Buemi wins chaotic New York City ePrix as title fight goes down to the wire

by Nathan Hine
Sebastien Buemi wins first New York City ePrix

Sebastien Buemi won the 2019 New York City ePrix around the Brooklyn Street Circuit as the Nissan e. dams driver became the ninth different winner in the 2018-19 ABB FIA Formula E Championship.

DS Techeetah driver and runaway championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne meanwhile had a turbulent race which ended with the Frenchman making contact with Felipe Massa on the final lap. It means that the title fight will go down to the final race of the season with four drivers still in contention.

Buemi started the race from pole position and was able to get a good launch and lead into the first corner from Alex Lynn with Pascal Wehrlein dropping down to third place in the opening exchanges of the race.

Sam Bird then nudged Maxmillian Gunther, who then collided with his team-mate Jose Maria Lopez. It forced championship leader Vergne to collide with his team-mate Andre Lotterer. It was a nightmare for DS Techeetah as Lotterer ended up in the wall and Vergne had a puncture and was forced to pit at the end of the opening lap.

Vergne then re-joined in seventeenth position and needed a Safety Car to get back in contention for any points in the race. But the good news for the Frenchman was that Di Grassi was still struggling, albeit up to eleventh by the end of lap five.

Out front, Buemi still held the lead with Lynn second, Alexander Sims third ahead of Daniel Abt and Wehrlein completed the top five during the early stages of the race. And with questions about battery temperature, it wasn’t long before Attack Mode came into operation with Lynn making the first move on lap six, but soon, other drivers around him followed.

In the midst of the midfield, championship contenders Mitch Evans and Lucas Di Grassi were starting to make up places with Robin Frijns the first man to fall. Soon after, the stewards decided that Bird was responsible for the turn six, lap one crash and was given a 10 second time penalty for the incident which would be added to his race time.

But there was sudden heartbreak at the front of the field as no sooner had Lynn’s latest effort to pass Buemi failed than the Panasonic Jaguar Racing car suffered an electric fault as a result from the battery overheating which forced him to retire from the race. Once more, this flipped the race entirely on its head and gave both Di Grassi and Vergne a vital opportunity to make up multiple places as the Safety Car was deployed with Lynn’s car stranded on the exit of turn ten.

It didn’t take long for the marshals to clear Lynn’s car as just a couple of laps later, the race was back underway with Buemi just able to keep Sims at bay on the run down into the first corner. But it was Daniel Abt who was eager to move forward. And after attacking Sims off the restart, the German had a horrendous wide moment at turns five and six which saw him fall behind his team-mate Di Grassi.

Di Grassi was a man on the move, working his way past firstly Gunther, and then both Wehrlein and Bird to claim fifth place on the road.

But it appeared as if Vergne was going to claim the championship as the Safety Car restart had worked perfectly for the Frenchman. First of all, Paffett and Jerome D’Ambrosio ran wide out of turn ten to gift Vergne two free positions. Then while battling with his team-mate Massa, Mortara moved across the track out of turn ten and made contact with Oliver Rowland. Mortara retired from the race as Rowland limped on.

On the penultimate lap, Vergne took his second Attack Mode and moved his way past Stoffel Vandoorne before the crucial moment came. On the last lap of the race Vergne attempted a move up the inside of Massa but ran deep after braking too late. Massa cut back on the inside before pushing Vergne into the wall and causing a five car pile-up.

Vergne was able to drag his car to the finish, but he ended up well outside of the points meaning the championship will go down to the wire.

All of this was of no concern to Buemi, who crossed the line to win the New York City ePrix with Evans in second and Felix Da Costa in third.

It now means that heading into the race tomorrow, Vergne is 22 points ahead of Di Grassi, who’s fifth place finish moves him onto 108 points, with Evans three points further behind on 105 and Buemi a point further back are all in championship contention.

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