There was excitement until the very final meter in New York, where the penultimate round of this seasons ABB FIA Formula E Championship race was run on the streets.
It was already clear prior to the weekend that Jean-Eric Vergne had the best chances of winning the Championship, since he had a 23 points lead over Sam Bird in second.
The Qualifying was appearing to go the way of Techeetah with Vergne grabbing Pole Position ahead of Andre Lotterer. The happiness didn’t last long though, since both cars were disqualified due to too high power usage on their qualifying lap. The drivers have 200kW on their flying lap, while the two cars peaked at 205 and 204 kW respectively. So that handed out the Pole Position to Sebastien Buemi ahead of Mitch Evans and Nico Prost.
Sam Bird was all the way back in 14th, one place behind Alex Lynn.
A driver that wouldn’t participate more in this weekend’s action is Oliver Turvey. The Brit had an accident in the practice and was unlucky to break his hand. It’s currently unclear if the NIO Formula E Team will replace him for the Sunday race, or if they will run a single car only.
It was a very chaotic start to the race. Sebastien Buemi got a good start from Pole Position, while Mitch Evans only made a small jump in the Panasonic Jaguar Racing car, before his car retired on the spot. The rest of the field had to avoid him, but luckily did so.
There were troubles in Turn 1 between Jerome D’Ambrosio when he hit the rear of this DRAGON teammate Jose Maria Lopez. That cost the front wing on the Belgian’s car, but he was able to stay in the race.
Daniel Abt had gotten off to a great start from P5 on the grid, and was soon into second, right behind Buemi. Lynn of course let his teammate Bird past easily, so his hunt for points could start. Bird pretty much had to keep Vergne behind, to keep his championship aspirations alive for the Sunday race.
Nico Prost had slowly dropped to fifth, after having been in second earlier in the race. As a result of that, we had Nelson Piquet Jr. and Tom Dillmann, who was a substitute for Edoardo Mortara this weekend due to clashing DTM commitments, both jumping ahead of the Frenchman.
Lucas Di Grassi had started the race all the way back in 11th, but slowly worked his way forward. After 9 laps of the race, he was already in the top 5.
Bird had driven himself into the points as well, but Vergne was closing up rapidly, so a fight between those two were imminent.
Daniel Abt grabbed the lead of the race with a very nice overtaking manoeuvre on Buemi. It was announced shortly after that Abt, Buemi and Vergne would have Fan Boost in the second half of the race, so they were able to go a bit faster for a few seconds.
Dillmann and Piquet Jr. swapped positions out on the track in a close fight.
Andre Lotterer was also marching forward, and after 10 laps of the race, he was already in top 10 – right behind Bird. It didn’t take a long time before the German went past Bird, and shortly there after, it was a pure Techeetah sandwich with Vergne right behind.
Felix Rosenqvist was far back in the field after only having started 16th. But he managed to get past Antonio Felix da Costa in the fight for 12th.
Di Grassi was up in P3 after just 15 laps, after he overtook Piquet Jr. Only 5 laps later, the defending Champion would overtake the 2015/16 Champion Buemi, making it an Audi 1-2.
Nick Heidfeld had a good day, after starting in 10th, and only halfway through the day, he was in P6. But he had to give that one up for both Techeetah drivers, two laps in a row.
Bird had a tough battle with Maro Engel regarding the last points giving 10th position, with the two swapping places.
While the mandatory pitstop was quite calm in the top positions, there was panic in the Mahindra camp, when Heidfeld’s exit fron the pit meant that Rosenqvist had to stand on the brakes and stalling in the middle of the pitlane. It took a long time for the Swede to get it restarted again, and making it impossible for him to get any points in the Saturday race, after eventually getting the car going and being able to swap the car.
Nelson Piquet Jr. was unfortunately out of the race when his Panasonic Jaguar Racing stopped in the pit exit, right after the car swap. He did get it going after some time, but the team chose to pull out.
There was a tough Audi battle shortly after the pitstops. Di Grassi went past Abt, and the German was far from happy about that. He tried to go back past the Brazilian, but it didn’t work out.
Alex Lynn crashed hard with 12 laps to go. He lost the rear of his DS Virgin Racing car, ripping the rear wheel and rear wing off his car. That gave resulted in a Safety Car period, so the car could be removed. But that only meant that the whole field was back together, making a lot of overtakings possible.
When the race was restarted, Bird tried to gain some of the lost, getting past Nico Prost, who had fallen back to P9. The problem for Bird was Vergne running in P5, being enough for him to secure the Championship.
Out front we had Lucas Di Grassi winning the race ahead of teammate Daniel Abt and Renault e.dams driver Sebastien Buemi. While Di Grassi was happy about the victory and Buemi was happy about third, Abt was very angry about finishing second. He only thing he would say after the race, was that he was happy that it was a good day fro Audi – and then he walked off from that interview!
Super-sub Tom Dillmann finished in an impressive 4th for the Venturi Formula E Team, right ahead of the new Champion Jean-Eric Vergne. Sam Bird finished in a disappointing P9.
While Vergne has already secured the Championship, the fight is still on for second between Bird and Di Grassi, who is only separated by 14 points. With the current form for Bird, it could be tough for him to hold on to second – at least if Di Grassi grabs another victory in the Sunday race.
Nothing is decided in the Teams Champion, with Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler only 5 points behind Techeetah, with 47 possible points to race for. DS Virgin are almost safe in P3 no matter what, unless Mahindra Racing or Renault e.dams takes a double victory, while they finish outside the points or with only very few points.
The final race of the season will be run on Sunday evening at 21.00 CET.