Buemi keeps ABB Formula E season alive after dramatic opening race in New York

Nissan e.Dams driver Sebastien Buemi put himself back into contention for a second Formula E drivers’ title after a dramatic finish to the New York e-Prix.

The Swiss, who realistically needed victory and runaway leader Jean-Eric Vergne to experience a disaster of a race, had both of those scenarios come to pass as he drove a flawless pole to flag race whilst Vergne experienced final-lap heartbreak.

DS TECHEETAH driver Vergne was running in the points in tenth and on course to effectively seal the title before he attempted to pass Felipe Massa’s Venturi on the final lap, presumably to maximise his chances of getting the job done before the final race on Sunday.

Going wheel-to-wheel with the Brazilian into the first corner, he seemed to have the move completed but then slid back into the Venturi into Turn 2 and had nowhere left to go but the wall.

It was a dramatic end to a dramatic race, and now means that if Vergne fails to finish on Sunday and Buemi sweeps the board with a pole position, win and fastest lap, it means he could still win by three points. A possibility, albeit highly unlikely, as both Lucas di Grassi and Mitch Evans are also ahead of him in the standings.

“It’s an amazing feeling, I can’t tell you, because it’s been a hard season,” said Buemi after taking the chequered flag. “We basically deserved a couple of wins but finally it happened today, so really happy for the first win f the season and my first win since two years, so really good.

“It’s been a long time, and I tell you I’m quite emotional because it’s been over two years and also this win is really for our team chief, Jean Paul is not doing too well, so this win is really for him. I really wanted to win, and I’m really happy it happened today.”

Jaguar’s Evans drove a fantastic race to finish second from 13th on the grid, ahead of Antonio Felix da Costa. And di Grassi also now also has a realistic shot at a second championship title after a brilliant drive to sixth position from 14th on the grid.

“It feels really good,” said Evans. “We had a tricky quali, after being in group 1 and obviously back in 13th so obviously the target was to move forward. But obviously I wasn’t expecting to make that sort of progress. I don’t think I made many friends that race but it’s that time of the championship where you have to go all out and I could sniff that opportunity.

“I had good pace and to come away with a podium was really unexpected, but we’ll take it so big thanks to the guys. It was a big shame for Alex (Lynn) actually, he was running really well so it was nice to put a Jaguar on the podium, but he deserves to be here as well.”

Di Grassi, who won the title in 2016-17, now goes into the final race of the season just 22 points behind Vergne.

“At the start, I lost two places because Andre (Lotterer) drove on the inside and squeezed me out and I lost a lot of places,” said di Grassi. “But then there was that confusion and cars crashing at 13, and a big mess like that mid pack happens in Formula E.

“I managed to go through and the car was super unstable and very difficult to drive today, so at one point I thought I was not even going to finish top ten, to be honest. But we managed to go through, change the settings and passed one by one.”

Buemi held the lead from the start as Lynn passed Pascal Wehrlein for second as carnage ensued behind, Sam Bird punting the GEOX Dragon of Lopez from behind and causing a puncture for Vergne that cost put him to the back of the field with teammate Andre Lotterer also having to pit to change a damaged nose.

Bird’s part in the incident cost him a ten second time penalty but the Englishman still managed to finish eighth after a typically bullish drive.

As eluded to by Evans after the race, teammate Lynn was possibly the most unfortunate driver of the race, putting real pressure on leader Buemi before grinding to a halt with a coolant pressure issue on lap 21.

Lynn’s misfortunate was Evans’ gain, and means the New Zealander has an outside chance of overturning Vergne’s lead tomorrow, should luck again be on his side.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.

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