Robin Frijns has won the Sunday race of the New York City ePrix, the final race of Formula E’s fifth season, while Techeetah driver Jean-Éric Vergne has become the first two-time champion of the all-electric series.
The race also saw the culmination of a battle between the Vergne’s victorious DS Techeetah team and Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler for the Teams’ Championship title, the same combatants who took that championship down to the wire last season.
Alexander Sims led the field away from pole position at the start, with the pole-side of a very dusty circuit clearly having better traction – something third placed-starter Sébastien Buemi took advantage of to streak pass Frijns into second on the run to the first corner.
The field had only made it to Turn 6 before the first significant incident, as Vergne’s teammate André Lotterer tipped the GEOX Dragon of José María López into a spin, with López then hitting the side of the Techeetah as he tried to recover. While Lotterer would be handed a time penalty for causing the incident, it would be inconsequential as the resulting suspension damage would force the German into the pits and out of the race.
With one Techeetah out of the race and Vergne still running around his starting position of eleventh it was seemingly becoming a case of déjà vu for the Chinese team, who were pipped to the Teams’ Championship by Audi in the final race of the season.
On lap five López stopped on circuit at Turn 7 with a suspension failure, quite likely an effect of his incident with Lotterer, and the Safety Car was called to enable the stricken Dragon to be cleared. As racing resumed each driver activated Attack Mode, while Frijns took advantage of the bunched field on the run to Turn 1 on the ninth lap – diving to the inside of Buemi and moving up to second place. Clearly with a distinct pace advantage now the race had settled down, the Dutchman began his pursuit of Sims.
With 20 minutes of the race remaining, Frijns had reached Sims’ car and took the opportunity to make a similar run down the inside, again into Turn 1. The pair made slight contact as Sims moved across to cover – the BMW stepping ever so slightly sideways in the process – but there was to be no stopping Frijns. Now at the head of the field, the Envision Virgin Racing driver set about building a lead.
By this stage, Vergne had moved into the points positions, sitting tenth behind his closest championship challenger Lucas di Grassi. Enjoying a significantly quieter day than he had experienced the day before, Vergne only needed to keep his Audi rival in sight to take back-to-back championships. Di Grassi, by contrast, needed to get to the front with a gap back to the Techeetah to have any chance of closing his 22-point deficit.
With time running out di Grassi continued to push harder, and was battling with the Jaguar of Mitch Evans – the only other driver capable of taking the title as the race began – when the Kiwi moved across on di Grassi defending on the run to Turn 11. The ensuing contact pushed the pair into the inside wall on the preceding straight, before sliding together into the fence on the outside of the corner.
The damage was too great for di Grassi to continue, and with one of the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler cars now out of the running, the Teams’ Championship turned back in DS Techeetah’s favour. The incident also allowed Vergne by, into what would be his final race position of seventh. Despite rejoining the race and crossing the finish line, Evans was handed a the second stop-go penalty for the incident, ultimately converted to a post-race time penalty and dropping the Jaguar driver to seventeenth in the race results.
At the front of the field there was to be no catching Frijns though, who led across the line to take his second race victory by 3.2 seconds. Sims, who withstood several advances from Buemi, held on for second place – his first Formula E podium, after a number of missed opportunities through his debut season – while Buemi, a further 0.712 seconds behind, completed the podium.
Frijns’ Envision Virgin Racing teammate Sam Bird finished fourth, ahead of Daniel Abt in the remaining Audi and the second Nissan e.Dams of Oliver Rowland. Behind Vergne in seventh, Stoffel Vandoorne, António Félix da Costa and Garry Paffett rounded out the top ten.
The post-race focus, however, was on repeat Drivers’ Champion Vergne, a fitting victor who was the first driver to really stamp his authority on the 2018/19 series. After eight different drivers won the opening eight races of the season, Vergne became the first repeat winner – backing up his initial victory in Sanya, China with a second victory in Monaco – before adding a third victory in the penultimate event in Bern, Switzerland.
With DS Techeetah not only claiming the Drivers’ title but also winning the Teams’ Championship they narrowly missed last year, Vergne was understandably elated with not just his own performance but also that of his team in Season 5.
“Today has been just incredible,” he reflected. “The weekend didn’t start in the way we expected and today wasn’t ideal but none of that matters now because we managed to get both championship titles. It’s still unreal to have become the first driver to be double World Champion and I can only take my amazing team and everyone involved behind the scenes. This is for us!”
Team Principal Mark Preston echoed Vergne’s comments, particularly highlighting his team’s and driver’s resilience after failing to bank any points at all in Saturday’s first New York race: “This finale weekend couldn’t have started any worse with the incidents on track yesterday, and finished any better with the double titles today. People can call winning a championship once a flash in the pan, but to have done it twice is no mean feat and solidifies our position as front runners of the championship. I’d like to say a huge congrats to Jean-Éric and everyone in the team and back in the factory, because motorsport is truly a team sport in the end of the day. A team needs to run like a well oiled machine and ours is running like clock work.”
