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VARSHA: Will the Big Apple Welcome a Champion or Crown One?

Formula E commentator and broadcaster Bob Varsha mulls over the title battle…

Photo: Formula E

Back in my marathon-running days I followed a rule of thumb: the less comfortable the weather for the spectators, the better for the athletes.

Cold, gray and misty? Perfect. A runner’s body would feel much warmer as the juices flowed.

As we work through the current European swing on the ABB FIA Formula E Championship calendar, a similar inverted logic applies: the more stressful and nerve-wracking the action between now and the season-ending double-header in New York, the more entertaining it will be for the rest of us.

Will the champion be crowned before we depart Europe for the USA in July? Or will he be unknown until the final laps of the season on the waterfront in Brooklyn?

There are plenty of points still on the table, and history tells us that in Formula E, as New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra once observed about baseball, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

At least that’s been the pattern in each previous season of the all-electric series.

Season One: Nelson Piquet Jr. and Sebastien Buemi each packed two victories and three additional top-five finishes into the final six races of the season.

They arrived at the finale in London in lockstep, neither driver able to afford a mistake.

After qualifying poorly, Piquet charged from 16th to 7th, with Buemi two places ahead but unable to make the final pass that would have clinched the title, handing Piquet the inaugural series championship by a single point.

Season Two: Buemi and Lucas di Grassi went stride-for-stride all season, winning three races each and missing out on points only three times between them in the first nine races.

In the tenth and last, again in London, Buemi led from pole, but di Grassi attacked immediately, crashing both contenders on the first lap!

Both jumped into their second cars, eyeing the Visa Fast Lap bonus points, of which there were two on offer back then.

The race-within-the-race, and the title, went to Buemi by those two points.

Season Three: Reigning champ Buemi won five of the first six races, and led by 43 points over di Grassi, before the Swiss driver’s season went off a cliff: in the final six rounds Buemi was disqualified from the first of two races in Berlin and missed the New York doubleheader entirely due to a clashing WEC commitment.

This allowed di Grassi to shave the points gap to just 10 heading to the final two races in Montreal. There Buemi destroyed a car in practice.

His Renault e.dams crew built another from scratch in time to make the race, where Buemi hauled it from 12th to third.

But those points were lost when the car failed to make weight in post-race scrutineering. Di Grassi won, seizing the championship lead for the first time.

In the season’s final race both di Grassi and Buemi suffered problems. Di Grassi finished 7th, Buemi 11th, the title going to the Brazilian by 24 in an astonishing comeback.

Once again this season the championship is tight as the races count down.

The standings strongly suggest we could well see a fourth different titlist in as many seasons, but nothing is certain other than that now Jean-Eric Vergne and Sam Bird are making it look like a two horse race will play out again.

Whoever it turns out to be, will our Season Four champion enjoy a relaxed title party in New York by clinching the title on home soil in Europe?

Or will the contenders find themselves losing sleep in the Big Apple as the battle goes to the final race once again?

History says the latter, but one thing is certain: it will be worth watching to find out.

Bob Varsha is a veteran American broadcaster with more than 30 years of experience covering international motorsports, including Formula 1, the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA. Varsha is currently the host of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship broadcasts.

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