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