Jean-Eric Vergne is the new Formula E championFormer F1 driver is crowned king of electric racing at the season four finale in NY
Ladies and gents, there’s a new electric racing champ in town. This weekend, Jean-Eric Vergne fought off his Virgin Racing competitor to be officially crowned the 2017/18 Formula E champion in New York City.
The former Toro Rosso Formula 1 driver went into the season four finale double-header with a 23-point advantage over his closest rival, Sam Bird. JEV only needed the first of two races over the weekend to seal the championship, his first since British Formula 3 in 2010.
But it wasn’t easy. Both JEV and his Techeetah team-mate Andre Lotterer were forced to start in 18th and 19th position in Saturday’s race having been written off from qualifying for exceeding the maximum allowed energy limit of 200kW. Undeterred, Vergne then snaked his way through the pack on the incredibly tight 2.4km Brooklyn circuit to finish fifth, four places ahead of title rival Sam Bird which was enough to wrap up the championship.
Lucas di Grassi won the race, having battled his way up to the front from 11th, overtaking his Audi team-mate Daniel Abt for a one-two result finish for the factory team.
JEV’s weekend got even better during the second race on Sunday. After a sodden practice and qualifying, Sebastien Buemi bagged his second consecutive pole of the weekend. But Vergne had an immense start and made a ballsy move at the first turn that put him in the lead where he stayed for the whole 43-lap race. Audi drivers Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt took the second and third spots on the podium, handing Audi the teams’ championship.
The end of the season also marks the end of a significant chapter in Formula E as the Gen 1 cars will be retired to make way for the new, faster and more efficient Gen 2 cars that will be showcased as part of the new FIA regulations for the fifth season which begins with the series opener in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 15 December.
The new car will be a big step on from the current cars. Firstly, it looks cooler – which is important. But under those new, more futuristic panels there’s a lot of progress. Notably, a more powerful battery, promising nearly twice the energy storage capacity available to the teams and drivers.
This means that there’s no need for the comical mid-race car change. Up until now, cars have been running at full pelt for half a race, then, when they run out of juice, they head to the pits, and the driver jumps into a second car with a fully charged battery to finish the race. For the 2018/2019 season, however, this bigger battery means drivers can power through the entire race in the same car.
Power will increase too, making the cars faster. A 50kW gain to 250kW (a total output roughly equivalent to around 335bhp) can be used for qualifying. The maximum amount of power available during the race will be 200kW (270bhp), while max power regeneration is set to 250kW.
Size-wise, the new car is 5.1m long, 1.77m wide and 1m high. Assuming you can’t really visualise that – understandable, really – think of a thinner, lower BMW 7 Series stripped to its core. Kind of.
The new season will bring new faces (Felipe Massa), manufacturers (BMW) and a support race, the I-Pace eTrophy – a 20-car one-make series utilising stripped out variants of Jag’s new all-electric car.
We’ve been on the ground in New York over the past weekend to see what the state of play is with Formula E before going into its fifth year. So stay tuned in the following week to read our full bill of health. But until then, let us know how excited you are for the upcoming season below.