The 2019 Monaco E-Prix story has its hero—and it’s a Frenchman. Having won the race around the principality, reigning ABB FIA Formula E Champion Jean-Éric Vergne now personally embodies the status of title defender, Monaco winner (first time), leading driver in Season 5 (first time), voestalpine European Race triumphator (first time), and also the first person who has managed to win a second race in the hugely diverse 2018/19 ABB FIA Formula E Championship.
Following his win in China, ‘JEV’ has now prevailed in the Principality where he won in dominant fashion, from lights to flag. He also remains close friends with his greatest rival André Lotterer with whom he is currently one point ahead of in the drivers standings. The DS TECHEETAH driver is ahead of his team colleague in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship as a whole, while in the voestalpine European Races rankings the opposite is true—here Lotterer remains in the lead. Here the key facts about the weekend on the Côte d’Azur.
JEV is Number 1
His friends all call him JEV—an amalgamation of his initials. Yet Jean-Éric Vergne, who turned 29 in April, also likes to lead from the front. He leads the championship rankings. That means the current ABB FIA Formula E Champion may succeed in something his predecessors, Nelson Piquet Jr, Sébastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi, were all unable to achieve, namely securing the title for a second time, even defending it directly. Vergne is seen as one of the good guys in Formula E because of his straightforwardness. Even in his hour of victory he remained of the opinion that this year’s Formula E should have been driven over the full circuit layout in Monaco, rather than on the modified version. Which, if you listen carefully, is clearly a compliment for this electric series: “Our cars and our energy storage systems have long been capable of this, and anyway, Formula E is strong enough in itself. We don’t need to shy away from comparisons with Formula One on exactly the same circuit, because we have our own strengths and qualities. It’s not just about lap times.”
An unusual friendship between two team rivals
When it comes to qualities, one feature of Formula E is that, in contrast with other race series, there are also close friendships between team colleagues, even though in motorsport a team mate is usually seen as the first competitor to beat. That’s because a race driver’s performance can always be precisely measured against that of the only other driver on the track who is in the same team and is identically equipped. This comparison makes friendship between a team’s two drivers impossible. Or perhaps not? Although Vergne and Lotterer are now both in the lead and battling it out for the title in both the ABB Formula E Championship as a whole and the voestalpine European Races (in reverse order), their friendship remains as strong as ever: “Obviously there’s no reason to change anything,” says the Frenchman about his partner. “Nothing can come between us, and nothing will change our friendship. We both have great respect for one another, and that’s all that counts. Even though things can change very fast in Formula E, and clearly you never know what will happen. But just being so close in the rankings doesn’t change anything.”
The unknown hero of Formula E: Oliver Rowland
Eight different winners in nine races, yet one of the season’s heroes is British driver Oliver Rowland who has never won an E-Prix in his career. In Monaco, the Nissan e.dams team driver was awarded three additional points for the fastest time in qualifying, even though he was pushed back due to a penalty he accrued in the previous race. Rowland came in second, crossing the finishing line in Monaco even ahead of his famous team colleague Sébastien Buemi who, to that date, had remained unbeaten in Formula E racing in the Principality. With three pole positions this season, and 59 points despite a variety of technical problems, Rowland can be proud of his performance during his debut season (discounting a guest appearance in Punta del Este in 2015 as the replacement driver for Heidfeld at Mahindra), and especially considering he was not originally one of the 22 drivers nominated for this season. It was only after Nissan driver Alex Albon changed over to another series at the last minute that an unexpected cockpit place became free for the replacement driver Rowland. The Brit, champion of the 2015 Formula Renault 3.5 series, comes from the Renault junior program, and was placed third in the Formula 2 Championship in 2017.
Rejoicing over the VENTURI podium placing
The most emotional celebrations were those of the VENTURI Formula E Team. Felipe Massa secured third place on the podium during his team’s home race, marking the former Formula One Vice Champion and Monaco resident’s best Formula E result to date. “Until now, I’ve never had a completely clean race that’s let me get the best performance out of the car. There were no errors today, and, unlike Hong Kong, I didn’t get pushed out. Standing on the podium and watching my son cheering for me was so special—it’s a wonderful feeling. It makes you so proud when you see something like that.” Venturi team boss Susie Wolff is also proud, dedicating the podium placement to Venturi President Gildo Pastor: “That’s for you, Gildo!” Wolff was particularly pleased that this third place precisely reflected the day’s sporting performances and, in contrast to Edoardo Mortara’s win in Hong Kong, had nothing to do with incidents involving the leading drivers.
To the Formula E Microsite: http://www.voestalpine.com/formele/en