NEW DELHI: Jean-Eric Vergne of DS Penske held on to win an extraordinary first-ever ABB FIA Formula E World Championship race in India in front of a sold-out crowd and a host of dignitaries, Bollywood celebrities and sports stars.
Vergne fought hard in the final third of the race to stay ahead of Envision Racing pair Nick Cassidy and Sebastien Buemi, though Antonio Felix da Costa (TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team) ultimately took third after the Swiss was penalized post-race.
“I’m very, very happy. It was a tough race, I had to defend quite hard at the end but we somehow managed to win it,” said Vergne.
“It was a clean race, no mistakes. Very happy with the win today. It’s good for everyone’s heart in our team. For the first few races it’s good to boost it with a good race like that so couldn’t be happier.
“I like new tracks — I think it’s cool. Especially this one — it’s a lot of fun. When there’s a lot of little secrets to find on the track, I probably find them quickly enough.”
It is Vergne’s first trip to the top step of the Formula E podium since Rome in April 2021 (season 7), and he achieved it in style.
He made his way to the front of the pack on lap 15 of 32 (plus one lap following a safety car), the double champion sweeping by Buemi at the hairpin after the Jaguar TCS Racing pair removed one another from the equation two laps prior.
That incident saw Sam Bird make a lunge on the dirty side of the track on fourth-placed Sacha Fenestraz (Nissan Formula E Team).
The Brit could not slow his I-TYPE 6 in time, colliding with teammate Mitch Evans — who was in third at the time — pitching the Kiwi’s car into a spin.
Both Jaguars were ultimately forced into retirement, with the unlucky Fenestraz also left tumbling down the order in a race where a podium double looked a possibility for Jaguar.
Vergne led the way from that moment, but had his mirrors full of Cassidy’s Envision Racing machine as the chequered flag drew closer.
The New Zealander had managed to gather up an extra 4 percentage points of usable energy on Vergne come the closing stages of the race.
But Vergne is regarded as the consummate Formula E fighter, and used every trick in the book to keep Cassidy at bay and cross the line first, in what many will regard as one of his best wins and one that will live long in the memory in Formula E’s first visit to India in front of a crowd of over 25,000 people.
Buemi followed home in third, but an overpower infringement saw him demoted to 15th spot via 17-second penalty, equivalent to a drive-through.
That promoted Da Costa onto the podium in his 100th race, the season 6 champion having started the race in 13th.
Teammate Pascal Wehrlein crossed the line fourth after picking his way through the order from 12th on the grid.
Reigning champion Stoffel Vandoorne (DS Penske) finished in eighth for his best result of the season so far, while Andre Lotterer (Avalanche Andretti Formula E) and Edoardo Mortara (Maserati MSG Racing) rounded out the top 10.
The historic race was attended by FIA President Mohammed ben Sulayem and Sri K. T. Rama Rao, minister for IT, industries and commerce in the government of Telangana.
Also enjoying the action were Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, current Indian cricketers Shikhar Dhawan, Deepak Chahar and Yuzvendra Chahal, and his actor and choreographer wife Dhanashree Verma.