Two-time Formula E World Champion Jean-Eric Vergne, racing for DS PENSKE, produced an exhilarating finish to win the maiden Hyderabad E-Prix and return to winning ways in front of a sell-out crowd on Saturday.
On a dusty street circuit navigating along the banks of the iconic Hussain Sagar Lake, the Frenchman brought all his experience into play and deployed a fantastic defensive tactic to fend off the chasing Envision Racing pair of Nick Cassidy and Sebastian Buemi to cross the chequered flag with his car’s battery almost dying.
It was a photo finish in an edge-of-the-seat 33 laps thriller as the race witnessed crashes and audacious overtaking, bold attacks on the dirty sides of the track with six drivers walking back into their garages without finishing the race.
The final minutes will be etched in the memory of fans watching the race, as with his car’s battery percentage at exactly (0.0 %), Vergne breezed past the finish line with Cassidy behind him (2%). Although Buemi finished third, TAG Heuer Porsche’s Antonio Felix da Costa took the third spot after Buemi was penalised after the race ended. Beumi used additional power, which is against the rules, and as a result, the regulators awarded him a 17-second penalty which saw the Swiss finishing in the 15th position.
The build-up for the marquee event was huge and the mania among fans multiplied when batting legend Sachin Tendulkar made his way into the grandstand along with other sporting and entertainment celebrities. Braving the heat and keeping their spirits high, racing enthusiasts witnessed Formula-E making a grand maiden visit to the Indian shores, with Vergne producing a classic to remember.
Mitch Evans took the pole position, and it seemed it would be two podium finishes for the Jaguar team, with his teammate Sam Bird in the sixth position, moving up in the early stages of the race.
However, at Lap 13, Sam Bird did the unthinkable as he lost control of his I-TYPE6 and bumped into his teammate Evans, who was in the third spot at that time, and the crash packed off both the Jaguars.
With the Kiwi and the Brit out of contention, Vergne made his way to the front of the pack. From then, it was Vergne, Cassidy and Beumi battling for the first position as a frustrated James Barclay, the team principal of Jaguar was left fuming in the team garage.
In its first home race, Mahindra Racing had a poor qualifying in the first stage, with driver Lucas Di Grassi finishing 11th while his teammate Oliver Rowland finished seventh.
However, the team did gain points, with Rowland finishing sixth while di Grassi came 14th. The loss of energy in the final moments of the race saw Mahindra garner just eight points, with the team standing in the sixth position.
The crash of Jake Hughes saw the safety car out as reigning Formula E World Champion Stoffel Vandoorne (DS PENSKE) produced his best race so far in the season to finish eighth.
However, it was in Lap 15 where Vergne captured the imagination of the crowd and turned the momentum towards him.
In what was an excellent manoeuver, the double world champion overtook Beumi in a tight hairpin bend and from then, the Frenchman led the way to cross the line and step on top of the Formula E podium in style, his first since conquering the streets of Rome in 2021.
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