer had also passed Günther by this stage, and now sat in fifth, right behind Bird. With just over four minutes remaining, the German had a look to the inside of Bird at Turn 7; the Brit made a mistake, pinching the brakes and allowing Lotterer into fourth.
Evans continued to hound the rear of Vergne’s car, and a sudden downpour of rain with around a minute to run in the race threatened to change the result, but the reigning champion held on to take victory by just 0.160 seconds from Evans, with Buemi just 0.560 seconds further back in third.
Lotterer crossed the line in fourth position, however in a post-race review the German was found to have ignored the lights at pit exit, and with it was handed the equivalent of a drive-through penalty: 22 seconds added to his race time. With the field so closely bunched late in the race, Lotterer dropped to 14th in the final order – and crucially, out of the points. Bird was promoted to fourth when Lotterer’s penalty was applied, while Günther moved back to fifth.
Speaking after his victory, and reflecting on his week following the Le Mans 24 Hours last weekend, Vergne credited his team for being able to take the win and build a substantial championship lead.
“I arrived here like a zombie but nevertheless, I think the team helped me massively to do a good job. It’s a good [championship] lead, it’s a bigger lead that the one I had last year at this point but I’m not thinking about [the title] too much,” he said. “I’ll arrive in New York with the same wish to win the race and do the job – it’s as simple as that.”
Evans’ commented on how the late rain made it incredibly difficult for the Kiwi to launch a final assault on the lead: “I was expecting it to be slightly easier to overtake, but with the rain at the end it was just chaos. It came down really hard and it was completely out of the blue. Turn 3 was wet and that’s exactly what you don’t want. To predict the braking zone’s was extremely hard. It was going to be playing with fire if I tried to have a go at JEV.”
Buemi’s third place was, in his opinion, a great result in his home race and celebrated by bring his son into the podium: “This one was a good one – especially at home with my son. If there’s anywhere you want a podium, it’s at home. I’m really happy with how things unfolded today and I’m happy with the team as well.”
Another podium for Buemi is proof that the Nissan e.Dams continues to increase in strength throughout the Japanese manufacturer’s first Formula E season. Buemi remains the most successful driver in the series in terms of overall race wins, although the most recent of his 12 victories came 30 races ago. It’s a drought the former champion feels is close to ending: “Obviously, not having a win [in 30 races] impacts me. If I had the luck I had now earlier in the season, we could have won Santiago or Paris. But we’ll keep pushing and look forward to the next one. I’m going to New York knowing we can do it and we can fight.”
Behind the top five finishers, Daniel Abt claimed sixth place for Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, ahead of Alex Lynn in the second Jaguar, Massa (Venturi) Lucas di Grassi (Audi) and Stoffel Vandoorne (HWA Racelab).
Ninth for di Grassi – Vergne’s closest championship rival – at least salvaged two points after a terrible qualifying session in which the Brazilian could only manage 19th of 22 cars on the grid. With this result, combined with Lotterer’s penalty, Vergne now has a 32-point lead over di Grassi leading into the final event in New York, a gap of more than the points available in one of the two New York race days.
The Audi driver is not giving up, however, having been in a very similar situation before – two years ago, di Grassi came from a similarly large deficit to defeat Buemi for in the last race for the season three title: “Until the mathematical odds are impossible, I’m going to fight for the title – I’m never going to give up. JEV is under pressure – he has to deliver and I’m going to go [to New York], have fun and try to win both races.”
Second place for Evans sees the Jaguar jump up to third in the standings, 43 points behind Vergne, while Lotterer slips to fourth following his penalty, a further point behind.
In a testament to just how close Formula E Season Five has been, eight drivers are mathematically still within a chance of claiming the Drivers’ Championship title heading to the New York season finale. With a maximum of 58 points available, da Costa, Frijns, Buemi and Abt are all theoretical capable of taking the championship.
Much like the drivers’ standings, DS Techeetah (216 points) also have a strong lead in the Teams’ Championship title, although the 43-point gap to Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler (173 points) is by no means a comfortable buffer. As was the case a year ago, the battle appears to be between these two teams – Techeetah will be aiming to avenge their last-gasp loss to Audi in season four. Envision Virgin Racing (150 points) sit third, while Nissan e.Dams late-season charge has moved the team to fourth position with 139 points.
Season five of Formula E will conclude with the double-header in New York, with two races across the weekend of July 13 and 14. Despite Vergne’s points lead, the first four seasons of the series have shown the championship is rarely wrapped up until the final race run and done.
|2019 ABB Formula E Julius Baer Swiss E-Prix – Final Classification|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Jean-Éric Vergne||DS Techeetah||31||1:26:26.873||28|
|2.||Mitch Evans||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||31||+ 0.160||18|
|3.||Sébastien Buemi||Nissan e.dams||31||+ 0.720||15|
|4.||Sam Bird||Envision Virgin Racing||31||+ 2.996||13|
|5.||Maximilian Günther||Geox Dragon Racing||31||+ 4.625||10|
|6.||Daniel Abt||Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler||31||+ 6.930||8|
|7.||Alex Lynn||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||31||+ 9.972||6|
|8.||Felipe Massa||Venturi Formula E Team||31||+ 12.310||4|
|9.||Lucas di Grassi||Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler||31||+ 13.073||2|
|10.||Stoffel Vandoorne||HWA Racelab||31||+ 13.386||1|
|11.||Alexander Sims||BMW i Andretti Motorsport||31||+ 14.714|
|12.||António Félix da Costa||BMW i Andretti Motorsport||31||+ 18.917|
|13.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Mahindra Racing||31||+ 21.872|
|14.||André Lotterer||DS Techeetah||31||+ 23.106|
|15.||Tom Dillmann||NIO Formula E Team||31||+ 40.084|
|16.||Oliver Turvey||NIO Formula E Team||31||+ 46.622|
|17.||Gary Paffett||HWA Racelab||31||+ 1:22.512|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Oliver Rowland||Nissan e.dams||21||Suspension|
|DNF.||Pascal Wehrlein||Mahindra Racing||11||Technical|
|DNF.||Edoardo Mortara||Venturi Formula E Team||5||Brakes|
|DNF.||Robin Frijns||Envision Virgin Racing||0||Collision|
|DSQ.||José María López||Geox Dragon Racing||Power Usage|
Post Race Penalties:
- André Lotterer – who was provisionally classified P4 – was issued a 22-second post-race penalty for ignoring the pit exit light.
- José María López – who was provisionally classified P13 – was disqualified for exceeding the 200kW power usage limit.
- Championship points are awarded on the results of the ePrix to the top-ten finishers on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 sliding scale.
- Jean-Éric Vergne earned 3 bonus championship points for securing the Julius Baer pole position.
- The fastest lap posted by a top-10 finisher was by Sam Bird, who earns the bonus championship point.
Images via ABB FIA Formula E Championship