19 questions for 2019: Can anyone take the fight to Jean-Eric Vergne?
Motorsport Week's team of writers got together to discuss what they believe will be the big questions for the 2019 motorsport season, covering all the major series from Formula 1 to IndyCar, WEC to DTM and everything in-between. We'll be posting one each day and today we ask...
11/19: Can anyone take the fight to Vergne?
Jean-Eric Vergne in 2018 was a spectacle. The driver found his footing in Formula E, securing his first Drivers’ title since 2010. Through his exploits, arguably, Vergne showcased himself as one of the most talented racing drivers in the world. By taking four wins on the road to eventual victory in the Drivers’ Championship, it should be remembered that the Frenchman also made history, becoming the first driver in Formula E’s short history to wrap up the title before the final race of the season.
With the formerly independent Techeetah squad joining forces with DS Automobiles for the 2018/19 season, the runners-up in the Teams’ Standings head into Season Five with more testing under its belt, with its French partner, a branch of Citroen, being one of the first powertrain suppliers to finish the testing of its 2018/19 package, named the DS E-Tense FE 19.
While Vergne ultimately failed to make it two wins in a row after finishing as the first of the losers at Ad Diriyah, with BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Antonio Felix da Costa taking the all-important win, the pace that the second-placed Frenchman displayed was formidable. Battling from fifth on the grid, Vergne was able to dispatch da Costa in due course to take the lead.
A swift drive-through penalty followed and Vergne was back down to fifth. To be able to recover onto the podium from such a setback is a feat, but to finish 0.462s behind the winner is truly remarkable.
At the next round in Marrakesh, Vergne missed out on the win once again following a clumsy move on Sam Bird at the start – though he recovered to fifth having dropped to the back, once again confirming the pace of the Techeetah car and proving they could well be the team to beat in Season Five, though BMW are sure to put up a strong challenge.
As the reigning champion of the series, it is only fair that Vergne should be the benchmark and this year, Formula E embarks on its longest season to date. Things are already far from over, with Vergne trailing Marrakesh winner Jerome d'Ambrosio by 12 points in the Drivers’ Standings to sit joint second with da Costa after just two rounds in which he's arguably not performed at his best. If he can string a Saturday together, Vergne could well go top this weekend.