The Crowning Champ is ...

The second New York E Prix is won by Dutchman Robin Frijns, making his team, Envision Virgin, the only ones to have both drivers taking an E Prix race this season.

But the main focus is the Championship for the 2018/19 series. 

Attack Mode Announcement

With just an hour to go the FIA announced that drivers will get an extra attack mode in today's New York finale of the 2018/19 series. This is totally in accordance with the rules, because the details of attack mode are always decided one hour before the race. Details can be the number, duration or minimum amount of times a driver can arm it. The purpose is to give teams limited time to plan race strategy. In the series to date, the Attack Mode has been relatively stable. They'll have to be careful not to overheat the car or use up too much battery.

Attack mode gives the driver an extra power boost (usually 25 kWh for 4 minutes). But to achieve this, the driver has to swerve out of the racing line and pass over 3 marks on the road, risking being passed, or risking wasting it if the safety car comes out. When activated the halo (driver cage) glows blue, so that spectators can see who is in attack mode.

The Starting Grid

Well, as TVNZ have again put Wimbledon Tennis (none of the players were Kiwis) on ahead of FIA Formula E Final, I didn't get a chance to watch the qualifiers, so the above table will have to be self-explanatory.  However, waiting on TVNZ's unpatriotic attitude gives me a chance to muse on the championship.

Of note, series leaders JEV and Di Grassi are again both in the middle of the pack. Mitch Evans is starting from the 4th row with Nissan e.Dams' Oliver Rowland. Evan's team-mate Alex Lynn is at the back of the pack, we can only assume he had a disastrous qualifier, but not as bad as veteran driver Felipe Massa (Venturi) who appears 9.775 seconds behind Rowland (leading the non-superpole group.)

Leading in Superpole is British racing driver Alexander Sims, BMW i Andretti's second racer. Sims has had a patchy season, sometimes excelling, steadily collecting points, but never actually making it to the podium, and this is his first super-pole. His team-mate António Félix da Costa, on the other hand, is a veteran of electric racing, and is current #5 on the championship standings. However, Da Costa will be starting in the middle of the pack, and even a win will not clinch him the series. 

We saw in yesterday's NYC E Prix, a lot of movement from the middle of the pack, so BMW i's hopes for a race win are not over, and certainly having Sims starting in Superpole is a boost to the team. However, even if Sims wins today's E Prix, he cannot win the Championship Series either.

All eyes will be on Jean-Eric Vergne, Lucas Di Grassi, and Mitch Evans as these are the only three in with a chance to win, so long as they can stay in the points. Vergne only needs to hang on to his lead, and hope that someone other than Di Grassi or Evans wins the race. If Evans wins, the series will be in a tie situation, and the driver with the most wins will take the series. Evans has had one win, at the Rome E Prix, while Vergne has had three at: Sanya, China; Monaco; and Bern, Switzerland.

And I could talk more about the championship standings but just as I get to this point, TVNZ are finally putting the race on - about ten minutes after I've found it on a Sri-Lankan Facebook page.


The Final Race

Sims starts the race fairly unchallenged, while the left hand side of the pack (from the viewers perspective) have a clean track, many of them jumping spaces. Buemi immediately passes Frijns into second. Evans jumps from 13th to his comfort spot - 8th position. Vergne on the dusty side of the track jumps one spot in the first lap. 

At ten minutes, Lotterer's DS Techeetah car needs to be removed from track and the race halts behind the safety car, allowing the pack to bunch up. Could this be a disaster for the Team's Championship of which DS Techeetah are currently winning? Eight drivers are still in Attack Mode, but remember there's three attack modes in this race. 

At nine minutes in, both Envision Virgin cars go on the hunt, Frijns attacks Buemi passing in a beautiful move while Bird takes Vandoorne on the inside.

Evans is unable to make any headway beyond Abt in front of him whose strategy could be to protect team mate Di Grassi.

However a minute later Abt goes on attack and passes Vandoorne.

The Fanboost is announced at the halfway point and it's awarded to: da Costa, Buemi, Vandoorne, Abt, and Di Grassi. For the first time in 13 races Vandoorne is not the highest scoring Fanboost, but that doesn't matter because he'll still get an equal chance to activate the 5 second boost if needed.

At 21 minutes left, it's a race between Audi and BMW technology, as Frijns in the Envision Virgin car with the Audi motor passes leader Sims in the BMW i Andretti car.

At this midway point, the championship leaders are still in same order in the middle of the pack and all with one attack mode left: Evans followed by Di Grassi and Vergne a couple of paces back. And then Vergne passes da Costa, grouping the leaders together and all of them are now in the race points if they can hang on to or improve their positions.

Evans and Vergne then choose to use their last Attack Mode, while Di Grassi hangs onto his. Evans moves ahead of Vandoorne into 7th. With two minutes of attack mode remaining, Evans passes Rowland and goes on attack with Abt. Meanwhile Abt does the fastest lap, so Evans' work is cut out for him. Di Grassi and Vergne remain in their positions.

At the head of the pack, Frijns remains steady followed by Sims and then Buemi.

