Sébastien Buemi scored Nissan’s first victory in Formula E, while a disastrous race for points leader Jean-Éric Vergne and his DS Techeetah team has tightened the race for both the Drivers’ and Teams’ Championships with just one race to go.
Having qualified on pole position, Buemi led away at the start while Jaguar’s Alex Lynn jumped from third on the grid to pass Pascal Wehrlein for second on the run to the first corner.
Carrying a 32-point championship lead into the race, Vergne dropped from tenth on the grid to twelfth on the opening lap, seemingly taking a cautious early strategy with closest title rival Lucas di Grassi starting behind in fourteenth.
That plan change drastically on Lap 2, as in the middle of the top ten Sam Bird tipped José María López into a spin at Turn 7. With the chasing pack diving out of the way to get around the stricken Dragon, Vergne braked only to be hit from behind by his teammate André Lotterer, puncturing a tyre on the reigning champion’s car. Forced into pit lane for a replacement tyre and front wing, Vergne re-joined at the tail of the field, while Lotterer also headed to the pits for repairs.
Up front, Buemi held the lead but came under increasing pressure from Lynn, while Alexander Sims had moved into third place. Lynn continued to threaten to join the lead battle until the Jaguar slowed on the run to Turn 10 with twenty minutes of the race remaining, eventually forced to stop after Turn 11. With the Brit stranded, the Safety Car was called and the field bunched.
Buemi led away from the restart, defending from Sims in second and Daniel Abt now promoted to third with Lynn’s retirement. Abt saw an opportunity to target second place Turn 2, but the German made a mistake in his attack on Sims, haemorrhaging positions as he ran wide and fell to ninth. This promoted Mitch Evans in the other Jaguar to third, the Kiwi soon challenging Sims himself.
On Lap 27 the opportunity for a pass presented itself to Evans, who dived to the inside of Sims into Turn 6, the Jaguar moving to second and setting off after Buemi. Sims’ teammate António Félix da Costa also soon found his way past his fellow BMW into third place, and was challenging Evans after the Jaguar driver made a mistake at Turn 6.
Ultimately, the top three would remain unchanged from that point and Buemi would lead Evans home by 0.932 seconds to claim his first Formula E victory in 31 races – dating back to June 2017, in the latter stages of the 2016-17 Formula E season.
Despite still having the most wins of any driver in the history of the FIA Formula E Championship, the victory was an emotional one of Buemi, as he explained post-race.
“I’m quite emotional because it has been more than two years between victories. I really wanted to win today for Nissan e.dams team principal Jean-Paul Driot who hasn’t been doing well lately with health issues and this win is for him,” he said.
“The safety car actually helped me in the end. Early in the race, my crew told me we were doing well on energy management compared to the guys behind me. In the end, it was similar to Rome – I had to slow down a little to cross the line after the 45-minute mark, so we didn’t have to do an extra lap. A big thank you must go to my guys on the Nissan e.dams team – we’ve been so close, so often earlier this year and I’m really pleased for them.”
Buemi’s win is also a breakthrough for Nissan, who joined with the e.Dams team ahead of this season. For Nissan global motorsport director Michael Carcamo, it’s a momentous occasion: “We’ve had pole positions, we’ve had podiums but to finally get the win and have Nissan on the top step of the podium is something I don’t think I’ll forget for the rest of my life. The team has put in the work, and they really deserve this. Everyone at Nissan, e.dams, and NISMO have put in such an amazing effort, and we’re thrilled.”
Despite being considered a significant outsider among the eight drivers mathematically still in title contention upon arriving in New York, Buemi’s win – combined with a last-lap incident back in the pack – means the Swiss driver heads into Sunday’s final race as one of four drivers still capable of taking the championship.
That late incident took Vergne’s day from difficult to horrific. Having worked his way forward into the points, the Techeetah driver moved to the inside of Felipe Massa’s Venturi at Turn 1. The pair then made contact at Turn 2, with Vergne hitting the wall and Massa spinning, before the following group of Lotterer, HWA Racelab’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Mahindra’s Jérôme d’Ambrosio also hit the two stranded cars.
All drivers managed to get going and limp to the finish, however for Vergne, any chance of points in the race had gone. To make matters worse, his closest rival di Grassi had run a relatively calm race, taking advantage of other driver’s incidents to move from 14th on the grid to a fifth place finish behind Sims – and with it a score of ten points. Vergne’s 32-point lead at the start of the day now down to a gap of 22.
With a final maximum of 29 points available to any driver on Sunday, Vergne still remains the favourite for a second consecutive title, however another race like Saturday will further open the door to di Grassi, Evans (25 points behind Vergne) and Buemi (26 points behind).
As the qualifying groups will be allocated to drivers based on the championship standings, all four will be running together in the opening stanza – Saturday’s running showed this is a disadvantage on the significantly dusty New York circuit – possibly another curve ball to be dealt with by the driver who would be champion.
With the disaster of both Vergne and Lotterer failing to score points, while Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler’s di Grassi and Abt both finishing in the top ten (Abt followed di Grassi over the line in sixth, claiming eight points for his position and the bonus point for fastest race lap), DS Techeetah’s lead in the Teams’ Championship has also been reduced, now down to just 24 points.
The scene is set for a thrilling final race of Formula E’s fifth season as four drivers from four different teams – including the three most recent champions – square off for championship glory. The final day of action will commence with a single practice session from 09:00 local time (UTC -04:00), ahead of Group Qualifying from 11:45, Super Pole at 12:30 and the 13th race of the season from 16:03.
|2019 ABB Formula E New York City E-Prix – Race 1 Final Classification|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Sébastien Buemi||Nissan e.dams||36||46:16.399||28|
|2.||Mitch Evans||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||36||+ 0.932||18|
|3.||António Félix da Costa||BMW i Andretti Motorsport||36||+ 1.216||15|
|4.||Alexander Sims||BMW i Andretti Motorsport||36||+ 2.971||12|
|5.||Lucas di Grassi||Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler||36||+ 3.537||10|
|6.||Daniel Abt||Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler||36||+ 4.380||9|
|7.||Pascal Wehrlein||Mahindra Racing||36||+ 6.543||6|
|8.||Sam Bird||Envision Virgin Racing||36||+ 13.829||4|
|9.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Mahindra Racing||36||+ 23.719||2|
|10.||Oliver Turvey||NIO Formula E Team||36||+ 25.038||1|
|11.||Gary Paffett||HWA Racelab||36||+ 27.831|
|12.||José María López||Geox Dragon Racing||36||+ 34.729|
|13.||Stoffel Vandoorne||HWA Racelab||36||+ 50.564|
|14.||Oliver Rowland||Nissan e.dams||36||+ 1:23.962|
|15.||Jean-Éric Vergne||DS Techeetah||36||+ 1:34.508|
|16.||Felipe Massa||Venturi Formula E Team||35||Collision|
|17.||André Lotterer||DS Techeetah||35||Collision|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Maximilian Günther||Geox Dragon Racing||28||Collision|
|DNF.||Edoardo Mortara||Venturi Formula E Team||27||Accident|
|DNF.||Alex Lynn||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||18||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Robin Frijns||Envision Virgin Racing||15||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Tom Dillmann||NIO Formula E Team||1||Accident|
Post Race Penalties:
- To be advised.
- 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.
- Sébastien Buemi earned 3 bonus championship points for securing the Julius Baer pole position.
- The fastest lap posted by a top-10 finisher was by Daniel Abt, who earns the bonus championship point.
Images via ABB FIA Formula E Championship