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16 Jul 2018
'Trumpets' qualifying and race report - day 2 - New York E-Prix

Having wrapped up the drivers championship during Saturday's action in New York, Jean-Eric Vergne turned his attention to helping his team capture the constructors championship. It would be a fraught battle though, as the fast-charging Audi's were now a real threat at a circuit that seemingly suited their machine.

Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale takes us through the action....

23C Track
23C Ambient
89% Humidity
2kph Wind

Group qualifying for the second race of the NYC ePrix was a highly uncertain affair, with the track drying but rain and weather in the area, teams were faced with making difficult set up choices using inadequate information. Group 4 looked to have the advantage in terms of track evolution, but only if the rain stayed away.

From group 1 it was Sarrazin that impressed, though his 1:19.017 was certain not to last through the drying track. But it was Ma Qing Hua, standing in for the injured Oliver Turvey who managed to hit the wall before the start of his 200kWh lap and pit his steering seriously out of kilter, crabbing the car all the way round the track with the steering wheel almost 90 degrees off level.

Group 2 was the championship group featuring all but Lotterer from the tilt for the Constructor's Championship. di Grassi went P1 from the group, followed by Buemi, who drove a very clean and cautious lap, then Abt, Vergne and Bird, who was significantly off the other 4 but still faster than anyone in Group 1.

By time the third group kicked off the track was significantly drier than when qualifying started but the radar was telling a different story than the forecast, with a large storm looming just off the shore over NJ and rain looking like it was heading back into the area. Both Dragons did well out of this group with d'Ambrosio going P7 only to be displaced by a hundredth by his teammate Lopez. The surprise of FP3 for rocking up in 3rd, D'Acosta, however barely made it out of the pitlane before his Andretti ground to a halt with gearbox issues. He had stopped early and complained to the team during practice and they had found nothing. His frustration with the situation is evident as clearly his car had the pace and he felt that they should have been able to head this off.

Evans in group 4 looked to be a good shout for the super pole group but at the start of his lap he tapped the wall out of turn 1 and lost too much time in S1 to get in. He did run a strong P6, followed by his teammate in P7 but it was Andre Lotter who did the business, taking his Techeetah into P3 and ditching Sam Bird and Virgin from the fast five.

SUPER POLE

Vergne was first off the line, and is run was mesmerizing, as he turned in for turn 5 he brushed the wall close enought to tear the hustings, lighting up the first 2 sectors but losing some time in the third, oversteering through the last turn and just missing the wall as he crossed the line with a 1:18.031.

Next up was Daniel Abt, who was slower than his teammate in group qualying and looked to be well off, losing time to Vergne throught the first 2 sectors after he picked up wheelspin on the other side of the hairpin turn 1 and failed to gather momentum for the early part of the lap. But he made up for it in Sector 3 and even though he couldn't topple Vergne from the top of the ladder, he still wound up just a tenth off pole and still in the running for a front row start.

Andre Lotterer followed, no stranger to the damp and he put his experience to good use, not quite as fast as his teammate through the first part of the lap, but close enough that his third sector put him over the top and into provisional pole.  With di Grassi yet to come, and 3 points in the Constructor's championship on the line, the tension was ratcheted up as Buemi took his turn.

As with his first lap, Sebastian drove clean, leaving nice margins to the barriers and, unlike Lotterer, very little sawing, just an occasional twitch when he got on the throttle a bit early. But, even with no purple sectors, his approach was clearly the way to go as he crossed the line with the fastest time of the day, 1:17.973, unseating Vergne, as all eyes turned to see what rabbit di Grassi could pull out of the hat.

Around the hairpin, out of turn 1 he came and into the braking zone for turn 2, just a bit hot, then he locked up over the painted lines, made a desperate attempt to drift his way through the corner but straight into the barriers he went. And so to the race with Buemi for Renault on pole, followed by Lotterer and Vergne for Techeetah with a 5 point lead over Audi, starting directly behind them with Abt and then di Grassi.

The scene was set then for the second race of the weekend....

