22 Nov 19

'Impossible' steering problem deals reigning champion Vergne a rough start in Saudi

Two-time ABB FIA Formula E Champion Jean-Eric Vergne is forced to retire with no points in the season opener in Saudi Arabia after failing to overcome a steering failure. 

"It's not been an ideal day at the office," said reigning champion and DS Techeetah driver Jean-Eric Vergne after finishing the first race of the 2019/20 season of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship with no points. Still on a high after clinching his second consecutive title in New York City in July, the Frenchman claimed he was still hungry for a third before the season opener in Saudi Arabia today. 

Despite high hopes and an impressive performance in Qualifying, Vergne started the first race from the middle of the pack before technical issues ended his day early. 

"From the beginning, I felt something wrong with the steering wheel and I was not confident with the car," he said, reflecting on the race.  

"I could live with it but I knew something was wrong and I had the fear that something would break in a high-speed corner and wreck the car but I just wanted to bring some points home."

After starting in 11th, Vergne managed a best place of ninth before the problem forced him to fall back. This time last season, the DS Techeetah driver made it onto the podium with a second place finish - a distant dream after his experience today. 

"It became impossible to steer and then, in my last lap, I had to give it all the strength I had to bring it back to the box safely," added the champ. 

With no championship points to his name and a penalty point on his licence for speeding in the pitlane, the Frenchman will be keen to forget today ever happened. But he's still the hunted man. With another day of racing ahead of him tomorrow, Vergne has another chance to make up for lost ground and, ultimately, start his third championship title campaign the right way. But with 23 top-ranking challengers standing in his way, success is far from guaranteed.