Lucas di Grassi has been crowned FIA Formula E champion for the first time after extending his points advantage over Sebastien Buemi in Sunday’s season finale in Montreal, the race being won by Jean-Eric Vergne.
Following a remarkable swing in momentum in the title race on Saturday, di Grassi stayed out of trouble to finish sixth, while Buemi left Montreal empty-handed after failing to score a single point.
In a weekend filled with incidents crippling his title bid, Buemi suffered yet another setback on the opening lap of the race when he suffered damage to the rear of his car, causing the wheelguard to come loose and flap around. It turned out that Antonio Felix da Costa – who was wrongly on the receiving end of a Buemi rant after Saturday’s race – was the man who had hit the title fighter, adding to the narrative of a remarkable Formula E weekend.
Although Buemi was able to shake it off, he was still required to come into the pits due to a black and orange flag, with the Renault crew simply waving him through. Now running last and a fair distance off the pack, Buemi’s hopes were in tatters.
Di Grassi’s start was hardly much to talk about, the Brazilian being shuffled back to seventh early on. However, with Buemi so far back, he was happy to just settle down and keep up a decent pace.
The battle at the front through the first half of the race was neatly pocketed. Vergne was able to jump up to second past Sam Bird before latching onto the back of Rosenqvist, the pair running nose-to-tail heading into the pit stops.
In the race to complete the podium, Bird was able to rise up to third ahead of Nick Heidfeld with a stunning move despite racing with broken steering, with DS Virgin teammate Jose Maria Lopez following him through into fourth place.
Rosenqvist pitted from the lead at the end of Lap 18 to swap cars, with Vergne moving into P1 as Techeetah looked to run an alternative strategy. The Frenchman had a slow in-lap after running tight on energy, allowing Rosenqvist to pull out six seconds at the front.
A stuttery stop for di Grassi cost him a couple of places, putting him into a side-by-side battle with season one rival Nelson Piquet Jr. Di Grassi stayed ahead, and was soon allowed past by Daniel Abt, who quickly played rear-gunner to protect his teammate’s championship interests.
At the front, Vergne began to make inroads thanks to his extra usable energy, cutting the gap to Rosenqvist down to just two seconds with 10 laps remaining.
Vergne made an easy pass two laps later, Rosenqvist not putting up a fight in a bid to save energy. The Techeetah driver was able to stream away, dropping Rosenqvist into the clutches of Lopez behind, who had swept past teammate Bird and continued to charge into the closing stages.
A late shunt for Loic Duval risked a safety car and caused Vergne to back off for local yellow flags, allowing Rosenqvist to close again, but he managed to hold on and win his first Formula E race, finally reaching the top step after so many second place finishes.
Rosenqvist took second ahead of Lopez and Bird, while Nick Heidfeld crossed the line fifth to cap off a good day for Mahindra.
The man of the hour was Lucas di Grassi. Finishing seventh may not have been the most exciting way to clinch a title, but it did the job all the same. The Brazilian came home to finally capture his first Formula E title after near-misses in season one and two, sending the ABT team into wild celebrations.
Di Grassi crossed the line behind teammate Daniel Abt, giving the team a decent haul of points, but not enough to overhaul Renault e.dams in the championship. It was a strange victory for Renault, though, given neither Buemi nor Nicolas Prost managed to score any points, finishing 11th and 20th respectively.
Stephane Sarrazin fought back from a first lap spin to take eight for Techeetah, with Jerome d’Ambrosio and Tom Dillmann completing the points-paying position.