29C Track
26C Ambient
78% Humidity
1kph Wind
Vergne leads the pack into turn 2 having had what seemed to be a jump start, especially as his team-mate Lotterer most definitely had and was later penalised for it.

At the start of the last race of the Generation 1 cars, one could be forgiven for not knowing that there was real money on the line, such was the focus on the drama of the Driver's Championship which was wrapped up yesterday by Jean-Eric Vergne and Techeetah. But there were indeed a number of cash paying positions up for grabs as the cars rolled off the dummy grid and into their start positions. Including Techeetah's, the customer team made good, sitting atop the pyramid but by a scant 5 points over manufacturer behemoth Audi.

Offset by Buemi on pole, as the lights went out it was immediately Vergne diving to the outside of Buemi, who shut the door hard. Such was Vergne's momentum he switched back over and up the inside into turn 6 taking first place. Behind, his teammate Lotterer had managed to keep himself intact and as they launched down the back straight, it was first blood to Techeetah, as Daniel Abt had dropped back to P6 through the melee of the dogleg complex which was the first obstacle the drivers faced after leaving the start.

Buemi locked up heading into turn 11 and avoiding him Lotterer got a love tap from di Grassi, but managed to stay ahead as they rocked it down to the turns 13 and 14. But worse lay ahead as already on the radio Lotterer was being dinged for jumping the start, flagrantly so once the replay hit the airwaves. By the third lap BOTH Techeetah cars were under investigation for that infraction and off to the races they went, doing their best to put as much time between them and the rest of the field as they could, before the stewards lowered the proverbial boom.

Lotterer took Buemi to the cleaners into turn 11 on the 5th lap, while di Grassi was letting the elastic stretch on the straights, then going deep on the brakes and making the time right back up. And then, just 2 laps later, everyone lost their collective minds. First, into turn 2 Jose Maria Lopez, who had already broken the suspension of his Dragon on the kerbs once this weekend, managed to do the same thing all over again, trying his best to limp it back to the pits, but giving up as the rear wheel slowly detached itself from what was left of the axle.

While that was happening, D'Acosta was trying to defend from Filippi as the hustled towards turn 11. A vicious move from the Andretti driver, who was already steaming thanks to a 10 second penalty for replacing his gearbox, took the nose off the Nio of Filippi and sent him hurtling across the track and into the completely unsuspecting D'Ambrosio, putting both Dragons out for the second straight race and ending any hope they had of surpassing NIO in the Constructor's.

To add to the drama the stewards had rendered their verdict on Lotterer and it was harsh indeed a 10 second stop and go as the full course yellow was called to remove all the stricken cars. The lengthy delay was more likely due to needing to sort our Vergne, who, just a single lap later was cleared of any wrongdoing. Still, it was enough to keep Techeetah from leveraging any impending Full Course Yellow and having Lotterer save some time serving his penalty. And it was costly indeed, demoting him to 15th place, behind Ma and nearly 30 seconds off the lead and 20 seconds back of the points when he served it on lap 11.

2 laps later and the strategic situation worsened for Techeetah as di Grassi snaked his way by Buemi into T11, the Audi so much later on the brakes than the Renault. With Lucas behind Vergne and the fast lap flag planted firmly in Audi's camp things were starting to look a bit desperate from Techeetah's end.

Then Audi pitted Abt on lap 23, one lap prior to the rest of the lead pack, despite him insisting that he was told during the race he was on the same strategy as the rest of the lead pack. The move worked from a strategic point of view as it did move him ahead of Buemi, but it put him in a energy deficit of about 4% to the rest of the leaders, which meant his back would be up against the wall at the end of the race, as Buemi would have extra energy to expend while he needed to lift, coast and conserve.

Mahindra's battle was turning in their favour as well, with Rosenqvist now in front of Evans for P5 and Heidfeld P7 while Prost was barely hanging on in the points for Renault, averaging down Buemi's P4 and keeping Mahindra ahead on track for the moment.

Buemi, not one to mess about, changed that back to P3 with a nice pass into turn 11, a popular spot today for passing. With Lotterer making the redemption drive of his life and closing in at nearly 2 seconds a lap the championship battle was very much live, although later Abt would insist he had no idea from the team that the spot he had yielded to Buemi was that important.

