Vergne takes NYC win as Audi secure team's title
Jean-Eric Vergne topped off his Formula E Championship by taking out Sunday’s race at New York, but Audi Sport Team Schaeffler stole the Team’s championship after a strategic game of cat and mouse with Techeetah.
As the lights went out, Buemi made a slow start and immediately went to cover off Lotterer, but in doing so left enough of a gap for Jean-Eric Vergne to scythe down the inside of turn 1. However, a lock-up from Lotterer a lap later left himself exposed but was able to maintain 3rd place.
The superb start by both Techeetah’s was compounded by Buemi’s sluggish getaway, but was enough for Mitch Evans to question their good fortune over the radio. Inevitably, both cars would be under investigation.
Alex Lynn’s race was over before it began, having retired at the start, while Tom Dillman also retired with a mechanical issue. Lotterer was now on the move past Buemi – presumably to build a gap should a penalty be enforced.
Jose Maria Lopez had bigger troubles after breaking his Dragon’s suspension over the kerbs at turn 2. This would bring out the yellow flags and ironically, took out the sister car of Jerome D’Ambroio when Luca Fillippi Antonio Felix Da Costa tangled – having failed to notice the flags – and left the Dragon driver with no-where to go.
The call inevitably came through for Lotterer to serve a 10 second penalty for his jump start, but mercifully, Vergne was spared a similar penalty – presumably for jumping as the lights went out rather than beforehand.
At the restart, Lotterer immediately pitted to serve his penalty whilst DiGrassi swept past Buemi and into 2nd. Daniel Abt likewise took Piquet for 4th – putting Audi tied on points with Techeetah for the Team’s title. Both teams were also tied on wins, meaning Audi would take the title with more 2nd-places.
Vergne’s only hope now was to score an additional point for fastest lap, but with both Audi’s running consistently half a second quicker, the pressure was on. Vergne was a recipient of the Fanboost vote (alongside Buemi and Abt) and although it can’t be used to set a fastest lap, he would at least have it at his disposal to defend his position.
His options would get slimmer though after Abt took 3rd from Buemi and set bout after team-mate Di Grassi. After their fisticuffs in yesterday’s race, the best Vergne could hope for would be a potential clash – an unlikely event with Audi team principal Allan McNish calling the shots, but trouble was brewing after Abt was heard complaining over the radio about strategy..
Abt was first to pit followed by Evans and Heidfeld. After the leaders pitted there was no change up the order – save for all cars now being line astern. Meanwhile, Da Costa was given a 10-second stop and go penalty for causing a collision with Luca Filippi.
On lap 27 Buemi used his Fanboost to retake 3rd from Abt at the hairpin – slowing up both drivers in the process and giving Vergne a little more space to breathe.
It wouldn’t last long with Di Grassi now closing fast on Vergne; the former Champion monstering the Champion-elect. The twist now though was Lotterer was making steady ground through the field and had a sniff of stealing an additional point for Techeetah.
Vergne would opt to use his Fanboost early to mitigate the assault from Di Grassi, but was forced to conserve energy by lifting and coasting. This caught out a fast-closing Di Grassi and the pair made contact. Lotterer was now into 10th and fast-closing on Bird for extra extra point to steal the Team’s championship. Lotterer made short work of the Brit as the DS Virgin driver was forced to conserve energy.
As it was it was not enough, with Vergne crossing the line ahead of Di Grassi and Abt to take the race win, but Audi would secure the Team’s Championship by 2 points over Techeetah despite being 33 points in arrears prior to the weekend.
“Obviously I’m disappointed for the team not getting the Team’s Championship, but I’m so proud of what we achieved”, said Vergne after the race.
“We knew there was a fighting chance before we came here and we still knew there was a chance after Saturday” said Audi team principal Allan McNish. “
“Both drivers and mechanics did an amazing job under supreme pressure”.
Images: ABB Formula E, Michelin and Audi Sport
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