DRAMATIC TURN OF EVENTS FOR DS VIRGIN RACING DURING LONG BEACH ePRIX
Sam Bird clinches pole position but finishes sixth for DS Virgin Racing in Long Beach ePrix after contact with a tyre wall ruins chance of victory.
Starting from pole position, Bird maintained his lead over second placed Lucas Di Grassi for the first part of the race. Di Grassi finally managed to pass on lap 12, leaving a determined Bird hot on his tail for the remainder of the first stint. After a clean car changeover, Sam emerged just behind Lucas again, and the battle for the lead of the race continued. However, on lap 23 the battle for first place came to a dramatic end – a minor error saw Bird lock up his brakes and skid into a tyre wall at turn five. Whilst there was only minor damage to the car, Bird lost 5 places, and his chance of victory.
“It’s a hard one to swallow knowing we could have scored 21 points and instead we only have 11. I was very comfortable in second place and was confident I could have pushed Lucas for the victory, before the incident. But qualifying proved we are fast and that’s what I’m focusing on,” said Bird.
Sam Bird was initially set to start the famous 2131m track in second position behind Team Aguri’s Antonio Felix Da Costa after finishing top of his group during qualifying and second in Superpole with a lap time of 57.261.
However, it soon emerged Da Costa would be excluded and relegated to the back of the grid after a tyre infringement, leaving Bird to start from the very front.
Meanwhile, Bird’s teammate Jean-Eric Vergne registered a qualifying lap that left him to start in 11th position on the grid.
Bird fought back and continued the race behind Bruno Senna, looking for a chink in his armour, applying huge amounts of pressure to force the overtake, but unfortunately for Sam, Bruno was able to defend until the end.
“Obviously I’m very disappointed as I believe it was a driver error and for that I apologise to the team. It’s difficult knowing that the final result should have been a lot better today, but the engineering capabilities of this team are extremely strong, qualifying proved that,” he said. “Starting from pole position the expectation was of a podium finish at a bare minimum, and I would have delivered that if not for the error. But I’m pleased that I could still bring some points home for the team.”
Further down the grid Jean-Eric Vergne was in a battle of his own fending off Antonio Felix Da Costa who was slowly climbing back through the pack. Vergne finished P13.
“I’m looking forward to Paris, there’s still half of the season to play for and I am going to work hard to better understand the car so I can improve,” said Vergne. “Today was another difficult race and I believe it’s time to turn it around looking ahead to the European races.”
Team Principal Alex Tai remains objective. “These things happen, the DS Virgin Racing drivers work very hard and it was an unfortunate error for Sam. What we need to focus on is that both our drivers did extremely well during qualifying, proving once again that we are a competitive team. Sam is still 3rd and as a team we are 4th overall in the championship.”
Amidst the disappointment on a podium lost, Head of DS Performance, Xavier Mestelan Pinon commented: “With regards to Jean-Eric, damaged the suspension during this race and I think he’s felt a little handicapped. We’ve worked hard to improve the DSV-01 and we will continue to do so, especially with Paris on the horizon.”
The Formula E series will be heading to Europe for the remainder of the season, starting with a bespoke city track around Les Invalides in Paris, home to DS, that will take place on 23rd April.