For the moment though, the other prong of the Audi strategy, which was for di Grassi to close on Vergne and be right on him into the pits had been derailed in the actual car exchange, in which there was a "mistake". Nevertheless, the Audi seemed to have some pace over the Techeetah and by lap 33 Lucas was within 1 second of Vergne, and being told that the championship looked good, began to pressure the Techeetah driver, to see if he could find a weak spot in his armour.

But JEV was resolute and so began an astonishing, 10 lap running battle that was riveting to watch, as the Audi tended to make up immense ground into the braking zone and corner entry, only to see the Techeetah continually with slightly better exits stretch it out just enough to keep the contest rolling another lap. Lotterer meanwhile was doing his best to atone for his mistake, but Techeetah would need some help from Buemi.

Unfortunately for them, a rare mistake and lockup from the Swiss driver allowed Abt back through and with possession of 3rd place and fast lap, there weren't enough laps left for Lotterer to close on Heidfeld for 8th. And even had he caught him, a tie would've been the best they would've done.

As the laps closed down, di Grassi got ever more aggressive, and on lapped traffic began to trouble the leading pair, first D'Acosta who had a drive through for causing the earlier collision, who pulled completely out of the way, but nonetheless wound up opening the door a bit for di Grassi.

By lap 37 the Audi driver was riding the rear wing of Vergne through every turn practically, and when JEV lifted and coasted into T14 the Audi literally shoved him through the apex. Buemi was moving closer and by lap 41 was within a second of Abt while JEV was putting up an increasingly stout defense when they came upon more lapped traffic which they caught most unfortunately at the turn 1 hairpin right at the start of the 42nd lap. This opened a gap for Vergne that Lucas seemed content to maintain and then all eyes were on Buemi, who was doing his utmost to maintain pressure on Abt. But there were no more mistakes to be made on the Audi side this day and as they crossed the line and caught the chequers, it was team Audi taking the Constructor's by just 2 points, 1 of them from Abt's fast lap. Or you could look to Buemi's pole depriving Techeetah of 3 points in the morning.
Audi celebrate winning the team championship

Regardless, it's all coulda woulda shoulda at this point as the Generation 2 chassis, a newer and more powerful RESS and a brand new set of rules is about to grace next year's Formula E championship. The only thing certain is that no-one is entirely sure who will be where, when they turn up in Valencia for testing and even the most well funded manufacturers are hedging their bets until the tyres hit the pavement.
The man of the hour Jean-Eric Vergne turned in another stunning and resolute performance to win the second race of the weekend.
And, as if Matt's brilliant run-down of the race isn't enough here's the highlights....



If you've enjoyed our coverage this weekend then be sure to tune in for Matt and Chris Steven's e-Radio show in the coming days - https://t.co/PMRM8gi3tB

We're also hoping to follow up the coverage we've offered this weekend for Season 5, so be sure to swing by and check it out and if you want to support our assault on multiple championships you can always suppport the site - www.Patreon.com/SomersF1
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15 Jul 2018
'Trumpets' FP3 report - New York E-Prix


Brooklyn was treated to a rather spectacular storm overnight, and the teams arrived to find the pitlane a bit flooded. On the bright side, the dust that plagued everyone at yesterday's race was now no longer a concern. Which was a good thing as they were using blowers to try and clear the surface as I left the track last night.

When the pits opened there was enough water on the surface of the track that the drivers were throwing up rooster tails and down the long straight, visibility was scarce for following cars. Early days it was Rosenqvist for Mahindra at the top, the first to crack into the 1:20's.

With 35 minutes to go, the track was getting full but the drizzle continued, a dry line of sorts appearing but plenty of data still for Michelin on the all weather tyres that are specced for Formula E, in what was essentially its first ever full wet session.

Making things more challenging is unlike the surface of a purpose built track, these circuits are truly streets and the fact that heavy trucks and buses regularly use them the rest of the year meant that there were plenty of bumps and hollows for water to puddle in. Despite this, times were continuing to drop until Sam Bird became the first victim of the wet. He coming around a corner and found a slower Venturi ahead of him and lost it under braking, slapping the wall and damaging his suspension before wrestling the car into a little run off area and giving the barrier the mildest of kisses.

