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Showdown in the Big Apple

It’s that time of year, the season finale is almost upon us and as we head stateside to the streets of Brooklyn eight drivers remain in mathematical contention for the title.

With the highly competitive nature of season five it remains little surprise that so many drivers can still take the championship. Eight different race winners from seven different teams has made for an exciting and unpredictable year of racing across the streets of the world, and now it all comes down to two races left at the double header season-ending New York City E-Prix.

Three series champions all have the chance to take a second title, while five carry hopes of adding their name to the exclusive roster of all-electric champions.

Here we run down the contenders and assess their chances of tasting title glory in the United States of America.

Daniel Abt

Current position: 8th
Points: 75
Away from lead: 55

Looking at the points situation as it stands heading into New York, Daniel Abt has the toughest job of taking the crown as he sits 55 points away from the lead of the championship with only 58 left up for grabs.

Despite consistent points scoring with only two rounds outside of the top ten this season, the German hasn’t tasted the winner’s champagne since Berlin last year and was hoping for a full title assault.

With his future in Formula E rumoured to be in doubt, a strong weekend in New York may not give him the title but could help him make a decision about his future in the series, although with Nico Müller waiting in the wings it may not be entirely up to him…

Sebastien Buemi

Current position: 7th
Points: 76
Away from lead: 54

A strong run of form in the last few races has helped bring Sebastien Buemi into title contention. Even if the chances are that he won’t take a second title this weekend, the Swiss can be satisfied with two successive podiums in Berlin and Bern as he looks to take his first victory for Nissan e.dams in New York.

Only in a slightly better position than Abt, the chances are that the only thing that Buemi will be focusing on this weekend is ending the season in the best way possible and carrying forward that form into a potential title challenge in season six.

Robin Frijns

Current position: 6th
Points: 81
Away from lead: 49

After enjoying the lead of the championship following his maiden victory in Paris, Robin Frijns has endured a rotten run of luck since having not added a single point to his tally in the last three races.

Following his exit from the Bern E-Prix, punted out by the Mahindra Racing of Jerome d’Ambrosio, the Dutchman conceded that his championship challenge was over.

With a 49 point deficit to the current lead of the championship, with 58 left to play for, it does seem unlikely that Frijns will be lifting the championship trophy this season but with the unpredictable nature of Formula E this year it’s not outside the realms of possibility.

Antonio Felix da Costa

Current position: 5th
Points: 82
Away from lead: 48

Tipped as a title favourite following pre-season testing, Antonio Felix da Costa got his title campaign off to the perfect start with pole and the win in the season-opening Ad Diriyah E-Prix. Two consecutive retirements followed, but the Portuguese got back on track with two podiums in the next three races.

da Costa has put in consistent point-scoring finishes since, but a disqualification from the Monaco E-Prix seems to have put the BMW i Andretti driver on the back foot heading to the season finale as he trails by 48 points instead of 40, due to the eight points he lost from the aforementioned incident.

The BMW clearly has speed and the potential to fight at the front but da Costa would need a near-perfect weekend, with other results going his way, to be within a more realistic shout of taking the season five title.

Andre Lotterer

Current position: 4th
Points: 86
Away from lead: 44

The highest placed championship contender yet to stand on the top step, Andre Lotterer should be better placed in the championship standings, possibly even leading the way, had it not been for an array of misfortunes throughout the season.

A drive through penalty in Ad Diriyah cost the German a podium in the season opener and an almost certain victory was thrown away in Hong Kong after sustaining a puncture following contact with Sam Bird. A first podium of the season came in Rome after a lost battle for the lead with Mitch Evans, which the DS Techeetah driver followed up with a second podium in Paris.

Two non-scores in the last two races has put something of a stopper on his charge towards the title, but with the speed that Lotterer has shown in season five there is no doubt that he will be giving it everything in New York to take a maiden Formula E title.

Mitch Evans

Current position: 3rd
Points: 87
Away from lead: 43

A dark horse for the championship, Mitch Evans as stepped up his game in season five and it shows with a highly impressive third place in the standings.

The Kiwi surged to a maiden victory in Rome after out-dueling the DS Techeetah of Lotterer and kept Jean-Eric Vergne honest in Bern as he challenged for victory once again, with only two non-scoring rounds helping a consistent Evans into the higher reaches of the championship.

A 43 point gap with 58 left seems difficult to overturn and may rely on poor rounds for those around him, but with a championship on the line you can bet your bottom dollar that Evans will be driving flat out as he chases his first title since winning the GP3 Series in 2012.

Lucas di Grassi

Current position: 2nd
Points: 98
Away from lead: 32

Only one of two drivers to take multiple victories this season, Lucas di Grassi took the spoils in Mexico City and Berlin, but faced an uphill battle in Bern as he found himself at the back of the grid following a scruffy qualifying lap.

The Brazilian recovered to score two points, but it was a weekend that came at the worst time as he dropped to 32 points behind the championship lead with only two rounds left.

However, the Brazilian is renowned for coming on strong in the closing stages of the championship and knows what it takes to be successful in New York having finished first and second in both of last season’s races. Even though he is more than a race victory adrift in terms of points, it would be unwise to discount di Grassi from the championship fight.

Jean-Eric Vergne

Current position: 1st
Points: 130
Away from lead: –

The clear favourite heading to New York, three victories across the course of the season has given Jean-Eric Vergne a comfortable lead of 32 points over his nearest rival.

Refusing to rest on his laurels, the Frenchman insists that he is not focusing on the title fight and will approach the season finale just like any other weekend. As the reigning champion, Vergne already has experience of being in this situation and looks best placed to become the first ever two-time Formula E champion.

With the gap he has over his rivals, Vergne doesn’t need to go all out in his pursuit of a second title but the racer in him will say otherwise and it’s unlikely that the Frenchman will take a conservative approach.

Author’s verdict

At a glance it may be hard to look past Vergne for this year’s championship. The Parisian would undoubtedly deserve a second title with some of the stellar performances he has put in this season, but Formula E has been as unpredictable as ever and I would still be hesitant to say outright that Vergne will lift the championship crown on Sunday evening.

There have been so many outstanding performances this season and whoever does take the title will be a worthy champion, be it di Grassi, Evans or Lotterer. I wouldn’t discount the possibility of a resurgence from da Costa or Frijns either, although admittedly that would be difficult to achieve given that it would require bad races from the likes of Vergne and di Grassi.

My head says Vergne will do everything right this weekend and take a second title, but my heart just hopes for two races that are as exciting and enthralling as every other event this season.

About Topher Smith
Topher is an experienced and passionate Motorsport journalist with Formula E, Formula 1, GP2/F2, GP3 and IndyCar all on his resume. When he isn't at the trackside you can find him furthering his own capabilities and knowledge through his endless search for original ideas and material. Also plays league pool.