To paraphrase the dictionary, a “spoiler” is someone who is unable to achieve something for himself, but who has the power to determine who else will.
Following the penultimate weekend of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship on a sunny afternoon in Zurich, two contenders for the drivers’ title remain: Jean-Eric Vergne for Techeetah and DS Virgin’s Sam Bird, who trails JEV by 23 points.
A total of 58 will be up for grabs in the doubleheader finale come mid-July on the waterfront in Brooklyn, New York.
But while it’s clear that the all-electric series will crown its fourth different champion in as many seasons, it’s anything but a straight fight because so many of those points could wind up in the accounts of so many potential spoilers.
Who are they?
The previous ten races this season have been won by five different drivers, including Vergne’s three victories and Bird’s two, plus two each for Mahindra’s Felix Rosenqvist and Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler’s Daniel Abt, and one for Abt’s teammate Lucas di Grassi.
Rosenqvist scored back-to-back victories in the second half of the Hong Kong double-header and then Marrakech, averaging 16 points per race over the first four.
That’s virtually identical to the record-scoring pace that Vergne has maintained since round five, a victory (and Techeetah 1-2 sweep) in Santiago, Chile.
But Rosenqvist’s title hopes were by blunted by retirements while leading in Mexico City and Rome. If the car will stay under him in the Big Apple, the Swede could be a factor.
As Rosenqvist faded, the Audi teammates have ascended, winning three of the last six events. Following a dismal start, just twelve points total from the first four races, the quickest team in pre-season testing has regained its mojo.
Incredibly, though neither Abt nor outgoing champion di Grassi can claim the drivers’ title, they have charged into contention in the teams’ standings, now just 33 points behind Techeetah, with 94 available in New York.
Apart from the race winners, there are others on the grid who show the potential to be spoilers, considering that no fewer than twelve different drivers have reached the podium this season.
Sebastien Buemi and Renault e.dams have lacked the race-winning pace that brought a drivers’ title and straight team championships.
Yet the Swiss driver has still clawed his way to three podiums and ranks fourth in points, ahead of race winners Rosenqvist and Abt.
Elsewhere, Mitch Evans claimed the first-ever pole for Panasonic Jaguar in Zurich. The Kiwi has shown podium speed, scoring one in Hong Kong and losing another in Rome when his attacking style cost him too much energy.
A pair of measured drives in the finale and he might well annoy the title contenders.
Then there is the curious case of Andre Lotterer. Vergne’s teammate has been a lightning rod all season for his uncompromising driving.
The Le Mans winner has struggled a bit to master the techniques of electric racing, as reflected in his results: two podiums, one fastest lap bonus, and no fewer than five non-scoring finishes from ten races.
But the German is undeniably quick, and has declared he will help Vergne’s title hopes if he can. And yet his fastest lap point came in Zurich, where he seized it from… Vergne.
For a dark horse, look no further than Dragon Racing’s Jerome d’Ambrosio.
A two-time race winner in past campaigns, the Belgian’s first podium of this season came in Zurich, and his qualifying has improved, from an average of 14th over the first seven races to 5th in the most recent three.
In New York, on a tight, twisting circuit, qualifying and track position will be typically Formula E critical.
So, will it be JEV, or will it be Sam? And who won’t be getting a card this Christmas for playing the spoiler in Brooklyn?