Back to the pitlane for him and to the top went Audi with 28 minutes left in the session. At first it was di Grassi just ahead of Abt, but Daniel stayed out and took the honours away from his teammate, possibly a bit motivated after the contretemp yesterday, going 1:18.699 to be the fastest of all by time the session ended.

Standing by the exit of turn 2 it was clear that the Audi looked most planted of all, with Renault not too far off. Vergne's Techeetah looked fast, but also quite a handful and he finished the session P8, with his teammate just ahead. Presumably they will be looking for the weather to clear  before qualifying, otherwise their fight to maintain the Constructor's lead over Audi will be a difficult one indeed as they currently are hanging on by a margin of just 5 points. Early leader Rosenqvist also had a trip to the barriers later in the session that ended his running prematurely. Lopez joined the spin it to win it club between turns 8 and 9 but it was da Costa, who had a lurid slide about a third of the way through the session who suddenly and surprisingly showed up in P3 for Andretti.

Yesterday's pole sitter Buemi also was on top of the leaderboards for a while, before settling for P4, just ahead of di Grassi. As the session drew to a close, the rain picked up in intensity, and times began to drop. The weather is supposed to clear for qualifying but as to whether or not the track surface dries by then is anybodies guess.

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'Trumpets' race report - New York E-Prix - Race 1

Track 46C
Ambient 32C
Humidity 54%
Wind 4kph

Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale

The brutal heat of seaside Brooklyn, amplified by acres of asphalt, assaulted the senses as the pitlane was cleared of pesky media types and the team bosses came out out to play with telly. Not much was at stake, just the championship, with Vergne the leader starting next to last and his closest rival, and only man to have a mathematical chance, Sam Bird, buried in P14 after a brutal qualifying which saw both Vergne and his teammate Lotterer excluded for using too much power in his qualifying runs. Also at stake, several spots in the constructors, most notably Techeetah defending from Audi, who although trailing by 80 points, still had an outside chance at toppling them. Mahindra in P4 was also looking to defend their spot from Jaguar, a mere 11 points back, as well as Renault, a further 6....

The start of the race did not lack for drama, as immediately when the lights went out Evans pulled up lame, victim of a broken driveshaft. He was quick to use his remaining momentum to clear to one side but the cars behind were forced into rapid avoidance mode, resembling the start of an F2 race, prior to the rolling start they've adopted to solve their clutch issues.

Coming into the first turn (Turn 6 on the circuit as the start line and finish were in different spots) Jose Maria Lopez of Dragon cut sharply to the inside, destroying his unspotted teammate Jerome D'Ambrosio's front wing along with his own rear wing and littering the track with debris, earning them both the black and orange flag the following lap. At the front, Daniel Abt wasted no time, dispatching Prost for P2 immediately and it wasn't much longer before Nelson Piquet Jr., did the same.

By the third lap, Bird, working his way through the midfield had doggedly made it into the points, while at the back of the field, Lotterer and Vergne seemed content to take their time before attempting forward progress, saving energy early on to take on the attack later.

No such concerns at Audi as by lap 6 Abt had carved his way by Buemi and was receding into the distance, the Renault powertrain lacking that ultimate efficiency of their German competitors this season. Behind, Lucas di Grassi was clearly on a mission, setting fast lap with the gleam of P1 on the horizon. At this point in the race as well, the Techeetah team was on the move, Vergne trailing Lotterer, who had been assigned the task of carving a path through the midfield and catching Sam Bird as quickly as possible, allowing the championship leader and his teammate to save extra energy. P14 for Vergne as they started round for the 7th time as up at the front, the previously unheralded Tom Dillman, filling in at Venturi, made everyone sit up and take notice, as he stuck it to Piquet Jr., for P3.

But now the Techeetah train was in motion, it was not to be denied and just a few laps later Andre Lotterer flashed past Bird, first job done, pushing Vergne's sole rival down the order and into the last points position. Although their race was going well for the driver's championship, up at the front their team rival was maxing out the points and putting their team lead at risk with the pit stops fast approaching.

