With Jean-Eric Vergne having sewn up the drivers’ title on Saturday, there was still the small matter of the team championship to be decided on race Sunday and it turned out to be a dramatic season finale.
The race proved to be a victory parade for the Frenchman, who outlined his superiority over the course of the season by taking the race victory from outgoing champion Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt. The team battle was a tighter affair.
Techeetah certainly seemed to be in the box seat to extend their five-point advantage over Audi in race 2 with Andre Lotterer and Vergne lining up second and third on the grid respectively.
And it appeared to get better still as Vergne surged past both pole sitter Sebastien Buemi and teammate Lotterer after a fantastic start from the newly-crowned champion.
That early joy soon turned to despair, however, as Lotterer was penalized for jumping the start, a ten-second stop-go penalty handing back the advantage to team Audi, Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt putting their squabbles of the previous day behind them.
Still, the drama wasn’t over, Luca Filippi plowing into the back of Jerome d’Ambrosio to bring out a full course yellow flag.
When the racing resumed, Lotterer dived in immediately in an attempt to minimize the damage. It meant Techeetah still held a five-point advantage but di Grassi’s pass on Buemi was followed by Abt on Piquet, meaning the points were remarkably tied.
And when Abt made a move on Buemi stick just before half distance, the German manufacturer held the advantage over the plucky privateers.
The pitstop window saw the top four remain the same as they emerged nose-to-tail and the team standings then switched back and forth as Abt and Buemi traded overtakes in a dramatic finale.
A mistake from Buemi, clipping the wall, handed Abt and Audi the advantage despite the German driver having less reusable energy.
It meant for a dramatic finish, Abt holding off Buemi for third behind di Grassi as Lotterer’s late overtake meant di Grassi pipped England’s Sam Bird for second in the championship by just a single point at the final reckoning.
It was always going to be a tall order for Bird to overhaul his French rival but DS Virgin Racing enjoyed a strong season to also finish third in the team standings ahead of Mahindra Racing and the departing Renault e.Dams.
Audi came into the weekend 33 points adrift of Techeetah and, understandably, McNish was a delighted team principal after his first year at the helm.
“We knew there was a fighting chance when we came here but we didn’t know it was a real chance until last night when we got the first and second,” said McNish. “And then, to be honest, we didn’t know until the tenth car crossed the line exactly where we were and what we had. Both drivers did a brilliant job today under difficult pressures, I’ve got to say under difficult pressures at the pit stops. Super happy, super proud, super relieved!”
The end of an era
Of course, with the end of every exciting season comes triumph for some, disappointment for others and pastures new for others.
Renault will be departing the sport after experiencing their fair share of success and there will be new teams and new tech on the grid for season 5 in 2018.
Acronis and NIO have announced an exciting new technology partnership and there will be a new Gen2 car on the grid for next season that is more powerful and faster with a battery that will last from lights to flag.
What isn’t there to look forward to?