Then Di Grassi uses his Fanboost and it's just enough to pass Vandoorne, who has been steadily dropping places from his 5th place starting spot. He takes on Rowland shortly after tucking back in one second behind Evans. It's a real race for a podium finish between Evans and Di Grassi and also puts the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team back in the running.

At 9 minutes to go, Frijns is comforable out the front. Abt uses his Fanboost but fails to pass Bird. Meanwhile Vergne passes Vandoorne. 

Over the radio, we hear that Sebastien Buemi is stressed in third place. 

At three minutes to go (+1 lap), it's all or nothing for Evans. But he is sandwiched in between the two Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler cars both defending and attacking the team mates.

In the final lap, most cars are on 2% battery with Rowland and Massa down to 1%.

It's down to the last two corners for Evans and Di Grassi. It's Evans' final chance to pass Abt to gain a place on the Championship podium, there is a series of knocks and nudges between Evans and Di Grassi coming around to turn 11. Without the cameras directly on them, it is hard to tell who or what started it, but by the time the cameras swing around, both cars have collided a few times, finally coming to a standstill with just metres to go.

Frijns wins the race, followed by Sims and Buemi in third, meaning the whole Championship order is in disarray. Let's take a look at that in a moment.

The Championship 

So neither Di Grassi nor Evans scored any points, and that meant their 2nd and 3rd places on the podium were wide open. Though we knew going into the race that no one else had enough points to beat Vergne, who stayed out of trouble further down the pack. His conservative strategy (given that he didn't get high into the starting grid) paid off for him, safely taking home the title win in seventh place. Historically, it's the second series win in a row for the popular Frenchman.

The points that can be scored in each ePrix are: 

  • 1st = 25pts
  • 2nd = 18pts
  • 3rd = 15pts
  • 4th = 12pts
  • 5th = 10pts
  • 6th = 8pts
  • 7th = 6pts
  • 8th = 4pts
  • 9th = 2pts
  • 10th = 1pt
  • Fastest Lap = 1pt
  • Superpole = 3 pts

As already mentioned, only Di Grassi had enough points going into this final race to theoretically beat Vergne. Evans had enough to come second. Let's discount both of them, since they didn't receive any points for not finishing.

Anyone with over 81 points had enough to win a spot on the podium if they won this race and depending on who else won points. This included in order: Buemi, Da Costa, Lotterer, Abt, and Frijns. With either a second or a third the top two of that group (Da Costa and Buemi) would still make it onto the podium. Extra points for fastest lap (Abt) and the Juilus Baer Pole Position (Sims) does not make much of a difference. And so, as Frijns won, receiving the full 25 points, did he have enough to get onto the podium in second or third place?

In the 2018/19 ABB FIA Formula E championship, the winner Jean-Eric Vergne, affectionately known as JEV, is joined on the podium by ...

... the winning team also DS Techeetah, Sebastien Buemi driving for Nissan e-Dams in second place, and Lucas Di Grassi, driving for Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler in third. If Buemi hadn't done so well, then Frijns may have made it, but as it stood, provisionally at race end, Frijns was in fourth position, followed by Evans in fifth.

It was a massive effort by Mitch Evans, the #1 driver for Panasonic Jaguar Racing Team—a team that changed their #2 driver half way through the season. But given that the Kiwi was so close to getting a second or third spot on the podium—in fact only a point away from winning the series—we do feel disappointed at the result, as he must also. 

He was in 6th place when he was taken out of the race by the collision with Di Grassi, who himself was in 7th place. This would have brought their championship totals to 113 points and 114 points respectively. Sebastien Buemi finished with 119 points and Frijns with 106 points. So when the accident happened, Di Grassi had everything to lose, and Evans had nothing to lose.

In the end, Di Grassi only lost one position on the podium. But Evans went home with nothing, except the ability to start the qualifiers next season in the front six. And Buemi was a bridesmaid in both the E-Prix and the Series Championship. 

The traditional podium selfie, with Leonardo Di Grassi
The winning team, Chinese DS TeCheetah Formula E had a massive season. President Edmond Chu taking the trophy.

Audi Sport and Envision Racing (both using Audi tech) came second and third. Nissan e.Dams made it to fourth position, and announced that they are happy to comply with the new single motor rule coming in next season.

Awarding trophies were the following officials:

  • Claudio Facchin, President Power Grids, ABB
  • Alain Dehaze, Adecco Group Global CEO
  • Alli Russel, Director of New Business, Formula E
  • Serge Grisin, Formula E Programme Manager, Michelin Motorsports
  • Alberto Longo, Co-founder and Chief-CCO, Formula E
  • Simon Freer, Chairman, Formula E Board
  • Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO, Formula E


Next Season

That's all the Better NZ Trust will be presenting on Formula E for Season 5.

Season 6 starts on November 22nd 2019, with 14 races in 12 of the world’s most progressive cities over four continents (the venue for Race 3 still to be decided.)  

Also, as previously announced, Mercedes and Porche are joining the series next season. Their teams are already hard at work.

Meanwhile, what does the future hold for Formula 1? Given that racing at this level is producing technology that is about a decade ahead of production cars, will there be a need for expensive R&D in internal combustion engines?  We expect Formula 1 to continue as normal until at least 2024. After that is anyone's guess.


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