DS TECHEETAH’s Vergne dominates in Monaco

Jean-Eric Vergne put an end to the ABB FIA Formula E Championship’s trend of seeing a different winner at each race in the 2018/19 season, delivering Acronis technical partner DS TECHEETAH with a dominant and spectacular victory on the streets of one of the most iconic, historic and quintessential racing circuits in the world: Monaco.

Jean-Eric Vergne takes the chequered flag to win in Monaco

While it was Nissan e.dams’ Oliver Rowland who was the fastest driver in qualifying, it was Vergne who started from pole position for the 45-minute + 1 lap affair in the Principality, the Frenchman ascending to first on the grid following the application of a three-place grid penalty on the provisional pole-sitting Briton.

Given the tight and twisty nature of the 1.76km-long circuit and therefore, lack of overtaking opportunities, it was vital for Vergne to maintain the lead at the start of the race to maximise his chances of taking victory. This is something that the reigning Formula E champion did successfully, holding off fellow front-row starter Pascal Wehrlein when the starting lights went out on the run into Turn 1.

With Vergne in the lead, the Frenchman took total control of the race, streaking ahead of Wehrlein and Rowland who lapped in the final podium position. As pressure began to mount at the front of the field, it was Wehrlein who was the first driver to hit breaking point, locking up deep into Turn 1 with 36-minutes + 1 lap of racing remaining after facing an ever-growing threat from Rowland in third.

This allowed Rowland to progress through the field by moving into second, chasing after Vergne in an attempt to become Formula E’s ninth different winner of Season 5. Managing his energy usage, Vergne’s ever-growing lead took a momentary stall as Rowland, who had energy in reserve, was able to close up to the leader.

Carefully using regeneration under braking, Vergne continued to manage his battery life, with this allowing the trailing three cars of Rowland, Felipe Massa and Wehrlein to close in, with the top four now lapping in formation in a tense nose-to-tail scrap to the chequered flag, with each driver’s final use of Attack Mode increasing the power output of each car to 225kW – 12% more power than normal.

As an experienced driver with a proven track record of winning in Formula E, Vergne remained cool under intense pressure to claim victory in the Principality, beating Rowland by 0.201s to the chequered flag, with this result marking the Frenchman’s seventh Formula E victory to date and second of the season – a result that the driver was thrilled with, especially given the location of the race:

“Being my first podium in Monaco and being a win makes me extremely happy and it’s an incredible feeling,” Vergne said after the race. “Then the race, I think it was pretty much under control. When I wanted to push I could create a gap and extend over Oliver [Rowland] and then lifting depending on how close it was so I could keep to the target. Then at the end he was gaining but it was just a question of staying on track and finishing the race. I knew he could not pass me unless he wanted to risk running into me. I was feeling pretty confident although I think the team was feeling a bit stressed but everything inside the car was under control.”

By winning in Monaco, Vergne has also taken the lead in the Drivers’ Championship, emerging as the first racer in the Formula E field to take control of the Season Five fight for the title. Despite this, the driver said that holding first in the standings is not something that he cares about, given the all-electric single seater series’ constantly evolving title battle:

“At the end of the year it may be a different result or it may be the same,” he continued. “I hope it will be the same. But we have seen how quickly things can change in Formula E and today, honestly, leading the championship is not something I care about. As long as I stay in the game until New York I am happy and if it keeps going like this then the championship will be decided in the last race, so for me it’s just a question of staying up there with a good car, good spirit and with the team I think that’s what we have and this kind of result will increase the confidence within our team and work more and try to maximise the package we have.”

While Rowland’s second place marked the 26-year-old’s second Formula E podium to date, Felipe Massa’s third place finish in the Principality marked the Brazilian’s first top-three finish in the series so far – the result coming in the perfect location: The home circuit of Venturi:

“It’s a great feeling, definitely. It was a nice race, nice qualifying, very clean race,” said Massa. “Nothing happened, nothing broke on the car like it did in Hong Kong, so I’m happy I had a clean race, understanding the car, understanding the qualifying as well so I’m happy with that. The best place to do it here in Monaco, for the team, home grand prix. It was so special on the podium when I saw my son screaming, you know, I think that’s really a great feeling. Looking at these things just gives you extra happiness. I’m doing what I love to do and having the results is great. And after that [Gildo] Pastor was crying, our boss, and he’s from here and everything that he has passed through so it’s a great day. It would have been a fantastic day by winning the race but I think it was a very good job today for the team and for me.”

Wehrlein, despite having more usable energy than Vergne, Rowland and Massa ahead, finished in fourth place while Sebastien Buemi completed the top five in the second Nissan IM01. Behind the Swiss Season Two champion, it was Antonio Felix da Costa who initially finished sixth, but was later disqualified for power overuse, meaning Jaguar’s Mitch Evans was promoted, trailed by Daniel Abt.

In the second DS TECHEETAH car, Andre Lotterer performed admirably, fighting through the field to claim ninth place at the chequered flag after starting from 20th, with the recovery drive sharing a resemblance to his 2018 fight through the field at the Berlin E-Prix. His position was also upgraded to seventh after Da Costa’s disqualification, Alex Lynn, Stoffel Vandoorne and Jose Maria Lopez completing  the top 10.

“You pay a very hard price for that in Formula E and nobody else messed up qualifying either. In the race I tried to use all the experience I have in the motorsport industry,” Lotterer told Motorsport Tech afterward. “We knew it was going to be difficult to overtake so I knew, ok at the start, I can do something, so I overtook four cars around the outside at the start and then it was just taking opportunities that were coming up and a few times I was being aggressive to pass a few guys but all in all I think I can be happy with the result limiting the damage.”

With DS TECHEETAH securing a double points finish on the streets of Monaco, the Franco-Chinese team has also taken control of the Teams’ Championship, extending its points tally to 169, with Envision Virgin Racing remaining as the marque’s nearest challenger, 34 points adrift.

The ABB FIA Formula E Championship will return on May 25 for the fifth running of the Berlin E-Prix where the revolutionary racing series will visit one of its more unique circuits on the calendar, battling on the airstrips of the historic Tempelhof airport.

Chris Soulsby

Formula E Editor at MotorsportWeek and MotorsportMonday.