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SEASON REVIEW: DS Techeetah’s Mighty Double

A look at how DS Techeetah claimed both Formula E crowns last season…

Photo: Formula E

It was very much mission accomplished and commitment fulfilled for DS Techeetah last season.

Double champion and the class of the field in several key areas, very few argued against the Franco-Chinese setup being anything other than a deserving and meritorious champion.

That this feat was realized in the first year of the Techeetah and DS Performance alliance must make it much sweeter for all concerned.

The accolades were not achieved at a canter though. Such notions no longer exist in Formula E, so for both entities to gel so potently was in itself was an achievement.

Credit should go in equal measure to the DS Performance operation, for what was a very influential and efficient powertrain. In particular, the DS’ bespoke brake-by-wire system proved to be the class of the field on a consistent basis.

The word from pre-season testing was that DS Techeetah could turn out to be completely dominant and in Ad Diriyah that theory didn’t seem to be too far off the mark.

Although Vergne’s future teammate Antonio Felix da Costa took BMW’s first all-electric win, it was the DS Techeetah pair of Vergne and Andre Lotterer that seemingly had pace to throw away.

Then came the closest to what could be called a blip for the team. In Marrakesh and Santiago, Vergne had messy races, largely of his own making.

At the former he went for a desperate lunge down the inside of pole sitter Sam Bird at the first turn and came off second best, while in Chile his race saw a litany of contacts and spins.

Photo: Formula E

Yet, even in these tardy races he still brought home points with a brilliant recovery to fifth in Morocco and also sixth in Paris after lurid moments on the freezing and wet track.

These results were the mark of the champion and actually just as much a key to his second consecutive title as his victories were.

Vergne swept to three of them in Season Five, more than any other driver. Frankly it should probably have been double that for the fiercely competitive and ambitious Parisian whose late season run of two wins in Monaco and Bern sealed the deal in a season fraught with variables.

By New York, Vergne could play the percentage game a little. The disastrous and carbon shard-inducing Saturday race actually did little to jangle his nerves, as he nursed his way to become the championship’s first ever two-time champion.

By this stage it seemed a long time since the period after Hong Kong when Vergne languished in 11th position behind teammate Lotterer and 26 points from the leader at the time, Sam Bird.

His bullish move for the lead on Oliver Rowland at Sanya set the mood for a title retention, which by his own admission he had psychological distance from labelling it a double.

“I don’t feel I have anything to retain this year because it is a whole new start in the championship with a new team, new cars and new tracks,” Vergne told e-racing365 in Riyadh back in December.

“I have a job to do and as far as I am concerned I’m just out to get the title, this is the way I am thinking. It really is almost a completely new challenge entirely.”

It was a philosophy that served Vergne well and dare it be said he mellowed even further last season – to the outside world, at least.

There were plenty of opportunities for meltdowns, particularly at frustrating races in Rome and New York, but, odd grumble apart, the bait was not taken.

Perhaps the presence of Vergne’s teammate Andre Lotterer assisted in the champion’s composure. Firm comrades off the track, the pair are close and formed a rare genuine friendship in top level racing.

At one stage of the campaign, after his second place in Paris, Lotterer looked a strong bet for a title push. It soon evaporated though after a litany of incidents and errors by both driver and team that saw a paltry six points from the final five races accrued.

From a reasonably early stage of the season the ‘Porsche question’ was starting to follow Lotterer around. He appeared to have dealt with the decision making process efficiently and is too experienced for such questions on his future to affect his performances.

Photo: Formula E

By Bern though it seemed he had, at least in his own mind, made the decision. It must rankle with Lotterer that he is yet to win a race in Formula E, and again in his sophomore year he came very close, particularly and tantalisingly so in Hong Kong and Rome.

On the team front DS Techeetah may have come up trumps in hard results and silverware but there was friction in the camp at several stages. This can ring true for each entity on the grid but the gelling of DS and Techeetah took time and still it would appear needs more gelling in several areas.

Off track the team was one of the most interesting, forming innovative and creative commercial partnerships largely thanks to the vision of commercial guru Keith Smout.

Its partnership with the UK-based Big Cat Sanctuary is one of the true feel-good partnerships in the championship and one on which many other teams view enviously.

Season Six DS Techeetah will look a little different as technical and sporting manager Pedro de la Rosa left the team in September, while former Dragon Racing team leader Nigel Beresford joins as team manager.

The engineering nucleus of the team remains intact and, in this, DS Techeetah has a potent force with which others have been coerced to follow over the last two seasons.

Can Vergne make it a hat-trick in 2019-20? The odds are short on that one but the positive form guide is long.

Photo: Formula E

Sam Smith is e-racing365's Formula E Editor. A 20-year veteran in motorsports media, including press officer roles in both the FIA Sportscar Championship and at Lola Group, Smith is a well-known face in the Formula E paddock, where he served as series editor for Motorsport.com from 2014-17. Contact Sam

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