Formula E

Formula E: The best and worst drivers 2016-17, part II

6 Mins read
Credit: Formula E

After another thrilling season of Formula E comes to a close, TCF ranks the drivers who took part.

We’ve already gone through 11-20 in the standings, but here are the best drivers from the 2016-17 season.

10. Tom Dillmann, Venturi

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 19th, 12 points

Had he competed in the entire season, Tom Dillmann may well have found himself higher up these rankings. The Frenchman replaced Maro Engel for Paris and impressed the team so much in finishing eighth that he was given a full time drive as a replacement for the outgoing Stephane Sarrazin. He immediately got to grips with the car, and managed to do what Sarrazin couldn’t do – challenge Engel on a regular basis. His four points finishes in just seven races showed that he has real potential, and it will be exciting to see what he can achieve next season.

9. Jose Maria Lopez, DS Virgin Racing

Championship position: 9th, 65 points

It was an impressive debut season for Lopez, although he will rue not being able to race in New York. The DS Virgin car seemed to light up around the Brooklyn track and while Lopez was racing on the other side of the globe, his team-mate Sam Bird achieved back to back wins. Lopez still managed two podium finishes including an impressive second place finish in Paris, and he comfortably out qualified the highly rated Bird over the course of the year. While his race pace was lacking at the start of the year he improved immensely and looks like he will only get better.

8. Maro Engel, Venturi

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 17th, 16 points

When Maro Engel left his tin top roots to take the seat at Venturi no one doubted that he had a tough challenge ahead of him. The car lacked pace and he was up against one of the most experienced drivers on the grid in Stephane Sarrazin. The fact that he was able to out qualify and out race Sarrazin from the off was therefore nothing short of remarkable, and he has understandably attracted some admirers from other teams. Although he found more of a match in his second team-mate of the year, Tom Dillmann, he will no doubt have offers to drive at a whole host of teams next year.

7. Mitch Evans, Panasonic Jaguar Racing

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 14th, 22 points

This year was a huge disappointment for Jaguar, with their much heralded return to motorsport being a damp squib as the car lacked pace in qualifying and in the race. Mitch Evans though did a heroic job to often put the Jaguar in places that it didn’t have a right to be. He made the most of the carnage in the Mexico City ePrix to finish fourth, got into the points three more times after that, and even managed the fastest lap in the first race in Berlin. He comfortably outperformed his team-mate Adam Carroll, despite the Brit having previous experience in Formula E machinery, and Evans should have a bright future ahead of him in the series.

6. Nick Heidfeld, Mahindra Racing

Credit: Mahindra

Championship position: 7th, 88 points

Entering his second season with the Mahindra team, Nick Heidfeld delivered the steady points scoring that you would expect from the seasoned veteran. A podium in the first race showed the promise the car had, and although he wouldn’t claim another trophy until Monaco, it was the first in a run of three consecutive third place finishes. Having targeted third place in the championship ahead of New York, the German will be disappointed to end up where he did in the standings, especially when team-mate Felix Rosenqvist finished the year so strongly. The two did seem to work well together though, and should the Swede not be tempted away it should be the same line-up at Mahindra for next year.

5. Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 4th, 122 points

Sam Bird once again proved why he remains one of the most solid drivers in Formula E. Despite the DS Virgin being behind on pure pace when compared to rivals, he managed to get two podiums early on. It looked like it might have been his first winless year in Formula E before the New York ePrix, where he simply dominated, winning both rounds and securing pole in the second race. Although he struggled to match his team-mate Lopez in qualifying, his race pace was as good as ever, and if were to be given a car capable of running consistently at the front you would be brave to bet against him winning a driver’s title.

4. Felix Rosenqvist, Mahindra Racing

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 3rd, 127 points

In a year of some seriously impressive rookie performances, Felix Rosenqvist still managed to stand out as the star performer. A podium in just his second race showed promise and although he had a slight dip after that, by the time his debut win came in Berlin it wasn’t a surprise. He should have had a second win in Berlin had his team not released him from his pit stop right into the path of his team-mate, leading to a time penalty. Undoubtedly one of the most exciting prospects in the series, it would be a crying shame if he were to switch to IndyCar, but with a rumoured deal on the table to drive for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2019 it almost looks inevitable.

3. Jean-Eric Vergne, Techeetah

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 5th, 117 points

It would have been an injustice had Jean-Eric Vergne not managed his first ever Formula E victory at the season finale in Montreal. The French driver had finished second on four occasions and had other potential victories taken away from him by technical issues and blunders from his team. What was most remarkable was his qualifying pace. While every other driver on the grid had blips where they qualified lower down the grid, Vergne qualified for the super-pole shootout on nine occasions and was never outside of the top ten. He also managed to destroy the three team-mates he went up against over the course of the season, proving just how much Vergne was able to get out of the car.

2. Sebastien Buemi, Renault e.dams

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 2nd, 157 points

It may surprise some to see the man who won comfortably more races than any other driver not at the top of these rankings. While the Swiss driver has pointed to two disqualifications and missing the rounds in New York as the reasons for him losing out on the title, there were also undoubtedly blips in his form. His completely anonymous drive in Mexico saw him way down the order despite the retirement of several other drivers, and the Montreal weekend was nothing short of a disaster. His disqualification from the first race was rooted in a huge shunt in practice which led to his race car being hastily repaired, and a shoddy qualifying performance for race two ruled out any chance he had of winning. While his temperament in pressure situations might be under question, his talent is not, and he is still absolutely unbeatable on his day.

1. Lucas di Grassi, Abt Schaeffler Audi

Credit: Abt

Championship position: 1st, 181 points

Lucas di Grassi’s unerring consistency in Formula E is something to behold. As with last year the Brazilian was always to be seen at the front end of the race, often overcoming some disappointing qualifying performances to storm through the field. Although he only managed two wins he ever finished lower than fifth other than in Paris where he retired, and in Montreal where he knew the title was in the bag. With his team-mate not even achieving one podium it showed that he was outperforming his machinery, and by winning the title by 24 points he proved that even if he had missed New York like Buemi he still would have won the title. With Audi increasing their involvement in the team he will be relishing the chance to have an even more competitive car, and we can expect further titles with it.

Honourable mentions

There were some superb drives from stand in drivers this year, most notably Pierre Gasly. The Red Bull driver was thrown into the Renault e.dams despite never having driven a Formula E car, and despite an understandably shaky start, by the end of the weekend he was comfortably out performing experienced team-mate Nico Prost.

Alex Lynn also did an admirable job standing in for Jose Maria Lopez in New York, getting a remarkable pole in his debut race. Although he was less consistent over the rest of the weekend, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in a full time drive next year.

Esteban Gutierrez meanwhile was solid enough in his three races before moving to America, with his super pole shootout appearance in his last race showing that there was potential there.

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