Jean-Eric Vergne Clinches Formula E World Championship in New York City

The Frenchman was crowned the fourth different champion in as many Formula E seasons.

New York City ePrix - ABB Formula E Championship
Handout—FIA Formula E via Getty Images,

Audi Sport's Lucas di Grassi may have taken the top step of the podium at the first of two races on the streets of Brooklyn, but the real star was Techeetah Racing’s Jean-Eric Vergne, who became the first French Formula E champion on Saturday.

The showdown began rather anticlimactically when both championship contenders, Virgin Racing's Sam Bird and Vergne, started the race from the back of the grid after a poor qualifying effort, but things quickly got heated when the duo began climbing back up the field in a hurry.

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Jean-Eric Vergne

Di Grassi may have won the race, but it was actually his teammate Daniel Abt who led the majority of the event until he made a mistake on the redesigned Turn 6 that saw him go wide and get passed by the Brazilian. Meanwhile, championship contender Bird's hard charge had seceded and he languished in ninth place, where he'd ultimately finish the race.

“The Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler car was just a rocket today," said di Grassi. "I had good fights with Dillmann, good fights with a lot of the drivers in fact. The second stint was a bit weird—in Formula E, it makes no sense to open a gap because if a safety car or any other disruption happens, you've wasted energy to open that gap."

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As a result of Bird's failure to charge, Vergne's climb to fifth place awarded him enough points to seal the deal regardless of what tomorrow's race may bring. While the newly crowned champion claims to not have "raced mathematically" for points, his strategy ultimately worked out perfectly.

“I can't believe it—what a crazy race—God it feels good! Really I have no idea what it means to me to be champion. I need more time to process it—all I know is that it’s a good feeling,” Vergne exclaimed. “I guess still having the race tomorrow—I cannot completely relax. I can't go crazy tonight, so on the Sunday night when everything will be over… I will be able to enjoy it to the full extent. I have waited the whole season for this. When I crossed the line I honestly didn’t know I had won. My engineer told me, ‘I guess we’ve done it,’ so I said, ‘what do you mean?’ Then Lotterer went past me and clapped, so I knew something was up. When I found out I was speechless."

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Depending on Bird and di Grassi's luck on Sunday, second place in the Drivers' Championship could still be up for grabs. Vergne now joins the likes of Nelson Piquet Jr., Sebastian Buemi, and Lucas di Grassi on the list of Formula E world champions.