Formula E

Formula E 2017-18 season review: The best and worst drivers, part II

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You can see part one of our countdown of the best and worst drivers here.

10. Nick Heidfeld, Mahindra Racing

Credit: Mahindra

Championship position: 11th, forty-two points

Qualifying H2H: Lost 2-10 (Rosenqvist)

It looked as if it was going to be another solid year for Nick Heidfeld and Mahindra Racing after he scored a podium in the first race in Hong Kong. Things took a turn from there for the German however, and while his team-mate Felix Rosenqvist was leading the driver’s championship after scoring two wins, Heidfeld went on a run of seven races with just one top ten finish. This included three retirements in a row including one in Santiago after a clash with Daniel Abt that he accepted was his fault. The second half of his season was much better though, and as Rosenqvist seemed to struggle with the car Heidfeld finished with four solid points finishes. Heidfeld admitted that at forty-one this might have been his last season in the series – Mahindra will miss his experience if it is.

9. Andre Lotterer, Techeetah

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 8th, sixty-four points

Qualifying H2H: Lost 3-9 (Vergne)

Things couldn’t have started in a worse fashion for Andre Lotterer. After much anticipation in having a multiple Le Mans winner join Formula E, he subsequently blocked the track after crashing on the first lap in Hong Kong and brought out a red flag. Although he got going again he was then disqualified for leaving his car in an unsafe mode and then he crashed again in the second race after hitting Nelson Piquet Jr. Lotterer himself described it as a ‘baptism of fire’, but things did improve as he scored a breakthrough podium in Santiago and was on the podium again in Rome. The rest of his season wasn’t without controversy, with Sam Bird and Lucas di Grassi criticising his defensive driving style, but the German seemed to get to grips with the series as the season progressed. Still, he will undoubtedly be disappointed to have been so far behind his team-mate in terms of points and qualifying pace.

8. Oliver Turvey, NIO

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 10th, forty-six points

Qualifying H2H: Won 9-1 (Filippi, Ma)

It was another seriously impressive season for Oliver Turvey as he once again put his team-mates in the shade. After out-performing former champion Nelson Piquet Jr last year, he dominated Luca Filippi, showing flashes of brilliances that dragged his NIO car into the Super Pole shootout on three occasions. The highlight of the season was undoubtedly his well-earned podium in Mexico where he finished second, and he could have achieved more if it hadn’t been for him injuring his left hand in practice in New York and ruling himself out of both of the final races.

7. Mitch Evans, Panasonic Jaguar Racing

Credit: Jaguar

Championship position: 7th, sixty-eight points

Qualifying H2H: Won 7-5 (Piquet Jr)

Despite the lack of pace in last year’s Jaguar Mitch Evans was still able to show his potential, and he impressed again this season. With a new, tougher team-mate in former champion Nelson Piquet Jr he had a difficult task on his hands, yet he still managed to get the better of him. Most notable were his qualifying performances. When he wasn’t being let down by glitches in his car he flew in qualifying, getting pole in Zurich in amongst four Super Pole appearances. While the lack of race pace in the Jaguar meant that he was only able to get one podium finish over the course of the season, if the British team improve next year then expect Evans to regularly challenge for victories.

6. Sebastien Buemi, Renault e.dams

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 4th, 125 points

Qualifying H2H: Won 11-1 (Prost)

This was Sebastien Buemi’s first season in Formula E without a race win, but it wasn’t for lack of trying on the Swiss driver’s part. The Renault simply lacked the pace it has shown in previous years and they fell behind a host of other teams, most gallingly Techeetah who use the same powertrain. They experienced sudden drops in pace, including in Rome where Buemi’s second car was abnormally slow, leaving  Buemi to say it was ‘difficult to accept’ the team’s sudden drop off in performance. Despite this he battled on. A run of three podiums in a row early on saw him enter the title fight, and his qualifying performances were a delight – rounding off the year with two poles in New York. He’ll be hoping that e.dams bounce back next year under the guise of Nissan.

5. Felix Rosenqvist, Mahindra Racing

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 6th, ninety-six points

Qualifying H2H: Won 10-2 (Heidfeld)

This was the season that Felix Rosenqvist showed his credentials as a future Formula E champion, but he’ll be angered at it finishing so poorly. With two victories in Hong Kong and Marrakesh he led the way in the driver’s standings, and he was leading from the front in Rome when disaster struck. His aggressive line over the kerbs caused his suspension to fail, leading to a retirement and the loss of twenty-five points. It would turn out to be his last chance for a win as his Mahindra fell off the pace of the frontrunners as the season progressed, and a daft mistake going into turn one in Berlin showed that he was maybe trying too hard to make up for the lack of pace in his car. He’ll need Mahindra to produce a better package next year or he might have to look elsewhere if he’s to fight for the title. 

4. Daniel Abt, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 5th, 120 points

Qualifying H2H: Drew 6-6 (di Grassi)

Undoubtedly the most improved driver this year. With his father no longer involved in the running of the team, many were surprised when Audi chose to bring him in to their driver stable. However he proved his doubters wrong and won brilliantly in Hong Kong before the victory was cruelly taken away from him, but he finally got his well-deserved first win in Mexico. He followed it up with a home win in Berlin, and over the course of the season was more than a match for his world-champion team-mate di Grassi. The two were so competitively matched towards the end that it led to some fractures in the team, and it will be fascinating to see who comes out on top next year.

3. Lucas di Grassi, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 2nd, 144 points

Qualifying H2H: Drew 6-6 (Abt)

After Audi’s stunning pre-season form Lucas di Grassi was the hot favourite for the title this season, but his car’s dreadful reliability over the first five races soon put an end to those hopes. An inherent problem with the inverter on the Audi meant he was hampered in qualifying, the race, or both – and it wasn’t until the fifth race in Mexico that he scored his first points. From there however his champion qualities showed through. A stunning run of seven races where he didn’t finish outside of the top two saw him leap up the championship standings into an unlikely second place, and had it not been for his early misfortune then Jean-Eric Vergne would undoubtedly have had a fight on his hands.

2. Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 3rd, 143 points

Qualifying H2H: Won 8-4 (Lynn)

There doesn’t seem to have been a season of Formula E where Sam Bird hasn’t produced results against the odds in a car that isn’t as fast as his rivals. He got off to the best possible start with a win in Hong Kong and kept in the title hunt thanks to his consistently solid performances. It was clear from qualifying and race pace that his car wasn’t on the same level as the Techeetah or the Audi, but as the season went on his rivals fell away just leaving him and Jean-Eric Vergne in the title battle going into New York. The fact he didn’t win wasn’t surprising given where the Virgin was this year, and he will hope that next season will bring him a faster car despite the team’s split from DS.

1. Jean-Eric Vergne, Techeetah

Vergne says Formula E championship ‘highlight of his career’

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 1st, 198 points

Qualifying H2H: Won 9-3 (Vergne)

What Jean-Eric Vergne achieved this year in his unfancied Techeetah will be remembered for some time in Formula E. Against the might of Renault, DS and Audi, Vergne and his team were able to challenge for both titles, with the Frenchman eventually taking the driver’s title by a comfortable margin. It was a remarkable performance from both, with Vergne’s consistency being something to behold – he scored in every single race this season including four wins and two other podiums. Throughout Vergne dealt with the pressure of being championship leader with ease, often reiterating that he was simply taking it one race at a time, and his approach paid off. It was a delight to see such a clearly talented driver get his just reward, and with Techeetah teaming up with DS for next season he’ll be hoping he can continue to challenge at the top for years to come.

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Formula E writer for TCF since 2015-16 and fascinated by all things electric.
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