Lucas di Grassi is the 2016/17 Formula E Drivers’ Champion after a fascinating final race in Montreal that saw Jean-Eric Vergne take his maiden ePrix victory.
A fifth-placed finish for di Grassi – the position in which he qualified – would have been enough to guarantee him the title ahead of defending champion Sebastien Buemi, but he could only finish seventh.
However, that was to be enough as Buemi ended his season pointless in 12th, handing the Brazilian his first drivers’ title in any format after a frustrating 2016 that saw him finish runner-up in both the Formula E and WEC series.
There was also plenty to celebrate for Vergne as he took his and Techeetah’s first Formula E win ahead of pole-sitter Felix Rosenqvist and Jose Maria Lopez, while Renault e.Dams once again secured the Team Championship.
Following Saturday’s dramatic race that saw Buemi disqualified from fourth for an underweight car, the Swiss’ defence of his championship could not have got off to a worse start on Sunday as he qualified in 14th place.
With di Grassi starting nine places higher, Buemi knew he needed to produce something special but immediately found himself on the back foot as a nudge from Antonio Felix da Costa at Turn 1 left him with a damaged rear tyre guard.
Despite the piece falling off shortly after, a black-and-orange flag forced the Renault e.Dams car into the pits at the end of the second lap, effectively ending his race there and then.
The news quickly filtered through to di Grassi who knew that, despite having made an average start and dropping to seventh, he just had to finish in order to secure the title.
Driving within himself was certainly not on Vergne’s mind though as, having swept past Sam Bird into second at the first turn, he put huge pressure on Rosenqvist at the front of the pack in the lead up to the pit stops.
The two Virgins were also racing aggressively, with first Bird then Lopez pulling off sublime moves round the outside of Nick Heidfeld on lap 13 and 14 respectively to move up to third and fourth.
Rosenqvist then pitted on lap 19 with Vergne hoping to get the ‘overcut’ by coming in a lap later but it wasn’t to be as the Swede retained the lead.
Di Grassi was a big loser during the stops as his team exhausted all caution to ensure he didn’t exceed the minimum pit time, rejoining in 10th before team-mate Daniel Abt let him past after a tussle with Nelson Piquet Jr.
The Abt team-mates then worked in tandem to move up the field in one last quest to take the Team Championship, quickly relegating Tom Dillmann and Jerome d’Ambrosio to ninth and tenth respectively by the end of lap 28.
Maro Engel was their next on their hit list one lap later as the German was forced into a mistake at Turn 1 at the same time Vergne pulled off a superb move up the inside of Rosenqvist two corners up the road to take the lead.
With his Techeetah car seemingly uncatchable, the Frenchman pulled away at the front, with Lopez putting heavy pressure on Rosenqvist’s Mahindra after the Argentinian eased passed Bird on lap 31.
There was late drama as Loic Duval was pitched into the wall with just two laps left but nothing was to stop Vergne as he claimed his first single seater win since 2011.
Behind him, Rosenqvist held off Lopez for second – ensuring he finished a fantastic debut season third in the Drivers’ Championship ahead – with Bird fourth, Heidfeld fifth and Abt sixth.
Vergne’s team-mate Stephane Sarrazin also had a strong race, recovering from a spin on the first lap to finish a brilliant eighth, with d’Ambrosio ended a disappointing season on a positive note in ninth and Dillmann picking up the final point.