The last lap incident between di Grassi and Evans not only sealed the victors of both championships, but also had ramifications for the final rankings in both titles. Having jumped up to fourth in the Drivers’ points following his victory on Saturday, Buemi’s remote title hopes came to an end when he failed to secure the bonus points for pole position in Sunday’s qualifying.
With di Grassi and Evans both failing to score, Buemi’s third place in today’s race gave the former champion enough points to jump up to second in the final order 17 points behind Vergne – his highest position all year, and a final result almost unthinkable just weeks ago.
Ultimately di Grassi ended the season third in the order, 28 points off the champion, while Frijns’ victory in the finale jumps the Envision Virgin racer up to fourth in the final order – two points behind di Grassi and a single point ahead of Evans, who fell from third to fifth as a result of the final race. Da Costa, Abt, Lotterer, Bird and Rowland filled the rest of the top ten, while the Mahindra pairing of Jérôme d’Ambrosio and Pascal Wehrlien – two of the most competitive drivers at the start of the season – ended the championship in eleventh and twelfth respectively, the Indian team having dropped off the pace as the series unfolded.
DS Techeetah’s victorious first season as the PSA Group’s factory squad ended with a 22-point buffer in the Teams’ Championship over Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler. Envision Virgin Racing’s final day of the season was very successful: Frijns’ win and Bird’s fourth place bumped the team back up into third in the standings, 31 points behind Techeetah and regaining – by a single point – the position they had lost to Nissan e.Dams the day prior. The result also ensured Envision Virgin Racing are the highest-placed independent team.
BMW i Andretti ended the season in fifth position, while Mahindra, Panasonic Jaguar Racing, and Venturi filled positions sixth through eighth. HWA Racelab ended their debut season in Formula E ninth overall, ahead of two teams who have been in the series from the start – GEOX Dragon Racing and NIO Formula E. NIO, the team who won the inaugural Drivers’ title with Nelson Piquet Jr in their NextEV TCR guise, only scored seven points all season as they remained rooted to the bottom of the table.
While the Season 5 celebrations will continue in the short term, the teams and drivers of Formula E are already hard at work developing their packages for the upcoming 2019-20 season.
In a sign of the growing strength of the championship, two more major automotive manufacturers – Mercedes Benz and Porsche – will be on the grid as the 2019-20 championship begins in just over four months’ time with a double-header event in Ad Diriyah, Saudi Arabia on Friday 22 and Saturday 23 of November.
|2019 ABB Formula E New York City E-Prix – Race 2 Final Classification|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Robin Frijns||Envision Virgin Racing||36||47:22.289||25|
|2.||Alexander Sims||BMW i Andretti Motorsport||36||+ 3.200||21|
|3.||Sébastien Buemi||Nissan e.dams||36||+ 3.912||15|
|4.||Sam Bird||Envision Virgin Racing||36||+ 4.270||12|
|5.||Daniel Abt||Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler||36||+ 4.757||11|
|6.||Oliver Rowland||Nissan e.dams||36||+ 8.382||8|
|7.||Jean-Éric Vergne||DS Techeetah||36||+ 9.446||6|
|8.||Stoffel Vandoorne||HWA Racelab||36||+ 9.738||4|
|9.||António Félix da Costa||BMW i Andretti Motorsport||36||+ 11.727||2|
|10.||Gary Paffett||HWA Racelab||36||+ 12.251||1|
|11.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Mahindra Racing||36||+ 18.944|
|12.||Pascal Wehrlein||Mahindra Racing||36||+ 19.420|
|13.||Oliver Turvey||NIO Formula E Team||36||+ 28.045|
|14.||Tom Dillmann||NIO Formula E Team||36||+ 28.580|
|15.||Felipe Massa||Venturi Formula E Team||36||+ 28.635|
|16.||Alex Lynn||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||36||+ 41.420|
|17.||Mitch Evans||Panasonic Jaguar Racing||36||+ 1:27.009|
|18.||Lucas di Grassi||Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler||35||Collision|
|19.||Maximilian Günther||Geox Dragon Racing||34||Retired|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Edoardo Mortara||Venturi Formula E Team||17||Retired|
|DNF.||André Lotterer||DS Techeetah||3||Collision|
|DNF.||José María López||Geox Dragon Racing||2||Suspension|
Post Race Penalties:
- Alex Lynn – who provisionally finished P12 – was issued a a 22-second time penalty for causing an avoidable collision.
- Mitch Evans – who provisionally finished P17 – was issued a 22-second time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Lucas di Grassi
- 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.
- Alexander Sims 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