New York City ePrix 2019: From Jean-Eric Vergne winning driver championship to Mahindra Racing's performance, takeaways from season finale

In the greatest sporting weekend of 2019, Formula E didn't find as much of a mention given its relatively new status as a sporting series. But both the races of the 2019 New York City ePrix offered a fitting finale to the 2018-19 Formula E Championship. Jean-Eric Vergne won the drivers' championship, becoming the first driver to lift the Formula E title twice and that too in back-to-back fashion. After coming agonisingly close last season, Techeetah finally managed to clinch their first-ever teams' championship. Unlike some of the other top-flight series of motorsport, Formula E is yet to attain a 'World Championship' status, so Vergne-Techeetan will have to wait a few years before calling themselves 'World Champions'.

The 2019 New York City ePrix hosted two races — a race each on Saturday and Sunday. This meant that the stakes were high for all teams-drivers given how closely fought the championship have been all season. In Race 1, Sebastian Buemi won his first race of the season and became the ninth driver to step onto the top spot of the podium. The Nissan e.dams team should've clinched victory much earlier in the season, but battery management issues meant that both Buemi and his highly regarded team-mate Oliver Rowland ended up losing races despite being in winning positions. Buemi's pole-to-flag win in Race 1 saw him become only the third pole sitter to successfully convert his start position advantage to a race win.

Race 1 — Sebastian Buemi's first season win

Like almost every other ePrix, Race 1 too had its own share of drama. Moments after the start, a Turn 7 pile up was triggered by Virgin Racing's Sam Bird and the two Dragon Racing drivers, Jose Maria Lopez and Maximilian Gunther. The pile up saw several other drivers being caught out, the biggest loser being Jean-Eric Vergne, who started 10th. Unfortunately for Vergne, it was his own team-mate (Andre Lotterer) who rear-ended him unexpectedly while trying to avoid the mess on track himself. The result of the pile up meant that both Techeetah cars had to pit for repairs.

Up at the front, Buemi's lead came under pressure from Jaguar Racing's Alex Lynn and BMW's Alex Sims. However, 25 minutes into the 45 minutes race, Lynn's car developed a snag which cost the British racer an opportunity to score his first podium of the season. A subsequent safety car deployment saw the entire pack bunch-up — Buemi leading, followed by Sims and Audi's Daniel Abt. However, an ambitious Mitch Evans (Jaguar Racing) overtook several cars en route to his second consecutive second place finish.

Further drama unfolded on the final lap of the race when Vergne and Venturi's Felipe Massa tangled at Turn 2 for the 10th position. Massa, who was given a bit of flak for his silly defense on Vergne, eventually took the championship contender out of the race — while two of Vergne's four challengers finished 1st (Buemi) and 5th (Audi's Lucas di Grassi). Luckily for Vergne, his championship lead coming to the 2019 New York City ePrix was good enough to not impact his chances despite his non-finish in Race 1.

Race 2 — Robin Frijns claims honours

Come Race 2, Buemi's challenge for the title ended when he couldn't manage to score pole position and claim the extra point that comes along with it. However, the Swiss driver started third, after qualifying only a tenth off the pole position (Alex Sims). In Race 2, di Grassi and Vergne, the championship rivals, started 11th and 12th respectively. A few minutes into the race start, it was Lopez who was spun again, in an incident involving Lotterer. However, the race was a lively one with battles throughout the running order — Vandoorne (HWA Race Lab) vs Evans, Turvey vs da Costa vs Loterrer. For Massa, the 2019 New York City ePrix was one to forget given some embarrassing mistakes under-braking in both the races.

On the final lap of the race, Evans, who was suffering from late-race issues, tangled with di Grassi causing both drivers to retire from the race. Thereon, it was confirmed that Vergne would cross the finish line as the 2018-19 Formula E Champion. In the drivers' championship though, Buemi jumped di Grassi — thanks to his streak of four podium finishes in the last four races, including a win. Robin Frijns pulled off some stunning overtakes to win Race 2 and was followed by Alex Sims, who scored his first podium of the season. It must be remembered, that it was actually in Race 1 where Sims should've scored his first podium had it not been a tangle between the two BMW drivers who were leading the race.

Race fixing?

Post-race, a controversy erupted with Jean-Eric Vergne and a pit-to-car radio chat between the team and driver. In Race 1, Vergne told his team to ask Loterrer to stop his damaged car on track in an attempt to bring out the Safety Car — a move that would have aided his race. An FIA investigation penalised the driver with one day of public service — a lenient penalty given that the intention was to alter the running of the race. For the fans, this was a flashback to the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix where Nelson Piquet Jr. was ordered to act in a similar manner to aid Fernando Alonso's race winning chances.

From the drivers who competed in all rounds of the 2018-19 Formula E Season, Tom Dillman (NIO Formula E Team) was the only driver who failed to score a point in the entire season. In the Teams' Championship, Techeetah finished 19 points ahead of Audi, despite scoring with just one car (in Race 2) of the New York City ePrix. The team benefitted from the lead they built over their challengers in the last few rounds. Despite a late-season boost in performance, Nissan e.dams finished 4th — only a point away from Virgin Racing in 3rd place.

Mahindra Racing — Heroes to sidekicks

The 2018-19 Formula E Season would be a season of disappointment for Mahindra Racing fans. The team started their season with a bang, winning races, scoring pole positions and leading both the championships. However, a mid-season drop in performance saw the team drop through the leaderboard with every passing ePrix. Finally, Mahindra Racing ended 5th — nearly 100 points adrift of the championship winning team, Techeetah.

For those following Mahindra Racing's progress in Formula E, the team's inability to consolidate and build on the solid start to their seasons is typical. Let's hope the team is able to break out of this mould and give their fans more to cheer for. The Jérôme d'Ambrosio-Pascal Wehrlein line-up is well-balanced and hopefully continues next season.

The 2019-20 Formula E Season is expected to kick off in November with the opening round in Saudi Arabia. The arrival of Porsche and Mercedes in the all-electric series will bring new interest and attention along with the introduction of new venues. Formula 1's newest race winning power unit manufacturer of the hybrid-turbo era, Honda, have indicated an interest in Formula E. As for the drivers, they have cited interest in switching from a time-based race format (currently 45 minutess) to a lap-based format (e.g. 50-lap race). As we enjoy the break between the two seasons, keep checking Firstpost for Formula E related news and updates all along.

Updated Date: Jul 15, 2019 21:48:42 IST