Acronis partner DS TECHEETAH takes Formula E title in New York

Acronis technical partner DS TECHEETAH scored a historic team victory around the streets of New York as Jean-Eric Vergne netted back-to-back drivers’ titles for the first time in the sport’s history.

While it was Envision Virgin Racing’s Robin Frijns who emerged as the final race winner of Season 5 of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, securing his second victory of the campaign in the Big Apple, the plaudits will go to Vergne and DS TECHEETAH after arguably the most thrilling season so far.

Frijns eventually emerged as the victor of the 13th race of the 2018/19 season, but it was Alexander Sims who secured pole position, with the Briton piloting his BMW i Andretti Motorsport car to the fastest time in qualifying to secure three bonus points. By taking pole, however, Sims also ended the championship aspirations of Sebastien Buemi, with the Nissan e.dams driver needing to take the top spot in qualifying to keep his title hopes alive, leaving a three-way fight for the crown.

Forming up on the grid for the final time in Season 5, Sims secured a strong start from pole position to lead into Turn 1 while Buemi, who lined up in third place, jumped front row starter Frijns to move into second.

Before the Swiss racer could pursue Sims with the aim of emulating his E-Prix-winning performance of Race 1, however, the race was neutralized when the safety car was deployed following an accident between Jose Maria Lopez and Andre Lotterer, with the pair coming to blows in Turn 7 on the first lap, retiring as a result.

The race was resumed with 34-minutes + 1 lap remaining after a five-minute pause and while Buemi chased after Sims, it was Frijns with supreme race pace who would advance through the field, clearing Buemi into Turn 1 at the 31-minute mark to move into second place.

Ten minutes after overtaking Buemi, Frijns would next find a route around Sims, out braking the Briton into Turn 1 to snatch the lead from the 31-year-old’s grasp. Desperate to fight back, Sims activated Attack Mode to secure a four-minute 25kW boost in power, however, Frijns quickly followed suit, using the device as a means of defence, running in the same power mode as his second-placed challenger.

Ultimately unable to overtake Frijns, Sims finished as the second-best driver in the second race of the weekend while the lead Dutchman stormed to a dominant victory, recording his first points finish since the Paris E-Prix which also coincidentally marked the driver’s most recent Formula E win:

“The last time I scored points was a win in Paris and four times, no points,” said Frijns. “We were out of championship contention and we had a lot of issues. [In Race 1] we had an issue again and I’m just satisfied that it all came together again to give something back to the team because they worked very hard for it. We had so many problems in the last four races and the team was a bit down, I was a bit down and nothing seemed to work out for us. We were only on the unlucky side and I just wanted this so bad and now we can go back home and prepare for next season on a good note.”

Failing to seriously challenge Sims for second, Buemi stood on the final step of the podium for Nissan e.dams, finishing ahead of Sam Bird who took fourth place in the second Envision Virgin Racing car while Daniel Abt completed the top five for Audi.

In the final stages of the race, sixth place was hotly contested between title protagonists Mitch Evans and Lucas di Grassi, with the Jaguar Racing driver holding an advantage over the Season 3 champion on the last lap of the race. With the pair making contact in Turn 11, however, both dropped outside of the top 10 with Oliver Rowland finishing in the position in the second Nissan IM01.

Behind Rowland was DS TECHEETAH’s Vergne, with the Frenchman taking seventh place to secure his second consecutive Formula E Drivers’ title, becoming the first driver in series history to take back-to-back championship victories.

“I think I’ve taken 10 years off my life this weekend!” said an emotional Vergne post-race. “It was very stressful. [Race 1] didn’t go to plan and in Race 2, starting from the middle of the pack I had to be very aggressive at the start and take some risks but it paid off. Then I was just managing the situation depending on Mitch [Evans] and Lucas [di Grassi]. They both crashed at the end so they gave me the title. There are so many emotions running through my body right now and I feel very, very proud to be in this team and they’ve been fantastic to me this year. I’m so happy to have won it again.”

Behind Vergne, Stoffel Vandoorne and Gary Paffett secured HWA Racelab’s maiden double points finish in Formula E in a race that also marked the German team’s final race in the series, with Mercedes taking over the entry for Season 6. With Vandoorne taking eighth and Paffett 10th, Antonio Felix da Costa split the pair, taking two points away from a ninth place finish.

While Vergne secured the Drivers’ Championship, DS TECHEETAH also successfully claimed the Teams’ title, with Acronis’ technical partner coming out on top in a four-way fight for first in the Teams’ Standings against Audi, Nissan and Envision Virgin.

“This finale weekend couldn’t have started any worse with the incidents on track [in Race 1], and finished any better with the double titles [in Race 2],” said DS TECHEETAH Team Principal Mark Preston. “People can call winning a championship once a flash in the pan, but to have done it twice is no mean feat and solidifies our position as front runners of the championship. I’d like to say a huge congrats to Jean-Éric and everyone in the team and back in the factory, because motorsport is truly a team sport at the end of the day. A team needs to run like a well-oiled machine and ours is running like clockwork.”

Vergne’s teammate, Andre Lotterer, had also been in the hunt for his first drivers’ title going into the last round in New York. Whilst it wasn’t to be for the likeable German, he was happy for his teammate and the team, who he helped to victory.

“Huge congrats to JEV and to the whole DS TECHEETAH team,” said Lotterer. “I’ve never experienced a team like this in my whole motorsport career before and everyone has deserved this double title win today. I wish I could have contributed to extending the gap even further but it wasn’t my weekend, that happens and the main thing is that we’re both Drivers’ and Teams’ champions!”

With Vergne and DS TECHEETAH doing the double in New York City by taking victory in both championships, Season 5 of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship is over. With Season 6 set to commence later this year on November 22, however, the series will return for what is predicted to be its most unpredictable season yet, earmarked by new teams, new drivers and new regulations.

Chris Soulsby

Formula E Editor at MotorsportWeek and MotorsportMonday.