Rome E-Prix – DS Virgin’s Sam Bird says he did not expect to win the first Formula E race in Rome after seeing the pace of fellow title contender Felix Rosenqvist.
Rosenqvist had a 0.6s advantage when he took pole, and led the race until lap 22 of 33 when a suspension failure on his Mahindra took him out of the race.
Bird still had to fight for victory, fending off Mitch Evans’ Jaguar, Lucas di Grassi’s Audi and Andre Lotterer’s Techeetah, all of who had a useable energy advantage in the second half of the race having stopped a lap later.
“I honestly didn’t think I’d be sitting here today,” Bird said.
“When I saw the pace of Felix in the race I thought the best I could hope for was 18 points. But going into the weekend you’d take 18.
“At the end of the first stint, I think that he was struggling a bit more adjusting his brake bias, and I was able to catch him which was great.
“But then there were some cars behind which were really, really quick and went a lap longer, they must have done an amazing first stint. That gave them the upper hand going into stint two.
“I had to defend and luckily came out unscathed, and just had to get my head down again and just try and position my car in the right place at the right time with the right amount of energy for the last lap, because I knew Lucas would be hunting on the last lap so I tried to give myself the best scenario and it worked out well.”
Bird moved up to second in the championship ahead of Rosenqvist as a result of the win, as is 18 points behind leader Jean-Eric Vergne, but is not thinking about the title yet.
“When we get to New York we’ll have a look at the points, but before then let’s just concentrate on taking it race by race, point by point and see where that ends up.
“But I didn’t think we’d be in this position at the beginning of the year. I thought that we would struggle a little bit more with what we were bringing to the table. But we’ve maximised everything.
“This is the first time I’ve beaten JEV for like four races and now you say I’m closing in. I’ve had one good race. I need to have three or four in a row to really say I’m closing in, because it’s unfair to say that I’m closing after one event.
“It’s good to be within a striking distance, but there’s a long way to go.”