After the first few rounds of the 18/19 ABB Formula E season it would be easy to say that DS Techeetah should walk this championship, I even predicted that Jean-Eric Vergne would be the Season 5 champion. After 3 races it isn’t Vergne and Techeetah leading the drivers and teams championships but instead Sam Bird and Envision Virgin Racing.
The first round of season in Ad Diriyah was a disaster for Virgin with both cars failing to score after being sent to the back of the grid following a penalty for exceeding the 250kw limit. Neither Virgin or partners Audi put on a strong performance which led to concerns about the pace of the Audi powertrain.
Marrakesh however showed a huge turnaround in performance, despite a pit-lane crash for the Virgin duo of Sam Bird and Robin Frijns, Sam Bird took pole beating Vergne to the top spot.
The race would yield more success with the team taking their first double-podium in Formula E. Bird would struggle in the race to finish 3rd but teammate Frijns would challenge winner Jerome D’Ambrosio on the final lap, this showed that Virgin and Audi still have a competitive package.
Santiago would confirm Virgin’s pace with Sam Bird harassing Sebastien Buemi for the lead until the Swiss driver crashed out of the lead. Bird would then control the remainder of the race to win and take the lead of the drivers championship while Frijns would finish 5th putting Envision Virgin Racing at the top of the teams championship.
Virgin perhaps have the strongest driver pairing on the grid with Bird being the only driver to have won a race in every season of Formula E while Frijns is a highly rated driver who made a great impression in his debut season with Andretti in Season 2.
Techeetah are still believed to have the fastest package but their season has been riddle with mistakes. Penalties in Ad Diriyah ruined a certain 1-2 for Vergne and Andre Lotterer while an optimistic lunge in Marrakesh saw Vergne spin out of 2nd place.
Santiago was the scene where Techeetah took the very first 1-2 in Formula E last season but had no luck repeating that this season after more mistakes would see neither driver score any points.
Sam Bird challenge Vergne to the title last season until the final weekend but Vergne’s consistency helped him seal his first championship title. This season Vergne’s biggest strengths have disappeared, Vergne is one of the series’ best qualifiers but has failed to take pole position while his consistency which won him the title last season appears to have been left behind with the Gen1 car.
Both Virgin drivers have shown they can be consistent and both definitely have the speed, it shouldn’t be too long before we see Frijns take his maiden victory.
The performance of Techeetah and Vergne reminds me a lot of Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari and how they threw away the chance of winning the title when they had the package to do so.
As the mistakes happened it allowed for the pressure to build and put more pressure on Vettel but you can’t make up for a bad race. It’s not like you can regain the points you threw away in the previous race so you need to start the following race fresh forgetting about what happened the weekend before.
Vergne is one of the best on the grid but needs to reset if he wants to be the first double-champion in Formula E. He has the right package behind him and has a healthy relationship with teammate Lotterer as do the Virgin drivers.
Vergne has a few challengers to his crown this season, da Costa and Sims have a strong package with BMW while Mahindra have shown they also have strong pace while not forgetting about former champions Buemi and Di Grassi. Bird and Frijns must also be considered as a threat if not perhaps the bigger threat this season, they have a strong package and with a strong couple of races behind them they have the confidence too and are perhaps the dark horses of the 18/19 season.
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