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Formula E: Vergne clinches title, di Grassi leads Audi 1-2 in New York Race 1

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Season 4 of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship has its champion, as Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne came from 18th on the grid – his qualifying time was disallowed after it was deemed he used excessive power during the session – to finish fifth in Race 1 of the New York City E-Prix to clinch the 2017-18 title. DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird, Vergne’s closest rival, finished ninth, coming up just short of moving the title decider to Sunday’s Race 2.

Up front, Lucas Di Grassi finished off a strong second half of the season for him and Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler by leading an Audi 1-2, with teammate Daniel Abt finishing second. It’s the second Audi 1-2 of the season – Abt led di Grassi home in Germany back in May – and the second win in a row for di Grassi, who won in Switzerland in June.

BERLIN, GERMANY – MAY 19: In this handout provided by FIA Formula E, Lucas Di Grassi (BRA), Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, Audi e-tron FE04. during the Berlin E-Prix in the Paris ePrix, Round 9 of the 2017/18 FIA ABB Formula E Series at at Tempelhof Airport on May 19, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Formula E via Getty Images)

Abt moved around pole sitter Sebastien Buemi on Lap 5 to assume the race lead, but teammate di Grassi was on hot pursuit and began closing in after the mid-race car swaps.

Di Grassi then made an aggressive outside pass on Abt, even squeezing his teammate in the process, to seize control of the lead.

Behind them, Vergne was on the charge after languishing in last off the initial start. He eventually worked his way all the way up to a remarkable sixth, ahead of title rival Bird in ninth, following the car swaps. Teammate Andre Lotterer, directly ahead in fifth at the time, then allowed Vergne by to take fifth.

Bird, meanwhile was stuck back in ninth, unable to gain ground. A late Safety Car for a crashed Alex Lynn bunched the field up for a shootout in the final laps, but Bird was still unable to move forward. In the end, Bird’s P9 was not enough, with Vergne’s P5 giving him enough points to clinch the championship ahead of Sunday’s season finale.

Renault e.dams Sebastien Buemi rounded out the podium in third. Race 1 results can be found here, with updated standings found here.

Race 2 of the New York City rolls off at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

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F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.