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"It feels great to have the recognition of the world of motorsport, especially considering I've had some rough years in the past," admits reigning champion and DS Techeetah driver Jean-Eric Vergne. Earlier this week, the 28-year old driver recently scooped yet another podium finish when Autosport magazine ranked him as the third best driver in the world, topping off what has been a breathtaking year for the Frenchman. After entering the series as a rookie driver in 2014, JEV stormed to the front of the motorsport world after clinching the ABB FIA Formula E Championship title in New York earlier this year. From "zero motivation" to street racing hero and third best driver in the world in just four years - the secret to his success, he claims, is Formula E.
"My mindset now is completely different from when I first entered the series," he insists. "When I left Formula One, I joined Andretti and it was like some sort of holiday break - I was not fighting for the title - I was some sort of a guest in a championship that was in its first season." After his involuntary exit from Formula One in 2014, JEV arrived in the all-electric series restless and disillusioned, still hoping for a drive in F1.
"I took it very easy and, of course, I only had one thing in mind and that was to come back to Formula One - I did not really care about any other things."
“It was the year I touched the bottom - both in my private life and professional life. It was clearly a very difficult moment to pass.
"Although I'm not the kind of guy that gives up, I had absolutely no trust in myself and no trust in people around me. I didn't know who I was anymore."
Despite his difficulties, in less than four years, the Frenchman has undergone nothing short of a total transformation. Ranking close behind Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton in first and Fernando Alonso in second, the seasoned Formula E driver is the only all-electric street racing pilot to have made it into the top ten, placing above the likes of World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier, Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc to name but a few. "But I would not be in this position without Formula E," he insists.
"The luck in my career has definitely been to end up in this championship and that it became what it is today.
"The level of drivers now is so high...anyone in Formula E, if they do a good job, can have a shot at winning the race or even the title...it's already a lot more challenging and will get more so.
"When you see drivers like my teammate [Andre Lotterer], three years ago, he couldn't have cared less about an electric series and he changed his mind. He was the one that really wanted to get a seat in Formula E quickly.
"So many drivers would like to be racing in Formula E - it's becoming a lot more difficult to get a seat in a good team here.
With 11 teams and 22 drivers in the championship this season, welcoming newcomers HWA Racelab and the likes of Felipe Massa, Stoffel Vandoorne, DTM champion Gary Paffett and Pascal Wehrlein, Formula E boasts one of the most competitive driver line-ups in the motorsport world.
"There are no mistakes allowed in Formula E - in Formula One you have hundreds of laps before you get to Qualifying, where you have more laps, so it's quite easy to extract the best from your car.
"In Formula E, it's a different story.
“In Saudi Arabia, for example, we had three laps in the rain before Qualifying for one lap and then straight into racing.
“If you're not at the top of your game at that moment, then you don't score good points. That is the difficulty of it.
"It makes it quite complicated but I try to stay humble about what I've done. Winning the championship for me is in the past and now I'm on the same level as everyone else. I want to score as many points as possible."
Just one round into a brand new era of the all-electric championship, time will tell if our reigning champion will be the first to successfully defend his title. With JEV's miraculous turnaround tale setting the precedent in the motorsports arena, we can certainly expect to see a few more Formula E talents making their way into the top ten world's best drivers in the future. Until then, the Frenchman will need to survive another 12 rounds in 11 of the world’s most progressive cities over five continents. But the champ is far from finished.
“This is only one step, he said moments after lifting the championship trophy in New York City earlier this year.“There's more of JEV to come."