If Techeetah's Jean-Eric Vergne didn't believe fairytales could come true before the race in Paris, then he surely does now. But, while it might have been a sweet ending for some, for others, the closing stages of the race descended into chaos as the battle for the podium came to an eventful close. Well, what do you expect - it is Formula E, after all.
Coming close to victory in season two with a second place finish in Paris, Frenchman Vergne was left walking back to the garage after he hit the wall in front of the home crowd in last year’s race. But there was no shame, no embarrassment and no walking back home this time. "Honestly, when I passed the chequered flag, I had like a chemical reaction - I couldn't talk," said the championship leader, still struggling to find the words to sum up his victory on home soil. “It was clearly my most emotional win, by far. If there was a race I wanted to win this year it was clearly Paris. To have done in such a way today with pole position and a race win was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t be happier, especially as it was my birthday this week."
Aside from the fact that Vergne holds on to his position as championship leader, now with 147 points to his name, he also becomes the second ABB FIA Formula E Championship driver to win on home soil, after DS Virgin Racing's Sam Bird won in London in season one. “We are racing in the most beautiful city in the world," said the Frenchman after stepping down from the podium in the grounds of the historic Les Invalides. "It’s not because I’m Parisian but many people agree with me. This is the best location on the Formula E calendar ever. It is hard to overtake but this is the same in many other tracks. Paris has done an amazing job."
Back on track, with JEV in a world of his own, waving to adoring fans as he made his way back to the garage, a whole world of trouble was unfolding behind him. With his teammate Andre Lotterer in second and di Grassi in third, another Techeetah one-two win looked certain. But not this time. After battling hard with Bird, Lotterer had depleted his energy, with just meters to go until the finish line. Crawling along, the Techeetah driver was helpless as di Grassi (who edged past Bird earlier on) passed him to take second. Following di Grassi and Charging towards the finish line, Bird was unable to avoid the stricken Techeetah car and piled into the back of Lotterer, shattering the DS' front axle.
With only three wheels, Bird limped across the line in third, leaving Lotterer, with a broken rear spoiler, to crawl across the line in sixth. “When he ran out of energy just before the end, when I was going to overtake him, he tried to block me without energy, which makes no sense," said di Grassi, clearly agitated. "He almost finished my race for the second time...If Andre’s driving becomes the standard then everyone is going to start driving like this." Di Grassi, still recovering from a miserable first half of the season, benefits from the second-place finish in Paris by gaining an additional 19 points and moving up from eighth to fifth in the standings. That's not bad progress considering the reigning champ didn't have a single point to his name until round five in Mexico City earlier this year.
Despite the damage, Bird holds on to second place in the standings with 116 points but, like di Grassi, the championship contender and longstanding Formula E driver was damning of Lotterer's approach. "You cannot do a late swerve when people are obviously going to be overtaking you," said Bird. "It’s not correct in any form of motorsport... It’s too much from Andre. I had a bit of it in Punta and it’s too aggressive and he needs to be told." Unable to defend himself after the race, due to being immediately called to the race stewards office, the German driver walked away from Paris with eight points and a 10-place grid drop for the Berlin race on May 19.
Now, with the end of the championship in sight, with just four races to go, Bird has a real chance of winning. "We're there or thereabouts," said Bird ahead of the race in Paris. "We just need to keep on scoring points. Like I've said every round before, I just need to keep accumulating points every single weekend and when I get to New York, I'll assess the situation."
Just missing out on a podium was Venturi Formula E’s Maro Engel who finished the race in fourth after a tidy drive in Qualifying and Super Pole put him in third for the race start. Holding his own near the front of the pack, Engel kept clear of any danger for the majority of the race, making it through the Bird-Lotterer incident to finish the race unscathed. The finish is the German drivers’ best result to date in Formula E, with the 12 points he gained in Paris placing him 12th in the standings, directly behind his teammate Edoardo Mortara.
For Mahindra Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist his spate of disappointment continued as an uneventful race in Paris saw him Qualify in 11th and finish the race in eighth. Asked what he thought happened in the race, he simply answered, "well, not a lot really - we just didn't really move forward - a lot of commitment for very little points." The Swede's season got off to a great start after he clinched victory in Hong Kong and Marrakesh before reliability problems hampered his performance in Mexico City and Rome, where he was forced to retire from the race - throwing 50 points away in the process. Leaving Paris with just four points – bringing his total to 86 – Rosenqvist holds on to third place in the championship but is 61 points behind Vergne. With four races left, time is running out for Rosenqvist as he battles against the clock in a bid to translate pace into points towards the end of the season. "You realise quite early on when you have a tough weekend, and this weekend was one of those,” he said, clearly disheartened by the day’s results.
Slotting in above Rosenqvist in seventh was Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler’s Daniel Abt who battled his way up eight places after starting the race in 15th. “It was a good fight, it was fun. 98 per cent of the fights I had, I enjoyed,” said Abt, grinning after the race. After Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s Mitch Evans’ race in Rome and Lotterer’s in Paris showed the disastrous effect of poor energy management, Abt’s race, on the other hand, showed that experience in the game of all-electric street racing pays off well. For Evans and for Lotterer, they try to over-defend and somehow keep that podium and, if you do that and ignore what the stats say to you, then you end up without energy. It's happened to me before and I think you learn, so it's not something you do a second time,” said Abt knowingly. “I didn't have that experience when I started Formula E - I made those mistakes myself but, for me, energy is not something I'm worried about. I feel very well and I know what I'm doing - I'm very happy.”
With two rounds down and out in Formula E’s European campaign, the championship heads to Berlin for the fourth time in the series’ history. Revisiting the 2.37-km circuit on the apron of Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport.
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