Given the length of the race, 45 laps, it was a mad dive that pretty much saw the entire field in on lap 22. Given the pitboxes face each other with a corridor down the center it was remarkable that most of the drivers made it through unscathed. Except Felix Rosenqvist, who got jammed up when Mahindra released Heidfeld into his path, causing him to veer and then get caught without enough steering to make his own garage. The other major casualty was Nelson Piquet Jr.'s Jaguar, which pulled quietly over on pit exit where it attracted the attention of local yellows, at least until it was cleared.

With Vergne up to P6 he was within a spot of clinching the championship on the road, when Lucas di Grassi, who had been right behind his teammate, suddenly gave him a tap from behind and rocked past him on lap 24, squeezing him mercilessly to maintain his position as they hit turn 11. Watching this unfold very nearly gave Allan McNish a coronary and he could clearly be seen shouting something that looked like "make them stop" possibly with a few modifiers left out to keep this safe for work.

Lap 29 was when Vergne officially took P5 and the unassailable championship lead and by lap 34 Bird was visibly slowing, his lap times dropping as the efficiency and regeneration just wasn't there for him when he needed it most. Just as Maro Engel had passed him his teammate lost the rear end into the high speed turn 5, swapping ends and utterly demolishing not only the back of his car but a big chunk of the TecPro as well. Out came the safety car and it looked to be a race to recover the stricken Virgin before time ran out on the race.

When the race restarted, given how long had already elapsed (the race was basically on the limit in terms of maximum time allowed) it wasn't laps but the clock that was started, with Bird back in the points and the gaps gone. The other benefit of the Safety Car was it removed all need to manage energy and it was a sprint as the i8 wheeled into the pitlane and racing resumed.

First Engel, then Bird managed to pass Prost on the 40th lap and then it was Bird, agonisingly trying to overtake Engel for the position that would extend the championship another day. AS they approached the final turn it all looked to be over but as it turned out di Grassi had managed to hit the finish line just ahead of the clock running out, giving Bird one more lap to get the job done. Valiantly he did all he could, getting close enough out of the dogleg complex to raise his team's hopes, but at the end of the day there just wasn't quite enough performance and the lengthy straights were simply never going to be the friend of any car running 13 kilograms overweight.

Across the line then came di Grassi for the checquers, then Abt, Buemi and Dillman, who had hung in for a remarkable P4 crossed the line and then it was Vergne, his long stint in the wilderness finally over, taking the championship home for Techeetah, the customer team, a remarkable feat indeed, given the limited testing available to them.

Speaking after the race, Andre Lotterer, confirmed that it was very much down to the development from the engineers, along with a tremendous amount of work in a simulator that he described as "one of the best". He also confirmed that it was strategy from the start for him to get in front of Bird as rapidly as possible, a task made easier by the relatively poor performance from Virgin's powertrain today.

Also a first is the driver's championship being decided before the season is over, as in the previous years it has always gone to the last race. Fortunately, the constructor's title is well in play with Audi having made significant inroads into Techeetah's lead, with just 5 points separating the two teams going into tomorrow's finale. Renault made strides as well with a good finish, moving them up to P5 and just 6 points off Mahindra who did not have the smoothest of races today.

With it all to play for in the constructors, tomorrows race is shorter and gives a little boost to teams that struggle for maximum efficiency. Still, given the display that Audi put on today it looks to be quite the task for Techeetah to hang on to their lead, unless, of course, Allan McNish somehow can't convince his drivers to stop hitting each other...

All of the action has been majestically described by Matt but if you want a quick visual overview of the race you can catch up with the highlights package below...




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14 Jul 2018
'Trumpets' qualifying report - New York E-Prix


Track 42C Ambient 30C Humidity 58% Wind 1kph

Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale

Group Qualifying for the first race of the NYC ePrix was, if nothing else, not the least bit short of drama. As has been the case recently, the groups have been organized by championship order with group 1 being those at the top. Group 1 also traditionally has been the worst group to qualify in and at yesterday's presser Vergne swore that he would not be the first one out if he were in group 1. In fact, he was last and it appeared at first that his gambit would pay off as he hit the line with just a second to spare on the clock, clearly quickest in group 1 going P1 with a 1:13.89 with Buemi, his nearest competitor, more than 2 tenths back.

