What a race: Following an eventful last lap, the Paris E-Prix finished with Jean-Eric Vergne winning his home race ahead of Lucas di Grassi and Sam Bird.
Bienvenue à Paris! For the third time in its history, the City of Lights welcomed the FIA Formula E championship. Racing in the street canyons of Les Invalides, local hero Jean-Eric Vergne (TECHEETAH) was the man to beat after securing pole-position in a thrilling qualifying session earlier on in the day. The Frenchman defended his lead once the lights went out, while his TECHEETAH team mate Andre Lotterer was putting immense pressure on the second-placed Sam Bird (DS Virgin Racing), but the Brit was able to stay ahead. At the end of the top-five, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler driver Lucas di Grassi managed to get off the line better than qualifying surprise Antonio Felix da Costa (MS&AD Andretti), thus securing P5.
The tricky and bumpy Parisian track took its toll at the lower end of the field, as comeback racer Ma Qing Hua only rolled a few metres before stranding on track, forcing race control to initiate a full-course yellow. A few corners further, Mitch Evans (Panasonic Jaguar Racing) and Tom Blomqvist (MS&AD Andretti) crashed into each other as a result of a small car pile-up that also damaged the rear of Renault e.dams driver Nicolas Prost. While the Frenchman only drove into the pits when he was shown the black flag with orange disc on lap 13, Evans and Blomqvist came in for repairs straight away, falling back to the back of the field. They were later joined by da Costa, who dropped from P10 to P17 after missing the apex, and as a result was also forced to end a race that started that promisingly earlier than planned.
Meanwhile, Daniel Abt (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler) was the man to watch. With a lot of anger boiling inside of the German following his rather weak qualifying performance, he was highly motivated to make up for it in the race. Started from P14, Abt quickly managed to fight his way into the top-ten and found himself in P7 before making his obligatory car swap on lap 26. Team mate di Grassi was involved in a minute-long battle with Maro Engel (Venturi Formula E) who was able to prove himself among the top drivers. The Brazilian inherited the lead from Vergne on lap 25, when the leading four drivers including the local hero, Bird, Lotterer and Engel as he stay out for two additional laps; as did Buemi.
When all drivers successfully changed into their second car, Vergne regained his lead ahead of Bird and team mate Lotterer while di Grassi managed to secure P4 thanks to his different strategy. Nevertheless, Engel did not give up that easily and tried hard to find a way past the reigning ABB Formula E champion when he rejoined the track, but di Grassi was able to defend his fourth position. Right behind the fighting duo, Abt was putting pressure on Buemi in P6 but did not manage to find a way past the Swiss. In the meantime, di Grassi was making good use of his extra battery capacity, putting in one fastest lap after another, and quickly put a lot of time between himself and pursuer Engel who was hunted down by Buemi and Abt.
In the lead, Vergne was leading his home race comfortably, while Bird was getting pressured by Lotterer. The German then thought his moment was come to finally squeeze himself past the Brit, but when he tried to do so he missed the breaking point and caused a minor collision with Bird. When two people quarrel, a third rejoices – and in this case it was di Grassi who took advantage of the chaos, overtaking Bird and thus securing P3.
Another driver was not as lucky: On lap 41, Edoardo Mortara (Venturi Formula E) caused short yellow flag-phase as he hit the wall – a result of a a failed overtaking manoeuvre against Jose-Maria Lopez (DRAGON) – but he was able to continue. Team mate Engel was still successfully defending his fifth place against Buemi who had to watch Abt in his rearview mirror. With five laps to go, the German put his FanBoost to good use and passed the Swiss Formula E champion with a brave move. But Abt did not stop there: Encouraged following his fantastic manoeuvre against Buemi, he then tried his best to get past Engel as well.
Meanwhile, things heated up between Lotterer and di Grassi. The Brazilian was doing all in his power to find a way past the TECHEETAH but the German was defending his position with everything he had. But it was a battle he could not win: As he struggled to cross the finish line with enough power left, he had to slow down, allowing di Grassi to pass him. Bird then also wanted to find a way past Lotterer, but crashed into his rear, damaging both of their cars. Nevertheless, Bird crossed the line in P3 while Lotterer dropped to P6 in total, putting Engel and Buemi into P4 and P5 respectively. The top-ten was completed by Abt – who fought of problems during his last lap and was thus overtaking again by Buemi – and Rosenqvist, Oliver Turvey (NIO Formula E) and Lopez.
Photo credit: @rebjod2012