- Second-place finish for Briton as racing returns to Switzerland after 64 years
- Result reduces Formula E title deficit to 23 points with two rounds remaining
- DS Virgin Racing head to season finale fighting for both teams’ & drivers’ championship
DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird reduced the FIA Formula E championship deficit to rival Jean-Eric Vergne by almost half, with a second-place finish during today’s frantic inaugural Zurich E-Prix.
In the first single-seater race to be held in Switzerland since Juan Manuel Fangio won in Bremgarten in 1954, reigning Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi took victory but was eliminated from title contention. Sam’s runner-up spot sets up a title-deciding weekend when the series heads across the Atlantic to the Big Apple in July.
The fully-electric Formula E cars will next race in Brooklyn against the backdrop of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty - just as they did last year when Sam took a clean sweep of both races.
And the 23-point gap between him and Vergne is the exact same amount di Grassi managed to overturn in Montreal last season to win the championship.
Sam said: "We had a little bit of luck today but even so the whole team did a fantastic job to get the result and leave in this position where we’ll be fighting for the title in New York... and we know what happened there last year! Now I know what we need to do; I need to beat him [Vergne] in the first race, and if I can do that then we have a shot at the title."
Sylvain Filippi, Chief Operations Officer, said: "To be in this position heading into the final two rounds is a fantastic achievement by the whole team. To close the gap today means we’re in real contention for both the drivers’ and the teams’ championship and for sure we’ll be putting every effort into New York."
DS Performance Director Xavier Mestelan Pinon added: "It’s been a very positive weekend for us with a podium for Sam and 17-points taken from Jean-Eric Vergne in the drivers’ championship. The last two races will be in New York where we won both races last year. It is clear that the whole team will make the trip with great expectation."
Sam’s podium followed a strong qualifying performance earlier in the day, and he battled hard throughout the early stages of the race to remain amongst the front runners with Vergne back down in the midfield. Just before the halfway mark a Full Course Yellow period led to a flurry of drivers heading to the pits to change cars.
Sam emerged fifth and keen to push on with Vergne down in ninth - but Vergne and several of the drivers ahead of Sam were penalised for speeding during the FCY and each handed drive-through penalties. That allowed Sam to move into second place and secure his 15th Formula E career podium and sixth of the season.
Sam Bird and his AF Corse team-mate Davide Rigon overcame the odds to snatch a late-race GTE Pro podium as the Super Season of the World Endurance Championship opened with the Six Hours of Spa Francorchamps.
A challenging Balance of Performance (BoP) configuration meant that all the Ferrari 488 GTEs in the race were at a significant disadvantage to the Fords and Porsches, with little opportunity to attack and insufficient speed to defend with.
Despite this, the #71 car of Bird and Rigon managed to stay in contention thanks to strong performances by both drivers combined with intelligent strategy from the team, which made effective use of full-course yellow and safety car periods.
This left Rigon in a position to grab third with an overtake on the final corner of the penultimate lap, ensuring a positive start to a season that continues with the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 16-17. Sam will next be in action in the Formula E Berlin E-Prix on May 19.
DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird secured third place in a dramatic Formula E Paris E-Prix, clinching the final podium place on the last corner of the last lap.
The result means the team maintains its momentum in the all-electric championship, lying second in both the team and the driver standings.
Sam, winner of the previous round in Rome, once again looked quick from the off, topping the timesheets in the opening practice session and only narrowly missing out on pole to Jean-Eric Vergne.
As the race got underway he held off pressure from Andre Lotterer to run second throughout the first half, all the while pushing Vergne ahead.
But in the second a half of the race Lotterer passed Sam with an aggressive move that drew a post-race stewards’ investigation and left the DS Virgin racer vulnerable to Lucas di Grassi, who passed him a lap later.
The podium seemed to have escaped Sam but, with seconds remaining in the race, Lotterer ran out of energy and slowed suddenly.
Sam was helpless to avoid the stricken Techeetah car, making contact, but he somehow still managing to limp over the line in third to earn his 14th podium in Formula E and maintain his title challenge.
Sam said: “The weekend has been strong for us and the team but Jean-Eric fully deserved the win and I know how special it is to win on home soil. It was certainly an eventful race and I’m really pleased to come away with third place and more points for me and the team.”
DS Virgin Racing Team Principal Alex Tai commented: “Paris has been a fantastic weekend for the team, both on and off the track. It’s great to see Sam on the podium yet again, and at the home race of our manufacturing partner DS Automobiles.
“With just four races to go, the team remains in a very strong position and we’re very much looking forward to the next race.”
DS Performance Director Xavier Mestelan Pinon added: “It’s great to see Sam on the podium three times in a row and to continue being in the top three in our home race, and a real satisfaction to be still in the race for both titles in this really demanding championship.”
The next Formula E race takes place in Berlin on May 19.