Formula E's title-deciding penultimate race weekends

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Formula E's title-deciding penultimate race weekends

The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship heads to Rome this weekend for the penultimate two rounds of Season 8. With four races left of the season and just 16 points separating the top three in the Drivers' standings, each of the World Championship hopefuls will be looking to assert dominance in Rome and lead the championship before we finish the season in London later this month.

Buemi Berlin 2016

In past Formula E seasons, penultimate rounds have proven pivotal. Here’s how previous seasons have been defined by what drivers have achieved before their last chances of the season.

Season 1: Nelson noses ahead in Moscow

Heading into the penultimate race weekend of Season 1, with three rounds left Nelson Piquet Jr. led the championship just two points in front of Sebastien Buemi. Moscow was the host city for Round 9, and with only two races to follow in London, success in Russia for either Piquet or Buemi would give a huge boost for each driver's ambition to become the first Formula E champion.

WATCH: Watch every minute of Rounds 13 & 14 in Rome

It was Piquet who earned the early advantage after qualifying second, just 0.020s behind Jean-Eric Vergne. Buemi started the race fourth, one place behind fellow title contender Lucas di Grassi.

As the race began, it took Piquet less than ten seconds to take the lead as he passed Vergne on the first corner. Piquet would remain in first place for the remainder of the 35 laps, as he secured his second win of the season - and 25 valuable championship points.

Piquet Moscow

But Sebastien Buemi, who had started the day just needing to finish ahead of Piquet to potentially lead the championship, was about to see his title chances reduced dramatically. Though he finished fourth in the race, the Swiss driver was given a 30 second penalty for an unsafe release from his pitstop, moving the future Formula E champion down to ninth, with just four points gained.

Piquet’s Moscow win proved pivotal, as he moved 17 points clear in the championship with two races left. While that lead was significantly reduced in London, the Brazilian managed to become champion by just one point in the final race of the season.

Buemi’s Berlin masterclass

Sebastien Buemi shook off the disappointment of Season 1 the very next year as he became the 2015/16 Formula E champion. The eventual win would come after one of the most incredible season finales in motorsport history, as Buemi secured the title by gaining the fastest lap in the final race despite a huge collision with nearest title rival Lucas di Grassi.

READ MORE: The full Rome preview

We’ll tell that story in more detail before this year's London finale, but it was Buemi’s Berlin victory in the penultimate race location of Season 2 that gave the-then Renault driver immense hope heading into London.

Berlin Buemi win Formula E trophy celebration

Buemi was 11 points behind di Grassi after the Paris E-Prix, and needed success in Berlin to reignite his championship dream. This was a season of supreme dominance from both drivers, who had scored a combined 11 podiums from the first seven rounds. In qualifying, Buemi laid an early marker on di Grassi as he qualified second, with his Brazilian rival only managing to start tenth.

Just as Piquet had managed in Russia the year before, Buemi took the lead early as he passed polesitter Jean-Eric Vergne into the first corner. Buemi kept his cool in a chaotic race to keep the lead and move just one point behind di Grassi in the standings.

Di Grassi seizes the initiative in New York City

What is it about Sebastien Buemi, Lucas di Grassi and penultimate rounds? In Season 3, the pendulum swung in di Grassi’s favour after Buemi did not race New York City despite being 32 points ahead in the championship with four rounds left to go.

With the World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Nurburgring taking place across the same weekend as Formula E’s New York City debut, several drivers, including Buemi, raced in Germany instead of America.

Di Grassi New York City Formula E podium

Buemi, who had won six of the first eight rounds of the season, must have been hoping his large lead was enough to stay top of the championship ahead of the double-header season-finale in Montreal, but though di Grassi didn’t win either NYC race, he scored 22 points across the weekend to reduce Buemi’s lead to just ten points.

The Brazilian moved ahead of Buemi in the championship after winning the first Montreal race, before clinching the title the next day in Canada.

Swiss bliss for JEV

After becoming the final Formula E champion of the Gen1 era in Season 4, Jean-Eric Vergne wanted to create a dynasty in Season 5 by winning the first title of the GEN2 era.

The Frenchman’s first five races of the season proved difficult, with a second place in Diriyah followed by just one further points finish in the next four races. Vergne claimed his first win of the season in Sanya, before taking victory in Monaco to fully ignite his quest.

Heading into the Bern, the penultimate race location of the season, Vergne led the championship by six points over Lucas di Grassi, who had won the previous race in Berlin. That lead improved to nine points before the race had even started when Vergne qualified first in imperious fashion.

Vergne Bern

Incredible scenes followed in the race which saw several incidents and safety cars deployed. Vergne’s own race was relatively unaffected by the chaos, and though he had an attacking Mitch Evans to his rear, the DS TECHEETAH driver held off the New Zealander to win the race and move 32 points ahead of di Grassi in the standings.

For the second consecutive season, Vergne then clinched the Formula E championship in New York City.

Second is good enough for de Vries!

With four rounds left of Season 7, 11 drivers were within one win of leading the championship. With two home races in London to come before the season finale in Berlin, Sam Bird led the standings by five points over both Season 6 champion Antonio Felix da Costa and former teammate Robin Frijns.

But after Formula E returned to London for the first time in five years, it was the man 10th in the championship before those races who would be top of the standings following both races.

De Vries podium Mercedes London Formula E

Despite winning two of the first five races of the season, Nyck de Vries was nowhere near title contention with four rounds left. The Dutchman had failed to score points in seven of eleven races, and had gone pointless in three successive rounds before arriving at London’s ExCeL.

Amidst two wild races in London that included daring overtakes, big collisions and Lucas di Grassi’s most opportunistic move yet, for the first time in the season, de Vries stayed consistent, picking up two second places and earning 36 points in the process. While British drivers Alex Lynn and Jake Dennis had enjoyed the victories, it was de Vries who moved to the top of the championship, leading the field by six points going into Berlin.

Such was the unpredictability of Season 7, de Vries scored just four points in the last two races of the season, but still became the first Formula E World Champion by seven points after his title rivals all struggled in Berlin.

Which driver will claim momentum ahead of the Season 9 London finale this weekend in Rome? Keep up to date with everything on