Formula Spy counts down the top ten drivers of the 2017/18 Formula E season and why they made the cut.
- Andre Lotterer
Andre Lotterer had a baptism of fire when entering Formula E. He acquired three penalties during his debut race before ultimately being disqualified. It was a major turnaround to be battling his Techeetah team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne for the win three races later, after a hugely beneficial post-race test in Marrakesh.
His ultra-aggressive driving has allowed him to assert himself in the series with ease, but it has been his worst enemy at times, such as the clashes with Sam Bird in Paris. This then put him at the back of the grid for the following race in Berlin, but a stellar recovery drive meant he still scored points. Minus that, an unlucky unsafe release penalty in Mexico and his jump start in New York, Lotterer could have had a top six place in the standings.
- Sebastien Buemi
It’s been a rapid decent for Sebastien Buemi. After losing the championship he should have won at the final round in Montreal in 2017, Buemi was faced with a car that lacked speed and efficiency thanks to an early misguided set-up choice.
Rare errors came to the surface during these dark times, throwing away a podium finish in Punta del Este being the peak. Although it has been over a year since his last Formula E victory, a late season resurgence showed us that the old Buemi magic is still there.
- Jerome D’Ambrosio
Jerome D’Ambrosio was one of the underlings of the Formula E season. Having initially struggled with the car, which suffered as a result of the inner turmoil at Dragon Racing, the second half of his season was spectacular. Three super pole appearances in the final four races, driving for the team which finished next to last in the standings, cemented the car’s qualifying ability.
Although the car struggled for race pace, he scored an albeit lucky podium finish in Zurich but consistently bested team-mate Jose Maria Lopez, despite the expectation that he will be leaving the team.
- Maro Engel
Maro Engel has been another driver to stand out in a car that has often struggled against the bigger teams and manufacturers. But when Venturi were in the sweet spot, Engel was able to capitalise.
Consistently strong points finishes, reaching its head in Paris with fourth, helped Venturi to within six points of its best points haul, which could easily have been beaten were it not for a battery issue in Hong Kong and a full course yellow interfering with his strategy in Zurich.
- Mitch Evans
Mitch Evans shone during his debut season in a subpar Jaguar, and has been even brighter now that the car is capable of fighting for podium finishes. He arguabley could have fought for the title were it not for consistent failings in reliability from the car and operational errors from the team. He was denied his first pole at the first race in Hong Kong because he was sent out too late, and started from the back as a result.
Recovery drives became something of a regularity during the season, after power cut-outs in qualifying in Santiago and Mexico, and being disqualified from qualifying in Punta del Este for an illegal weight balance.
Although Evans never stood on the podium, he inherited third place in Hong Kong after Daniel Abt’s disqualification, but deserved many more. Not least from Rome where he chased Bird for the win only for powertrain issues to cause high energy consumption which forced him to crawl round the final lap. Given the right car, Evans will be a regular contender for wins.
- Daniel Abt
Daniel Abt has had a rollercoaster season. His improvements in season three went under the radar thanks to reliability issues, and given Audi’s operational status there was a risk of this happening again. But the confidence he had after being brought in as an Audi works driver was clear from the off, taking his maiden win only to be disqualified for a minor error on the team’s part.
Like that day, luck has not always been on his side. Loose seatbelts in Punta del Este and being hit by Nelson Piquet Jr. in Zurich cost him more points finishes, but his two wins that stood in Mexico and Berlin were emphatic. His staggering improvements as a driver seem to have caught team-mate Lucas di Grassi off guard as well, which led to some intense on-track battles which will surely continue next season.
- Oliver Turvey
Oliver Turvey has been a great leader to his NIO team, and finally got the podium he deserved in Mexico having been denied by a mechanical failure the year before. The car has not been the fastest in race trim, but Turvey’s incredible qualifying record, qualifying inside the top ten for the first nine races, and impressive starts led him to score all bar one of the team’s season-long points haul.
A broken finger kept him out of the two New York races, which he hopefully recovers from before pre-season testing as Turvey is another driver that will be fighting for wins if he gets a car good enough.
- Lucas di Grassi
The comeback from Lucas di Grassi, after not scoring points in the first five races thanks to persistent inverter issues, was simply incredible. After the issue was resolved in Mexico, di Grassi finished no lower than second for the remainder of the season, taking two impressive wins along the way to get up to second in the championship.
It became clear in the second half of the season, though, that Audi had a pace advantage in the race (finally emerging after teasing it during pre-season testing), which is why he misses out on a top two spot.
- Sam Bird
Sam Bird continues to impress in a car that didn’t belong in a championship hunt. Reportedly 13kg overweight, with a package that had a higher centre of gravity than those around it and an inherent lack of efficiency meant Bird was only capable of fighting for wins on a handful of circuits.
His Hong Kong victory was one of the most dominant displays in Formula E, taking the win despite a drive-through penalty, but it was followed up by a series of gearbox issues which cost him further wins and podiums.
Ultimately Bird kept the title hunt alive to the New York finale, when it probably should have been over a lot sooner. Certainly it’s been his best season having kept his slate clean all season.
- Jean-Eric Vergne
What more is there to be said about Jean-Eric Vergne? His turnaround since joining Formula E has been sensational, especially since joining Techeetah at the beginning of the 2016/17 season. His qualifying pace was impeccable and the progress made on race pace during the Marrakesh test launched a period that is currently the peak of Vergne’s career.
Winning in Santiago despite his dashboard telling him the race was a lap longer than it was, and finishing fifth in Mexico with no steering wheel information or radio communication demonstrates the strides he has made in energy management.
Before Zurich, Vergne finished no lower than fifth in a race. His consistency was perfectly balanced with the urge to push for every point possible, defending leads in Santiago, Punta del Este and New York with textbook precision and aggression.
One wonders just how good Vergne can be once Techeetah becomes a manufacturer with more testing and resource next season.
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