"Perhaps not quite as good as last season" was Autosport’s assessment of Jean-Eric Vergne’s 2018-19 Formula E performances. Nevertheless, he still topped our category ranking at the season’s end and made history with the first FE title defence - but it was a markedly different campaign to his near-faultless run in 2017-18.
Throwing a race away at the first corner at Marrakech is an example of a mistake he didn’t make in his maiden FE title season, which explains his slight slide down the ranking. Still, he was the best driver in the famously-tough series, which got harder to win with its new rules.
Those changes explain both why he made more mistakes and why he was the best FE driver. The championship-order qualifying groups rule in particular meant Vergne was regularly forced to start down the order (despite some glittering group one performances).
But the way he raised his game above the rest to win in Monaco and Bern gave him the points advantage that saw him home, even at the end of a controversial weekend in New York. In Monaco, he knew the track layout would work to his advantage once he had secured a pole start following Oliver Rowland’s demotion, and with the same situation occurring for FE’s first - and likely only - visit to Bern, he concentrated on qualifying, knowing his now finely honed energy management skills would be enough.
Around his FE success - which included a further win at Sanya - he took a victory in the European Le Mans Series, and put in another impressive Le Mans LMP2 performance, helping to put his car in class-winning contention (it was leading comfortably before a wiring problem struck).
His FE title defence for 2019-20 began with a disastrous weekend in Saudi Arabia last month, which followed the pattern of the previous campaign. He “did the pole of my group” to top group one at a circuit with a major track evolution factor, before a steering rack issue put him out in race one. But his race two qualifying crash led to a battery-change penalty that forced him to start last, and only post-race penalties elevated him to the points.
At least he knows how to recover very well from a disappointing start. Not as bulletproof as in 2018, but fully deserves a place in the top 10 again this year.