The news was worse for Sam Bird and Virgin, as the best he could do in the increasing heat was a 1:14.484 nearly 0.6 seconds down on his rival and only good for a dismal P14 once all the times were in. As bad as it was for Bird, though, the news for NIO was worse as their driver, Oliver Turvey, had sustained a suspected fracture to his wrist with his earlier shunt in FP2. As a result, not only was he out of qualifying but the team was sent scrambling for a solution that would allow them to participate in tomorrow's race. Barring the seemingly unlikely event of him being cleared to race this afternoon, the field was already down to just 19 cars.

With Turvey missing and just 4 cars in the second group things were a bit less hectic for group 2. Just like Vergne in group 1, Lotterer looked dominant with a crushing 1:13.927, despite a massive lock up on his fast lap. With Techeetah looking untoucheable, Mitch Evans had a squirelly looking run, the car unstable under heavy braking while Daniel Abt, looking well under control, slotted in just ahead of the Jaguar driver. That bumped Bird down to P8, with just Rosenqvist, who had a dreadfully slow lap, below him as group 3 got ready to head out on track.

While they were waiting, the stewards announced that Vergne was under investigation for maximum power use during his qualifying laps. D'Ambrosio rocked it up to P5 with his go, with Buemi, yet to have had a pole this year, was just off Jerome's time. Heidfeld fared a bit better than Rosenqvist, going P9 with his turn and da Costa managed to rock up to P11 with just the last group to qualify. And then it was announced that Vergne's times had been cancelled. Which, to put it mildly, did cause a bit of a stir. It also turned out that Lotterer was under investigation and his times, too, were rapidly stricken from the charts.

With that bit of drama, group 4 was off and it was Nico Prost, in his penultimate race, turning in quite the nice effort for Renault, just 0.02 seconds off of Buemi. Lopez then put in a second strong drive for Dragon, though admittedly not quite on par with his teammate, D'Ambrosio. At the other end of the spectrum, Sarrazin stuck it in the wall in turn 11, though he was able to get the car moving and not spoil the runs behind him. With Techeetah excluded, the Super pole shootout was down to Daniel Abt, Sebastian Buemi, Jerome D'Ambrosio Mitch Evans and Nico Prost.

SUPER POLE

With just an outlap and single run, and no chance to prepare the tyres, Super Pole times often wind up being slower than group qualifying and today was no exception.

Prost was up first and made a clean, but unremarkeable run, looking somewhat unstable under braking and putting in a 1:14.921. Next came Buemi, and the Swiss driver just did what he does best, clean, precise and well under control. The result of his effort? A remarkably quick 1:13.911.

D'Ambrosio's lap looked a polar opposite, messy in every way and a very unfortunate 1:15.391 looked to have him solidly in 5th place. Mitch Evan's effort, though much, much quicker still had an element of on the edge to it that Buemi didn't and it showed in his second sector especially, where he lost nearly 0.3 seconds to Sebastian. Still 1:14.465 was a good result and it moved him ahead of Prost and onto the dirty side of the track for the moment.

With that all eyes were on Daniel Abt, with Audi reputedly the fastest package on the grid and his string of excellent results this season pole looked to be on the line, at least until he had a massive lock up into turn 6, which ended his challenge and left him more than 2.5 seconds slower than Buemi, who, rather remarkably, claimed his very first pole of the season.


After the session was done, team principal Mark Preston explained that a software update, done for reliability purposes, had been behind the technical infringements of both his drivers. The update has been rolled back and wasn't detected in practice because neither driver got a clean qualifying simulation in FP2. Regardless of the reason, the practical result is this afternoon's race will feature both championship contenders starting at the back and out of the points, with the headstart to Sam Bird who currently and desperately needs too make up ground on Vergne. Which, if you were writing a script, would be just the cliffhanger you want.
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