Jean-Eric Vergne scored a crucial win at his home race in Paris, as championship rival Sam Bird made contact with Vergne’s teammate Andre Lotterer on the final lap.
Starting from pole, Vergne pulled away from Bird at the start and soaked up the pressure in the opening phase of the race as Bird and Lotterer kept a close watch. Approaching the pit window, the battle began to intensify and the top three entered the pit lane separate by just half a second, with Bird ahead of Lotterer in second.
Vergne was the big winner during the stops as his was a second faster than Bird, while teammate Lotterer’s car change was slower than both and lost him almost two seconds on the front pair.
Lotterer picked up the pace after the stops and began to close in on Bird, before lining up a move on lap 35. The German locked up mid overtake and the pair touched, but both were able to stay on track as Lotterer swept through into second place.
The pass was a crucial one for Vergne in the lead, who now had his teammate as rear gunner with Bird dropping back into the clutches of Di Grassi who had risen to fourth.
Running unchallenged for the final third of the race, Vergne was able to extend his lead to almost five seconds and he took the flag to score his third win of the season to extend his championship lead over Bird to 31 points.
Di Grassi claimed second place for Audi after impressive energy management in the first stint meant he was one the last of the top 10 to pit. He showed superb pace in the second phase of the race, and reeled in the front three before passing Bird with nine laps to go.
From there, he had Lotterer’s second place in sight and as the Techeetah driver’s energy ran critically low in the closing stages, Di Grassi saw his opportunity and passed the German to snatch second place on the final lap.
Bird, who had fallen 7s off the lead at this point, quickly caught up to the slowing Lotterer and the pair collided as Bird made his move to pass, destroying the DS Virgin driver’s front suspension in the process. Despite the damage, he was able to steer his stricken car over the line to take third while Lotterer limped across in sixth with a damaged rear wing.
Both Di Grassi and Bird were critical of Lotterer’s driving after the race, with Bird and Lotterer being summoned to the stewards to explain their last lap incident.
Maro Engel was able to convert his best ever qualifying result into a solid points haul for his Venturi team with fourth place – his best result in two seasons of Formula E. The German lost touch with the lead three in opening phase of the race, but settled into a rhythm there after and was able to finish ahead of last year’s Paris winner Sebastien Buemi.
Along with Di Grassi, Buemi was another to run a longer first stint, stopping two laps later than the leaders. He lacked the pace for a podium challenge but was able to finish fifth from his eighth place start, surviving a last lap tussle with Daniel Abt before inheriting another place as Lotterer cruised to the flag.
Abt finished seventh in the second Audi car after an aggressive first stint saw him climb several places from his 14th place grid slot – he was later voted Driver of the Day for his efforts. NIO’s Oliver Turvey and Dragon’s José María López rounded out the top ten.
Andretti’s Antonio Felix Da Costa saw his chances of a strong result ended within the opening few laps. After qualifying a surprise fifth, he made a mistake and went off track on lap two, and was forced to retire a few laps later.
Jaguar’s miserable day continued, with Nelson Piquet being forced out with a seatbelt issue for the second race in a row, while Mitch Evans’ race was effectively ended on lap one when he was forced to pit for repairs after a coming together with Tom Blomqivst.
Image Credit: Formula E
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